Homemade Elderberry Syrup

How to Make Homemade Elderberry Syrup for Cold & Flu Season
Over the past week or two, I’ve been harvesting from my elder bushes, making:

  • Elderberry Syrup, excellent for treating colds and flu,
  • Elder Leaf Salve, for bruises, muscle strains and old injuries (recipe HERE),
  • Elderberry Tincture, more concentrated than syrup, plus sugar/honey-free (recipe HERE)

Elderberry Syrup is the best thing ever and I couldn’t imagine facing cold/flu season without it!

There are quite a few studies on its effectiveness against influenza, like THIS ONE (“Patients received 15 ml of elderberry or placebo syrup four times a day for 5 days, and recorded their symptoms using a visual analogue scale. Symptoms were relieved on average 4 days earlier and use of rescue medication was significantly less in those receiving elderberry extract compared with placebo.”), and you can find more by searching through PubMed.

While this recipe uses fresh elderberries, you can also adapt it for dried berries instead – see the recipe notes below.

Making Elderberry Syrup from Raw Honey and Fresh Elderberries


Directions to Make Homemade Elderberry Syrup

  1. Gather the fresh berries and make sure no stems remain. (The stems have some level of toxic compounds in them.)
  2. Place the berries in a saucepan and cover with twice as much water. (i.e. for 1 cup of berries, use 2 cups of water.)
  3. If you’d like, add a piece of cinnamon stick and/or dried or fresh ginger. These are both warming herbs and great for when you feel like you’re catching a cold. They also add an extra level of tastiness!
  4. Place the pan over a medium burner and bring to a simmer.
  5. Adjust the heat as needed, to keep the berries at a low simmer and cook for around 30 minutes, smashing the berries with a fork occasionally as they cook.
  6. Strain the juice from the cooked elderberries into a glass jar or pitcher.
  7. Discard the seeds and pulp, as the seeds should not be eaten.
  8. Let the juice cool to a comfortably warm, but not cold, temperature, then stir in an equal amount of raw honey.

Why raw honey? Because it has its own antiviral properties (as shown by THIS STUDY) and others like it. It also helps act as a preservative to keep your elderberry juice from spoiling quickly.

To maintain its benefits, raw honey shouldn’t be heated over around 110°F (43°C).

Storing & Using Elderberry Syrup

At this point, you can store the finished syrup in your refrigerator for several weeks. You can stretch that to a couple months if you add a generous amount of brandy, vodka or an alcohol-based tincture (like this homemade elderberry tincture) as a preservative – add up to 1/4 cup for every 1 cup of syrup. or freeze the finished syrup in ice trays and store the individual cubes in freezer bags. Always thaw herbal mixtures in the refrigerator overnight, since high heat and microwaves will destroy many of the beneficial properties. Be aware that freezing may deplete some health benefits over time, however (at least THIS STUDY suggests so) so I like to make a tincture for backup (recipe coming soonish).

Take 1 to 2 tablespoons of elderberry syrup 4 times a day, or more often if needed, when sick with cold and flu symptoms. (This is an adult dose, use less for children.) If symptoms worsen or you feel concerned, check with your doctor or family health care provider for further guidance. Honey should not be given to children under 1 year old.

*To make this with dried elder berries, use 1/2 part dried berries instead of 1 part fresh. So, for 1/2 cup dried berries, you’d use 2 cups of water. Cook for 30 to 45 minutes, strain juice then mix with equal parts of honey. I buy high quality, organic dried elder berries HERE from Mountain Rose Herbs.

Elderberries on the vine

*Important Note* In essence, elderberry syrup is more of a food with healthful benefits, than a medicine in itself, so it’s hard to take too much. However, it’s always prudent to use moderation and see how an herb affects you, before taking a lot of it. Check with your doctor or health care provider if you have chronic health conditions, or have any questions or concerns about this or any herbal home remedy. Some sources say that pregnant women should avoid elderberry, so speak with your doctor before use. While this site does its best to provide useful information for others, any reliance you place on such information is strictly at your own risk and not a substitute for medical, legal or any other professional advice of any kind. This post may contain affiliate links, which helps support the site and keeps it ad-free. Thank you! :)




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Jan Berry is a writer, herbalist, soapmaker, and bestselling author of The Big Book of Homemade Products, Simple & Natural Soapmaking, and Easy Homemade Melt & Pour Soaps. She lives in the Blue Ridge Mountains with her family and a menagerie of animals, where she enjoys brainstorming creative things to make with the flowers and weeds that grow around her.

  • Sara says:

    We make elderberry syrup every year but I have never heard anyone making a salve. How do you do that? What do you use it for?

