Elderberry Syrup 

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This easy-to-make syrup is my go-to remedy for fighting colds and flu, and it's less expensive and better tasting that conventional medicines. For best relief, take it at first sign of a virus. A daily dose may also be taken as a preventative measure.

Elderberry syrup has become my go-to remedy for fighting colds and flu and is very easy to make. For best relief, take it at first sign of a virus. A spoonful a day also works well as a preventative measure. (As a bonus, this all-natural remedy tastes far better than conventional, store-bought syrups-and is less expensive, too!)

 

 

 

No matter where we turn this time of year, we’re reminded that cold and flu season is upon us.

Over-the-counter medicines never seem to make us feel markedly better, so I’ve long embraced natural remedies to help ease the discomfort—or ideally prevent germs from taking hold in the first place!

Of all the concoctions I’ve brewed up over the years, the following syrup has become a trusted favorite. I now keep a jar in my refrigerator at all times. At the first sign of a scratchy throat, my husband and sons reach for it, as do I, because we really think it works.

Justina, a nurse and herbalist who now works for Lemon Street Market, is to thank for this recipe. She’s been making elderberry syrup for years, and says she not only loves the ritual of it, but the creativity and flexibility of adding different herbs based on what she has on hand or feels her body needs.

 

This easy-to-make syrup is my go-to remedy for fighting colds and flu, and it's less expensive and better tasting that conventional medicines. For best relief, take it at first sign of a virus. A daily dose may also be taken as a preventative measure.
So what exactly is elderberry?

Elderberry, or Sambucus nigra, is one of the most commonly used medicinal plants in the world.

Traditionally, Native Americans used various parts of the elderberry plant to treat infections, while the ancient Egyptians used it to improve their complexions and heal burns. Over the centuries, elderberry was also used to treat heartburn.

Today, elderberry is most often taken as a supplement to treat cold and flu symptoms.

However, the raw berries, bark and leaves of the plant are also known to cause stomach upset, so avoid snacking on the dried berries, which aren’t particularly tasty on their own anyway, as a way of receiving their benefits.

Primary uses of elderberry are:
  • As an anti-viral: studies have shown elderberry to have a direct effect on viruses by killing them and inhibiting their reproduction, thereby decreasing the duration of a viral illness. (It has been shown to help within 24 hours by making the virus unable to replicate itself by invading the cell wall.)
  • As a decongestant, opening and draining the sinuses and nasal passageway by alleviating excessive mucous production due to sinus infection, the common cold and allergies.
  • As an astringent: tannins in the flower help to knit proteins together, leading to increased tone and tightness of skin tissue. This makes elder flower an effective skin toner. Similarly, the astringent property works on the mucus membranes of the upper respiratory tract to tighten and dry excessive secretions.
  • As a relaxant diaphoretic: In layman’s terms, this refers to fever support-opening the pores and promoting perspiration, thereby helping to release the heat of a high fever. Technically, this occurs through a relaxation in the peripheral vasculature, particularly the capillaries.
  • As a inflammation modulator: elder flower contains the flavonoids quercetin and rutin, antioxidants that work to decrease inflammation by fighting age-related oxidation. Also, quercetin has been show to have specific antihistamine properties, making it especially useful for allergy symptoms.
  • As a supplement: Elderberry contains the antioxidants anthocyanin as well as vitamin C and B-complex. These antioxidants also provide anti-inflammatory support.
  • As an immune stimulant and modulator: the berries also contain the flavonoid rutin, as well as cyanogenetic glycosides, which have been shown to help regulate and normalize the immune system.

 

This easy-to-make syrup is my go-to remedy for fighting colds and flu, and it's less expensive and better tasting that conventional medicines. For best relief, take it at first sign of a virus. A daily dose may also be taken as a preventative measure.

 

Over time, I’ve rounded out the helpful information Justina provided with some additional research of my own. For example, if you make elderberry syrup with a high enough concentration of sugar (around 65-70%), it becomes self-preserving. This means that the syrup doesn’t require refrigeration.

That said, I prefer Justina’s method of making elderberry syrup with a lesser amount of raw honey. This means that it should be refrigerated, but I think the benefits are worth it.

