Elderberry Syrup RecipeFeb 14, 2023
Have you heard the buzz over the magic of elderberries yet? Nature provides us with so many wonderful herbs to support our health, and Black Elderberries (Sambucus nigra) are especially helpful during cold + flu symptoms. They have been shown to both reduce the risk of contracting cold/flu illnesses as well as shorten the duration of illness if you do contract one.
In fact, world-renowned Israeli virologist Dr. Madeleine Mumcuoglu discovered that: “elderberry disarms the enzyme viruses use to penetrate healthy cells in the lining of the nose and throat. Taken before infection, it prevents infection. Taken after infection, it prevents spread of the virus through the respiratory tract. In a clinical trial, 20% of study subjects reported significant improvement within 24 hours, 70% by 48 hours, and 90% claimed complete cure in three days. In contrast, subjects receiving the placebo required 6 days to recover.”
I like to be proactive about my family’s health and wellness by supporting our bodies in a way that makes it unlikely that illness will be able to take hold. Elderberry syrup is one of the ways I support my family’s wellness through cold + flu season. However, buying it pre-made can be VERY costly. One tiny bottle can be $20-30!! When you consider you can buy a whole pound of elderberries for this amount of money, which will make enough syrup to last our family of five through TWO cold/flu seasons, then it’s really no competition. And making elderberry syrup is so easy and quick! You can have this herbal remedy brewed in under an hour.
If you have tuned into my herbalism shares over on Instagram, you’ll know that I am rather traditional when it comes to creating herbal remedies. I believe in giving yourself some leeway when it comes to your herbal medicines. Follow your intuition and use what you have in your pantry! Don’t have fresh ginger? Use ground! Don’t have honey? Use maple syrup or date syrup or molasses or even alcohol (for adults only)! Sometimes I use far more ginger/cinnamon/cloves than this recipe calls for. Actually— most of the time I do. I also add Rosehips for added Vitamin C. Some herbalists add nettles, mullein, and echinacea (but I prefer not to— I create separate tinctures for those). Have fun with it! Trust your inner guidance.
Ready for the recipe? Here ya go:
(FYI: This is a bulk recipe that makes about 2.5 quarts. I keep two quarts in the fridge for our fam and gift the other half quart to my parents, usually. You can double this and freeze part of it as well but I found that for our fam of five this is the perfect amount to have on hand in the fridge for the season. Sometimes come January I make another batch.)
Elderberry Syrup Recipe
1/2 cup dried elderberries
3 cups filtered water
1 tsp ground cinnamon (or a stick of it)
1 tablespoon ground ginger (or fresh peeled/sliced ginger- as much as you’d like within reason)
1/2 tsp ground cloves (or whole cloves— I’ve added a few tablespoons of whole ones when I quadruple the recipe)
3/4 cup raw honey* (preferably local)
Optional: 1 cup of rosehips for added Vitamin C (these are a little sour but taste great once sweetened. I also love adding these to hibiscus sweet tea for a lovely sweet and sour tea.)
Place dried elderberries and spices (including optional herbs) in a pot with the filtered water and bring to boil.
Reduce heat (medium low heat) and simmer for 30 minutes (it’s okay if it goes a bit longer).
Mash the elderberries, herbs, and spices to release all the juicy goodness.
Strain the mixture into a bowl using a strainer lined with cheesecloth. Really squeeze every drop of juice out of the berries.
Allow the juice to cool to room temp.
Gently stir in the raw honey (it is best to use raw honey due to the medicinal and preservative benefits it brings to this recipe, but for adults alcohol could be used here as well since it would be a preservative. Maple syrup and date syrup have been used too.) Blend thoroughly.
Pour into jars and label them. These jars will keep many months in a cool, dry pantry or fridge. I store mine in the fridge throughout the entire season and it seems to stay perfectly good.
*omit honey for babies under 1 year or use date syrup or maple syrup— I found my babe would drink the syrup without any sweetener until he turned one.
(printable recipe card??)
Children take 1 tsp daily for prevention, increase to 3x daily to treat symptoms.
Adults take 1 TBSP daily for prevention, increase to 3x daily to treat symptoms.
We don’t take this daily, but we take it about 2-3x per week for prevention throughout cold/flu season, and we take it 3-4x daily starting at the onset of cold-like symptoms.
Elderberry syrup is generally regarded as very safe for the young and old and even while pregnant/breastfeeding. I have taken it while pregnant and breastfeeding, my children take it, and my parents take it.
Theoretically elderberry medicines could interfere with immunosuppressant therapies so if you have more a complex health situation you should consult your care provider.
There were rumors going around that Elderberries can cause “cytokine storms,” which is a severe systemic inflammatory response syndrome that arises from some infections, and is commonly linked to monoclonal antibody drugs (MABs). Cytokine release syndrome cases that are not related to MABs are VERY rare, and the ones that do happen tend to be quite mild and easily treatable.
Elderberries DO increase cytokines. They trigger a wide range of immunostimulatory effects that increase the release of both inflammatory and anti-inflammatory protein messengers known as cytokines. As with all herbs, the actions are adaptogenic based on what the body needs.
Inflammation is not always bad. When you are facing an acute illness, you actually need inflammation. This is how elderberry works. It increases cytokines which spurs the immune system into action to aggressively fight pathogens. To the best of my research, elderberry has NEVER been associated with a true cytokine storm.
In the words of one of my favorite herbalists, Richard Whelan:
“All medicinal herbs that have the power to do good have the potential to do harm. The old maxim 'the poison is in the dose' precisely describes how too much of anything can be bad for us. The ancient rule to 'firstly, do no harm is, to this day, held as the core directive by all practitioners of traditional herbal medicine. Not only are we careful to do our best to use the right herbs, but equally we take care to not give too much of them or use them overlong.
For some years now, against this proven and safe way of herbalism, there has been a rising tide of excessive caution and scare-mongering in many parts of the world. The same authorities that, not so long ago, decried herbal medicines as ineffectual, have now taken up a different adversarial position; that they are dangerous substances that should only be prescribed by Doctors, who of course have zero training in them.
Unfortunately, the same unnecessary fear and worry has crept into many natural health websites and popular publications on herbs. Herbs that we have safely used for thousands of years, that have no reports of adverse reactions in the medical literature despite widespread use by millions of people, are suddenly described as contraindicated because of something that should have been seen as completely unimportant, or at the utmost a merely theoretical concern, such as a laboratory study on one of the herb's constituents to use an all too common example.
I want to remind you that the reason that herbs can never be patented and owned by any individual or corporation is because they are, and always will be, the People's medicine. They belong to all of us and it is my great hope in sharing this work that you will learn how to use them wisely for yourself, and the people you care for. Be safe, but do not be afraid.”
The more I delve into the world of herbs, the more I realize that many of the warnings against their use have been manipulations to keep people relying on the pharmaceutical industry. You know your body and your health better than anyone. Trust yourself first. Take charge of your own health.
Here is a printable recipe card, just save + print this image:
(This includes instructions for a small batch and bulk batch)
I take charge of my family’s health in many different ways.
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Remember, nothing on my blog should ever be construed as medical advice. Read my full disclaimer for more information.
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Kate Rose is a holistic birthkeeper and birth photographer who serves expecting women both locally in the Texas Knobby Hill Country and online through her holistic childbirth prep program, Birth Alchemy. She also mentors up-and-coming doulas and birth keepers in her virtual apprenticeship program.
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