  • Sharon D. says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this, especially using dried elderberries. I do not have access to fresh berries but purchased some dried from Mountain Rose, perfect timing, thank you!!!

  • Melissa says:

    I knew I bought dried elderberries for a reason!

  • Joanie H says:

    Wonderful post! Thank you for sharing.

  • Brenda says:

    Made this today for my daughter, and I won’t have any problem getting her to take it. That’s the best cold medicine I’ve ever tasted:) yum!

  • Elder Leaf Salve says:

    […] « Homemade Elderberry SyrupKombucha Soap Recipe » […]

  • Karen says:

    Shoot, I made this with pre frozen elderberries. Should I pitch it?

    • Hi Karen! I would definitely keep your syrup. That was just one study and it’s hard to know how frozen berries would work versus the frozen juice they tested. I would just dose it generously, in case it has lost a little potency. (Hopefully though, everyone stays nice and healthy and you don’t even have to test it out!) :)

      • Karen says:

        great-thank you Jan!!!! What age would you consider a child’s dose and approx how much?

        • Hi Karen! That’s a great question. I’m not very precise with dosing elderberry syrup (it’s hard to go wrong with it), but I would say once my kids hit around 12 I started giving them the same amount as I would take. (Of course, they are taller than me and about the same weight by then!)
          For the younger-than-12’s, I just fill a teaspoon and give to them, every few hours, or as needed. (Usually starting with a double dose for the first dose.)

  • Karen says:

    Also, is this something you should take only when sick or every day through out the flu season?

    • Hi Karen! We usually only take elderberry syrup when we feel like we’re catching something, but if it’s peak flu season and we have to be around a crowd of people that might make us sick, I’ll dose everyone with a spoonful before we go out and then usually another spoonful when we get back home, just in case we were exposed. Some people take it daily in small doses (around 1/2 tsp or so) though, as a preventive. I’m not sure which is better, but it feels right to me, to save it until needed. If I worked where I had to have frequent contact with the public though, I might would consider a daily dose during the worst of flu season.

  • lesley plukaard says:

    I moved to bulgaria just over a year ago from the UK. Here the Elder tree is revered. The flowers they make a tea from for sore throats and the berries the syrup, the leaves and bark they make a salve for bruises, bumps and cuts and grazes. It’s wonderful to see that they just know how to do it and everyone does it. So next year I’ll be using your recipe for my medicine

  • Christina Furlong says:

    Thank you so much for your recipes and sharing your herbal knowledge. I just got into herbal stuff this year to better use the herbs I grow in pots in my back yard. I made the elderberry tincture you mentioned and used it to ward off 2 colds I was coming down with this summer and fall. It’s a huge help as I have compromised immunity and am usually out of comission for 2-3 weeks when I catch a cold (which I do almost every other month). With the elderberry tincture I was a little sniffly and had a bit of a sore throat for 3 days only!

    • Hi Christina, That’s wonderful that elderberry is helping you ward off colds! It’s one of my favorite (and tastiest!) medicinals and I wouldn’t want to go through a winter without it. I hope you continue to stay well and healthy all winter long!

  • Maura says:

    Hi – I have a huge bag of frozen elderberries I picked last year stored in my freezer and would love to make some flu syrup. I have no access to raw honey – can I use ordinary processed honey or should I add brandy to help preserve it. If so how much alcohol should I use. Thanks so much for your help. I’m in UK by the way and we don’t water bath here but I will be using my fruit steamer to extract the juice.

    • Hi Maura! You can use ordinary processed honey. It won’t need more preserving than raw honey, just the raw has an extra boost of other benefits. You can add some brandy to help preserve it a little longer. I’m not precise with it, but usually add a generous splash.

  • Padmani Kaur says:

    Thanks for this recipe I can’t wait to try it! Can you give and estimate for how much juice you end up with after straining? It would be easier to adjust for excess moisture if I knew about how much you ended up with after straining.

  • Jenny says:

    have you ever tried pureeing the cooked berries with a food processor to break down the berry more before straining it through the cheese cloth ? id like to try this, also, why is no one eating the left over berries ? instead of tossing them.

    • Hi Jenny! I try to smash out as much of the fruit as possible with a fork, but you need to make sure that you don’t get any seeds in your syrup as they can be toxic.
      Using the food processor first would pulverize the seeds and your syrup would be unsafe to consume.
      If you have a way to separate seeds out first and then puree the berries, that sounds like a great idea though, and would definitely help prevent waste!

  • Roxie says:

    I have about a gallon of juice from the elderberries. I have used a steamer to extract the juice. Do you know what kind of ratios I use with the straight juice?

