Learn how to make homemade elderberry syrup using fresh (or dried) elderberries and honey.
(Updated for 2021, since I’ve reduced water amounts and cooking time since my original recipe in 2015.) 😊
Over the past few weeks, we’ve been harvesting from our elder bushes, making lots of goodies, including tincture, oxymel, and salve.
Check out my article at Unruly Gardening for comprehensive information on harvesting, drying, freezing, and storing, plus recipe/remedy ideas for using elderberries!
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.
If you don’t have a source for fresh elderberries, you can adapt the recipe for dried elderberries instead – which you can buy from Mountain Rose Herbs.
- 1 part fresh, fully ripe black elderberries (*or half as much dried)
- 1 part water
- 1 part raw honey (check local farmer’s markets or health stores)
- optional: small bit of cinnamon stick and/or ginger root (dried or fresh)
Directions to Make Homemade Elderberry Syrup
- Gather the fresh berries and make sure no stems remain. (The stems have some level of toxic compounds in them.)
- Place the berries in a saucepan and cover with an equal amount of water. (i.e. for 1 cup of berries, use 1 cup of water.)
- 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!
- Place the pan over a medium burner and bring to a simmer.
- Adjust the heat as needed, to keep the berries at a very low simmer and cook for around 20 to 30 minutes, smashing the berries with a fork occasionally as they cook.
- Strain the juice from the cooked elderberries into a glass jar or pitcher.
- Compost the seeds and pulp, as the seeds should not be eaten.
- Let the juice cool to a comfortably warm, but not cold, temperature, then stir in an equal amount of raw honey.
If you don’t have fresh berries, use 1/2 part dried berries instead of 1 part fresh. So, for 1/2 cup dried berries, you’d use 1 cup of water. Frozen berries will also work great in this recipe, using the same amount you would for fresh.
Whatever amount of juice that you end up with, is how much honey you’ll use. If you end up with 1 cup of juice, use 1 cup of honey. If you end up with 2 1/3 cups of juice, use 2 1/3 cups of 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
Once made, you can store the finished syrup in your refrigerator for about 3 to 4 weeks.
You can stretch that longer to several months if you add a generous amount of brandy, vodka or an alcohol-based tincture (like this homemade elderberry tincture) as a preservative – add 1/4 cup alcohol for every 1 cup of syrup. (Heads-up though, adding tincture gives a stronger taste that I find less pleasing.)
Or, freeze the finished syrup in small containers and store in your freezer. Thaw overnight in your fridge as needed.
Another idea is to make a fresh but small batch of elderberry syrup up, using frozen or dried elderberries, about once per month. Then you don’t have to worry about freezing or adding alcohol.
Take 1 to 2 tablespoons (15 to 30 ml) 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.
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.
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