Elderberry syrup is a go-to in my medicine cabinet when cold and flu season hits. I used to buy it by the bottle, but it’s so much cheaper to make it at home. (And easy, too!)
Does Elderberry Syrup Really Work?
Elderberry extract has been shown to significantly improve or reduce cold and flu symptoms, and it may help you get over your symptoms faster, when taken at the first sign of illness. (source)
According to this study, elderberry extract has been shown to reduce the duration of flu symptoms by an average of 4 days(!!) when taken within the first 48 hours of symptoms appearing.
Elderberries have also been shown to lower blood sugar levels, because they can stimulate glucose metabolism. (source) This is actually something to keep in mind if you are a diabetic taking insulin, as you might want to talk with your doctor before taking it.
Don’t Eat Raw Elderberries!
I wasn’t sure why everyone always made elderberry syrup, rather than just throwing raw or dried elderberries directly into a smoothie, so I decided to do a little research. As it turns out, certain varieties of raw elderberries have actually been shown to cause nausea, vomitting, and abdominal cramps.
So, if you want to avoid a tummy ache, stick to cooking your elderberries first to be on the safe side.
Do you need to use a sweetener in elderberry syrup?
When you make elderberry syrup with a high-enough concentration of sugar (around 65-70%) it becomes self-preserving, so you don’t have to refrigerated it. I opted for making my elderberry syrup with honey instead, which means it can’t be stored at room temperature, but I think the benefits make it worth it.
Honey is rich in antioxidants, and it’s also been shown to lower LDL cholesterol (the “bad” type) while raising HDL cholesterol (the “good” type). There is also evidence that honey can help suppress coughs in children, making it the perfect addition to this natural cold and flu remedy. (source)
How do you use Elderberry Syrup?
You should always talk with your doctor before starting a new supplement. In my home, I take 1 teaspoon when I feel like I need an immune boost, and I give my son just a 1/2 teaspoon. (Note: Do not give honey to children under 1 year of age.) If we feel sick, I’ll usually take double or triple the amount for extra support.
This elderberry syrup is thought to be a natural remedy for cold and flu symptoms. When taken within 48 hours of symptoms, it's been shown to reduce the duration of symptoms by up to 4 days. I like to sweeten it with honey, which is rich in antioxidants and has been shown to help suppress coughing in children.
- 1/2 cup dried elderberries (see notes)
- 2 cups water
- 1 tablespoon fresh ginger , minced (optional)
- 1/2 cup honey
Combine the elderberries, water, and ginger in a small saucepan over high heat and bring the mixture to a boil. Lower the heat and allow the mixture to simmer until the water has been reduced by half, about 45 minutes.
Transfer the cooked berries and liquid to a clean bowl and pour it through a fine mesh strainer to remove the berry skins. Use the back of a spoon to press on the berries in the strainer, to extract all of the juice, then discard the small amount of pulp left in the strainer.
Allow the elderberry juice to cool to room temperature, so that the heat doesn't harm the nutrients in the honey, then stir in the honey. Use a whisk to incorporate it smoothly, then transfer the syrup into a sealed glass jar that you can store in the fridge.
This syrup should keep well for at least two weeks when stored in the fridge, so if you don't think you'll use it all before then, feel free to freeze it until you're ready to use more.
- I couldn’t find a local source for safe elderberries, so I ordered these dried organic elderberries from Amazon.
- If you need a vegan recipe, feel free to use coconut sugar or maple syrup as an alternative sweetener to honey. If you choose to omit the sweetener, you’ll just be left with elderberry juice, which will spoil much more quickly in the fridge. You can freeze it, however, for longer shelf life. (I’d use small ice cube trays for easy portioning.)
- If you’d prefer NOT to make your own elderberry syrup, this is the brand I’ve been using with my family. If you want to avoid the added sugar, try taking elderberry capsules instead.
As always, if you make a substitution please leave a comment below letting us know what worked for you. We can all benefit from your experience!
Reader Feedback: Have you tried using elderberry syrup before? Now that I know research backs it up, I’m going to rely on it more during cold and flu season!