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.
What are the Benefits of Elderberry?
The elderberry plant has been long used in traditional medicine for pain relief, inflammation, and as a diuretic.
Here are more potential benefits of elderberries:
- Studies suggest that elderberries have antiviral and antimicrobial properties, and have been generally recognized as safe by the FDA.
- Elderberries contain anthrocyanins, which give the berries their signature dark-blue color. Research suggests that they contain anti-inflammatory properties and may help promote heart health.
- Elderbery contains flavonols, including quercetin, which is thought to help reduce inflammation. In one study of women with rheumatoid arthritis, a quercetin supplement helped to reduce stiffness and pain.
- One study suggests that elderberry may have anti-depressant effects.
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.
What are the side effects of elderberry? The elderberry plant contains cyanogenic glycosides, a toxin which is removed by cooking, but you should not include the leaves, branches, or bark. In one case, 8 people experienced nausea, vomiting, and more, after drinking the juice made from freshly picked berries, including the leaves and branch
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?
Note: You should always talk with your doctor before starting a new supplement. I am not a doctor and this post should not be considered medical advice. I’m just sharing my personal experience using this recipe.
In my home, I take 1 teaspoon when I feel like I need an immune boost. (Note: Do not give honey to children under 1 year of age.) If I already feel ill, sometimes I’ll take it up to 3 times a day. I do not take this every day, but sometimes I’ll use it 5 days in a row, and then take a break.
Please talk with your doctor before starting any new supplements, to be on the safe side.
How to Make Elderberry Syrup (1-minute video):
Here’s a quick video tutorial on how to make elderberry syrup. In this video, I didn’t have the extra spices the recipe calls for, but you can make it super-simple, or follow the printable recipe below.
Elderberry Syrup Recipe
- 1/2 cup dried elderberries (58 grams; see notes)
- 2 cups water (460 grams)
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional)
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves (optional)
- 1 tablespoon fresh ginger , minced (optional)
- 1/2 cup honey (184 grams)
- Combine the elderberries, water, cinnamon, cloves, 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 25 to 30 minutes.
- Pour the cooked berries and liquid through a fine mesh strainer, into a clean bowl, to strain out the berries. Use the back of a spoon to press on the berries in the strainer, to extract all of the juice, then discard the pulp that's 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. Stir in the honey, using 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 any extras. You can always thaw it overnight in the fridge when you need more. Homemade elderberry syrup doesn't become as thick as the store bought version because it uses less sugar and no preservatives or thickeners, so don't be alarmed if the final syrup has more of a liquid consistency.
- Nutrition information is for roughly 1 teaspoon, assuming this recipe makes 1.5 cups total. This information is automatically calculated and is just an estimate, not a guarantee.
- This recipe should make roughly 1.5 cups of elderberry syrup, but that amount will vary based on how long you let the liquid cook down. This recipe is very adaptable, so feel free to experiment with it.
- I can't find a local source for safe dried 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 cooked elderberry juice, which will spoil much more quickly in the fridge. You can freeze it, however, for longer shelf life. (I would use small ice cube trays for easy portioning.)
More Recipes for Cold & Flu Season
If you need some more recipe inspiration when the weather cools down, try these comforting and nutrient-packed recipes below.
- Ginger Tea (a cold weather must!)
- Ultimate Detox Soup
- Celery Juice with Ginger
- Easy Miso Soup (miso = probiotics)
- Classic Chicken & Vegetable Soup
- Spirulina Smoothie
If you try this elderberry syrup recipe, please leave a comment below so I know how it works for you! And if you make any modifications, I’d love to hear about those, too. 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!