This homemade elderberry syrup is a game changer! I used to buy it by the bottle, but it’s so much cheaper to make it at home, and you get to control the sweetener.
Wondering if it is really effective?
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.
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.
In lab rat studies, elderberries have also been shown to lower insulin resistance. 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.
Ingredients You’ll Need
What’s in elderberry syrup?
- Dried elderberries
- Honey (or sweetener of choice)
Each ingredient in this recipe has potential benefits, and makes this syrup taste amazing, but it’s also flexible! If you don’t care for ginger, cinnamon, or cloves, you can simply leave it out.
If you’d prefer a sugar-free recipe, you can also make elderberry tea, instead.
How to Make Elderberry Syrup
1. Combine the ingredients. Add the elderberries, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and water to a small saucepan.
2. Simmer. Bring the liquid to boil over medium-high heat. As soon as the liquid is bubbling, you can lower the heat and let it simmer until the liquid is reduced by half, about 30 minutes.
3. Strain. Pour the cooked elderberry mixture through a fine mesh sieve, into a large bowl. Use the back of a spoon to strain out as much juice as possible. Discard the solids.
4. Sweeten. Let the elderberry liquid cool, until it feels comfortable to handle the bowl. You don’t want it to be too hot when you mix in the honey. Add the honey, and whisk well.
Transfer the elderberry syrup to an airtight container and store it in the fridge for up to 4 weeks. I usually use this small batch in about 2 to 3 weeks, depending on how many of my family members remember to take it. Feel free to double the recipe if you need to serve a larger family!
Homemade elderberry syrup is more runny in texture than a store-bought version. This is because we didn’t boil the elderberries with a granulated sugar, and the concentration of sugar is lower than store-bought recipes, which need to be shelf-stable.
I think this is a good thing, but I wanted to point it out, so you’re not surprised by the final results!
Frequently Asked Questions
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.
- Where do you buy elderberries? I buy organic dried elderberries (<-affiliate link) online, because it’s the easiest option where I live.
If you have a local health food store near you, they might also sell dried elderberries! If you want to use fresh elderberries, I’d suggest using at least double the amount that this recipe calls for, since they aren’t as concentrated as the dried version.
- Do you need to use a sweetener? 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 may help suppress coughs in children, making it the perfect addition to this natural cold and flu remedy.
- How do you use elderberry syrup? In my home, I take 1 tablespoon 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.
Please talk with your doctor before starting any new supplements, to be on the safe side.
- 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 branches. This is why people don’t usually recommend juicing the raw elderberries, or tossing them into a smoothie.
Stick to cooking your elderberries first, to be on the safe side.
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.
- 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 ounce of elderberry syrup, but I only take 1 tablespoon at a time as an adult, so the nutrition information would be even lower for that serving. Typically 1 ounce = 2 tablespoons.
- 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.
Note: 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.
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!
Questions and Reviews
Have you ever used powdered Elderberries. And if so how much do you use.
I haven’t! You’ll have to let me know if you try it.
How would you make this thicker and more coagulated? I feel like that would make it less messy.
I am in love! Just made this with heavier amt of organic ginger YUMMO!!!! I never get the flu (once in my life literally) I know, I know…but riddled with upper resp crap and allergies. I hope this will boost my immune system and ward off CRAZY spring allergies!!
How often do you take the syrup and much for adult
Thank you for the elderberry syrup recipe. With recipe, I will use the berries from my tree.
What is the daily recommended dose please.
Hi just wondering if you can substitute honey with Rice malt Syrup.
I would think so! Let me know if you give it a shot.
Great will do thankyou.
how would you add cloves or clove oil to this?
Maybe add a pinch of ground or whole cloves while everything else is simmering? You could strain out the whole cloves later. I’m not familiar with working with clove oil, so I can’t speak to that.