Not only is the overall sugar count lower, but honey delivers anti-viral and anti-bacterial benefits. Honey also offers soothing properties, as it lightly coats the throat and mitigates the feeling of a sore throat. To reap full benefits, the raw honey is stirred in once the syrup has cooled to room temperature, as intense heat can kill the beneficial enzymes. Note: Do not give honey to children under 1 year of age.

 

This easy-to-make syrup is my go-to remedy for fighting colds and flu, and it's less expensive and better tasting that conventional medicines. For best relief, take it at first sign of a virus. A daily dose may also be taken as a preventative measure.

My nurse practitioner sister-in-law became a fan of the syrup for her family last fall. Here, my 5- and 8-year-old nieces, Evie and Grace, are all smiles.

 

You can certainly purchase a variety of over-the-counter medicines that contain elderberry. I recently noticed elderberry-infused Zicam and saw a store-bought bottle of elderberry syrup-on sale for $19.99.

The following preparation requires just a modest amount of effort but will save you money-and taste better, too. As far as the taste, it’s lightly spiced and berry-like, and mellows and improves with age. Everyone in my family sort of enjoys taking it, and I would say it far exceeds the taste of the typical store-bough cough syrup.

Dried berries can often be found in bulk, I purchase them from Lemon Street Market. On-line sources can also be used, and I’ve linked one in the recipe card notes.

 

Suggested use for elderberry syrup:
  • At first sign of cold or virus: take 1 to 2 teaspoons every 3 to 4 hours
  • As an immune boost: take 1 to 2 teaspoons once a day, as you would a daily supplement (I take a daily spoonful just before breakfast)

 

This easy-to-make syrup is my go-to remedy for fighting colds and flu, and it's less expensive and better tasting that conventional medicines. For best relief, take it at first sign of a virus. A daily dose may also be taken as a preventative measure.

While the ingredients noted in the recipe as optional provide flavor and a small degree of added benefits (i.e., ginger is good for stomach upset), the primary benefits in this recipe are derived from the elderberries and honey. So if you happen not to have one of the optional items on hand, feel free to proceed without. When in doubt, I recommend starting with half the prescribed amount of cloves, as the flavor may be pervasive to some.

This easy-to-make syrup is my go-to remedy for fighting colds and flu, and it's less expensive and better tasting that conventional medicines. For best relief, take it at first sign of a virus. A daily dose may also be taken as a preventative measure.

While it seems like eating the dried elderberries in their uncooked state might be beneficial, I don’t recommend it. Certain varieties of raw elderberries can cause nausea, vomiting and abdominal cramps. Err on the side of caution and cook them.

Reducing can be dauting – how do you really know when something has been reduced by half?

Is eyeballing good enough? Precise time will depend on level of simmer and size of pot (bigger surface area = quicker evaporation), but as I mention in the instructions, it’s ok to be a little off in this recipe. Boiling down a little more than half will mean you’ll want to add a little less honey, and vice-versa. For those who use a kitchen scale, I mention a precise method in the recipe instructions.

 

This easy-to-make syrup is my go-to remedy for fighting colds and flu, and it's less expensive and better tasting that conventional medicines. For best relief, take it at first sign of a virus. A daily dose may also be taken as a preventative measure.

Once the mixture has been simmered and reduced, simply strain out the solids, pressing against them with the back of a spoon to extract all the beneficial liquid. When the liquid cools to room temperature, the honey may be stirred in.

This easy-to-make syrup is my go-to remedy for fighting colds and flu, and it's less expensive and better tasting that conventional medicines. For best relief, take it at first sign of a virus. A daily dose may also be taken as a preventative measure.

Dried elderberries and raw honey are easy to keep on hand, making this syrup a cinch to whip up when the early signs of illness threaten. That said, you may also freeze the juice or the syrup to have when needed.