    • Hi Roxie, That’s a great question! I haven’t tried using steam-extracted juice (though I bet it will make an amazing syrup!) – but I suspect you should be able to keep the 1 part juice to 1 part honey ratio.

  • Faye says:

    Hi can I make this without honey as I’m breastfeeding my baby & babies under 12 months can’t have honey, but is it safe though my breastmilk??? I’m not sure

  • Kathy Robertson says:

    I am IBCLC Lactation Consultant. Breastfeeding moms can have honey and still breastfeed. The baby would not get sick from the honey.

  • Sherri says:

    I need an elderberry remedy without sweetener, I am diabetic. Do you have one? Thanks

  • diane says:

    I make elderberry brandyeach year…i did steam some juice, but with some small stems. Should I discard?

    • Hi Diane! I think a few small stems are okay. If it’s the same kind that you’ve made each year & haven’t had a problem with it yet, then I would keep doing it like you have been, just try to keep stems to as minimal as possible.

  • Mary says:

    Any suggested ratios for using alcohol as an additional preservative?

  • Sabrina says:

    Hi there, I just made this and it is definitely tastey. I used 8 cups of berries and 16 cups of water. I used an entire jar of raw honey (500g) and felt it was enough but because of preserving I did add about 1 1/2 cups of vodka to help it’s shelf life in the fridge. Also – it looks more like a juice than a syrup to me.. did I do anything wrong?

  • Hilary says:

    Hi I have tried freezing elderberry syrup before and it did not go hard so could not get the ice cubes out of the try. Also tried making elderberry leathers but they did not dry out and kept forming into a mass. I am going to try your syrup and maybe try drying berries and see if the leathers work better that way.

  • Jeannie says:

    My first attempt at making the Elderberry Syrup, I have come down with Pnemonia and I am coughing up a Storm. I love this simple recipe. I did not know I had Elderberries growing in my own Yard. I only found out when I looked up cold remedies and Low and behold there is this perfect plant. I do have dried elderberries that I am yet to try out, but I have NO reason NOT to have it daily. I need to be rid of this never ending cough. Thanks so much for an easy recipe.

  • Sarah Sanger says:

    Hi, do you know if health food markets sell fresh elderberries?

  • Julia says:

    So if I use 1/2 cup of dried elderberries then add 1/2 cup of honey?

    • Hi Julia! You would need as much honey as the amount of liquid elderberry juice remaining after cooking. It will vary somewhat depending on how long you cook and at what temperature. So if your berries + water cooked down to 1/2 cup of juice, then you’d mix it with 1/2 cup of honey.

  • Joseph Kost says:

    I love your post. Pictures are great and very easy and informative.

  • Elderberry Vinegar Honey Caramels Recipe {+video} says:

    […] made elderberry syrup and elderberry tincture, now it’s time for elderberry […]

  • Brenna says:

    Hi there,

    I just pulled out dried elderberries I have harvested from my tree over the spring to make a syrup… and unfortunately have ended up with a yellowy mixture!! :((

    I have yet to find anything online to say as to why. This is not my first time making it, but it is the first time I’ve made it from the elder I grew… Do you think it could be the wrong variety? Or maybe I didn’t let the berries ripen enough before picking?

    • Hi Brenna! I would try to find a local plant expert who can double check that you have elderberries and not another type of berry.
      Maybe a plant nursery, or county extension agent, or local university could help. I thought most elderberries ripen later in summer, instead of spring, and I’ve not heard of anyone’s elderberries producing a yellow mixture, so it would be good to make sure what berry you’re working with before tasting any!

      • Holly says:

        I’ve made this a couple of years now. Thank you so much for the recipe! One question: is it because of the honey that it’s supposed to be more like a syrup? We have a very large bush/small tree in our yard, so I’m able to produce a huge cooking pot’s worth of juice. I can’t add as much honey as the recipe calls for, however, because it’d cost a fortune in honey. So mine turns out more like a watered-down juice versus a syrup. Very tasty, but essentially I feel like I could drink it by the glassful as it’s not too strong and only slightly sweet. I haven’t done that yet as I’m unsure of “dosage,” so to speak, but if you have any tips on what an appropriate amount to take with this version (during a cold/flu) I’d appreciate it!

  • Ilda says:

    I just got some frozen elderberries (12lbs) and am making a big batch was wondering should I be cooking them for more than an hour

    • Hi Ilda! That’s a great thought – you probably would need to cook larger batches longer. I’m not really sure by how much though, it’s one of those things you’ll have to monitor as you go. Happy syrup making! :)

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