I love this recipe! I actually double the recipe and also add star anise, ground cloves, and cinnamon sticks. And we make it vegan by using agave instead of honey. Our kids love it and so do we. 😊
I recommend you add cinnamon bark and whole cloves to this recipe since they are known, natural, antiviral agents. It also makes it taste better.
Ooh, that sounds great! Thanks for the suggestions.
If honey doesn’t spoil and has a very long shelf life, why does this concoction need to be refrigerated?
Because water is added to it, which makes everything spoil faster, I like to err on the safe side. It could last for much longer, but I would hate to make any promises about a longer expiration date.
Thank you very much for this recipe. One question do you simmer with the lid on?
I usually simmer with the lid off, but you can keep it on if you find that it’s splattering.
I simmer it on low with the lid off, but you have to check on it more often that way. You can keep it covered if you prefer, but it will take longer to reduce in that case.
I’ve made this twice now…doubled the recipe each time. This recipe has turned out amazing! I was purchasing elderberry syrup from a company online but it was getting rather expensive. This is a very easy recipe and tastes just the same!
I bought some dried elderberries in the bulk spice department that said you could steep them. I was assuming it would make “tea”, but wondering if I could make syrup from them. Is there a difference in dried elderberries? These were quite small.
They sound like the same thing I used! Dried elderberries are very small.
Did you actually know that you must boil/simmer elderberries for at 30 to 45 minutes to eliminate the toxic substance contained in them? Twenty minutes, as you are suggesting here, is not long enough!
Do you have a link to the research on that? I’d definitely like to look into it further. I used to boil this for 30 minutes, but I found that 20 minutes has been sufficient, since the toxic seeds and stems are strained out of this final product. But I definitely don’t want to recommend anything dangerous, so I’d love to see the research on the timing.
Am I right to assume you cannot reuse the berries after boiling?
I think that’s a good assumption. I’ve never reused mine.
I have an elderberry bush in my garden. Can I just use fresh elderberries instead of dried.
Do you have a recipe for this exact recipe but in a big batch?
Hi can you tell me which elderberry you used? Sambucus nigra var. caerulea orSambucus nigra ssp Canadensis.
Thank you in advance for your time.
Thanks so much for this information post! I purchased elderberry extract before reading this. How do I make the syrup from this?
Do you know milligram per teaspoon? Or how much do you take a day?
Thank you for this recipe!
The Elderberries (Sambucus nigra ssp. canadensis) are starting to turn black in my backyard. I’m going to be ready for cold season this time.
Can you use fresh elderberries? If so how many? Can you pressure can and make in larger quantities?
How many ml would you govencholdren, ages 2 and 5?
Sorry, I meant give children
Legally, I’m not allowed to give any sort of “dosing” information when it comes to supplementation, so all I can recommend is speaking to your health care professional regarding that. Sorry I can’t be more help!
just wondering…could I make and can the ‘juice’ and then add the honey when Opening the juice.??
I’m afraid I don’t know anything about canning, so I can’t help with that. I’d love to hear if you try it, though!
How much syrup does this make?
I always order my elderberries from Pipingrock.com. A pound is usually around $18 to $23 depending if they are on special at the time.
Hi, I’This is very helpful as I’m new to using elderberries. I have them in the freezer now! Since most of the recipes are put through a strainer, is it OK to just boil the little stems too? instead of fussing with taking the berries off the stems?
Have you tried maple syrup as a sweetner?
Do you know if you can use the berries from any species of elderberry tree. I have 2 different ones in my yard and wonder if one is better than the other?
Ty for a great recipe. I read through everything & many comments/? First since I just picked fresh ID wild elderberries. I did add a 1/2 cinnamon stick & about 5-6 dried ginger pieces during simmer, last 3″ added 1/2 tsp lemon juice. Because I had double berries since fresh, I basically for half recipe & used 1 TBS honey…. It was perfect! Would be amazing over pancakes. Used 2 TBS syrup, huckleberry vodka & berry seltzer on the rocks for a refreshing spritzer on the patio! Have pics but dk how part from here. Many thanks! 😊
My concern is that I have read that heat destroys the antioxidants in the elderberrys. Heat only to 180 degrees for one minute. This is what an elderberry syrup manufacturer does (based in Missouri ). The best way to preserve the antioxidants in the elderberries is to make a tincture using either vodka or brandy.