 

Who doesn’t love gummies? For more options, Justina passed along two elderberry syrup gummy recipes that she has made and enjoyed:

Elderberry Syrup
Yield: ~1¾ cups
This easy-to-make syrup is my go-to remedy for fighting colds and flu, and it's less expensive (and better tasting!) than conventional medicines. For best relief, take it at first sign of a virus. A daily dose may also be taken as a preventative measure.
Ingredients
  • ½ cup (2 ounces/55 grams) dried elderberries (see notes for buying)
  • 3 cups (24 ounces) water
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger (optional but recommended)
  • 1 teaspoon dried whole cloves (optional; I measure a slightly scant teaspoon)
  • 1 cinnamon stick (optional)
  •  ½ cup (160 grams) raw honey
Instructions
  1. Bring the elderberries, water and spices to a boil in a medium-size pot, and then lower the heat and allow the mixture to simmer, uncovered, until the water has been reduced by half, about 20-25 minutes. (Tip: For those who have trouble eyeballing how much liquid has reduced, this is a great time to use a scale. Simply weigh the full pot before boiling and then again when you’re getting close. Look for the weight to be 12 ounces less than the starting point. If not using a scale, observe the starting level of the liquid in the pot, but don’t worry about being exact. It won’t matter if you’re a little off either way.)
  2. Pour the cooked berries and liquid through a fine mesh strainer and into a clean bowl to remove the berry skins and spices. To extract all of the juice, press the berries into the side of the strainer with the back of a spoon. Discard the remaining pulp.
  3. To preserve the benefits of the honey, allow the mixture to cool to room temperature, and then stir in the honey, whisking to fully blend. Transfer the syrup to a jar and refrigerate. The syrup will keep for approximately 3 weeks, and it may be frozen if you don’t think you’ll use it all within that timeframe.

Suggested Use: Take 1-2 teaspoons every 3-4 hours at the first sign of a cold or virus. May also take a 1-2 teaspoons once a day as a preventative measure.

Notes

Even though you reduce the mixture, it will not be quite as thick as most store-bought syrups, which tend to contain more sugar, thickeners and/or preservatives.
For a vegan recipe, you could substitute pure maple syrup or a natural sweetener of choice. Alternatively, you could simply omit and end up with a juice. Though lacking sweetness, the juice will still provide the medicinal benefits afforded by the elderberries.
I purchase the dried elderberries in bulk at Lemon Street Market. If you aren’t local and cannot easily find them at a store near you, you can find them online. Click here for a link to the brand I purchase (Frontier Co-op). When purchasing online, you will likely have to purchase a 1-pound bag, but the dried berries have a shelf life of one year when stored in a cool, dry place.
You may cut this recipe in half or double it if you’d like to give some away. Just be aware that the simmer time will be longer for a bigger batch and vice-versa.

The Fountain Avenue Kitchen https://fountainavenuekitchen.com/

 

 

 

 

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Comments

  1. Gail

    Was just on line when I saw your column pop up. I was expecting to see your monthly favorites post but instead saw the elderberry syrup. This is so timely for my family as we are struggling to get over cold symptoms that have gone on now for about three weeks. As soon as I can get out I will certainly be getting all the necessary ingredients. Thanks so much for a much needed post.

    Reply
    1. Ann Post author

      Hi Gail! Since I just did a “2019 reader favorites” post, I figured I’d pick up with the regular monthly favorites next month. I’m so happy this timing was good for you. Everywhere I turn, it seems people are recovering from something. Not fun. I hope this works for your family as well as it has for mine and that you all feel better soon. ❤️

      Reply
    1. Ann Post author

      How convenient, Jane! I would use them as is, although I would use more (maybe twice as much) to account for the moisture loss and shrinkage when dried.

      Reply
  2. Mary Lou Keller

    I was so happy to see this Ann! I have Elderberry syrup in my fridge that I bought from a vendor at our farmer’s market last fall. My husband takes sporadically, but he has had sinus and upper respiratory for months! It starts to get better then he gets bad again. I keep telling him about the benefits of elderberry but I think he doesn’t believe me when I tell him the benefits. I think I will show this to him!
    Happy New Year Ann!

    Reply
    1. Ann Post author

      Hi Mary Lou! Happy New Year to you, too, and I’m so glad this is timely for you. This syrup always tastes fresh and not particularly medicinal, so we don’t mind taking it. After taking on a regular basis for so many months, I’ve seen a benefit from using it as a daily supplement, and then I increase the frequency if I feel a scratchy throat coming on. I’m sure there are times that it won’t work (and I may jinx myself by saying this!), but so far it has nipped every cold in the bud. If your husband tries, I hope it helps!

      Reply
  3. Yvonne Post author

    I’ve been taking this for several years…works. It’s a good thing to take for a week before you travel on an airplane!

    Reply