This takes 5-6 weeks to complete but has a long shelf life.
Hi! I’d like to make a syrup from Biona Organic’s bottled Elderberry juice. It’s just pure elderberry. Would I just mix the sweetener into it or should I reduce it down first?
I have raw honey in the comb. Can I use this kind?
I’ve made this so many times before with great success. This time I totally got distracted and put the honey in before boiling it. Is there any way to salvage it? I turned the heat off before it started boiling it just in case it’s salvageable somehow. Help!
Can I use elderberry juice instead of fresh elderberries. We don’t have them where I live
I’ve never experimented with elderberry juice, but I assume that might work as long as you know how the juice was made (without the leaves, stems or bark) and that it has been cooked, to eliminate any toxins as mentioned in this post. I’d just want you to be on the safe side!
I made this last year and loved it. Is it ok to add the honey before boiling? I realized I poured the honey in when I should have waited until it cools.
How do you preserve this since it contains water? What food preservatives do you recommend and at what percentage?
Thank you so much for publishing this. I’ve been looking for a way to make elderberry syrup at home, as I believe it kept me healthy last season! Btw- I’m trying to reach you via inquiries about a potential partnership with my client La Tourangelle. Is there another way we can get in touch?
Can this be made without the ginger?
Yes, feel free to leave it out if you prefer.
I grew up in the smoky mountains of Tenn. Where there were plenty of elderberries we always made jelly from them and was told to use it during the fall and winter months it was rare to have a cold and never remember anyone of us having the flue but it was always just very good with a warm biscuit my grandmother and her mother doctored all of our family and friends we grew and raised our food and canned everything from the garden and I’m 62 now and still raise a garden and can food I’m planning to pick my berries this summer and make jelly and syrup.
I am going to try this recipe but I will also add a couple gloves of fresh minced garlic to my mixturecuz I have been eating garlic since back in the ’90s fresh garlic and it is very very beneficial as I believe you already know this so so thank you for sharing this fantastic recipe and may the Lord bless you and your family and keep you safe
I’ve let my syrup too long on the stove and it has reduced too much giving it a strong taste, do you think I can add water to it?
Sure, I think that’s worth a shot!
I have been using Elderberry. Extract for years. Could I use this and add the other ingredients to make the syrup? I was thinking it would shortcut the process.
One of my patients was telling me she makes her own juice! She puts lemon juice in hers also! I’m gonna try to make my own! Thank you! I will let you know how it is
This is the best!!! I’ve been making and using this recipe for a few years!
I made a batch that was so good that I immediately made another. I and the family been using a commercial brand for years at the first sign of a cold – IF I had it in the house! So I gave it out, some frozen in small containers, and everyone’s delighted and love the taste, including the 18m old grandson.
I’d like to try this recipe using freeze dried elderberry powder I recently purchased. How much would you suggest? Also is there any reason why I shouldn’t use date paste in place of honey?
I accidentally added the honey to the cooking mixture, will that ruin the properties of the elderberry? Or does it just cook out any good components of the honey?
It should be fine! It may cook out some components of the honey, and you can turn honey into hard candy by boiling it, but the liquid should help prevent that. Let me know how it goes!
It turned out great! Thank you for the response ☺️
I was wondering this is my first time and seems like the cheapest way to make a great immune support. Buying is very expensive. So what I was wondering is I want to make a super immune batch. One recipe said at juniper berries. I also have many oils my question is if I use the oils of cinnamon bark and clove juniper berries and a couple of others is that just as effective as using fresh ingredients to boil.