Make Your Own Elderberry Syrup: Boost Your Immunity to Ward Off Cold & FluNov 17, 2020
Elderberry Syrup is all the rage these days, and with great reason! It’s an incredible immune booster, and with a pandemic happening, there’s no better time to keep your immune system in check. We’ve been keeping up on our elderberry syrup intake so we can stay well during COVID 19 and all year long.
So what makes elderberries so special to be used as the “big guns” in the home of an herbalist? One of the obvious reasons I already stated is that it’s a great immune booster, but my favorite reason of all though is that it’s yummy medicine!
For those of you with kiddos around, (or if you have taste buds), you know how hard it can be to get your little ones (or yourself) to take their medicine. Mary Poppins was really onto something when she said “A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down”; only I like to replace the refined sugar with a healthier alternative like honey. Not only does the honey replace the sugar well as a sweetener, but it also helps to preserve the syrup.
About that immune-boosting stuff, here’s a few fun facts on elderberries, and why they’re so effective at warding off colds, flu, and other viruses.
- Scientific studies have shown elderberries to be highly effective for deterring 10 different flu viruses.
- Studies of people with the flu showed those that used elderberries had their symptoms gone in 2-3 days; whereas the placebo group took 6-8 days.
- Elder helps to excrete waste products through urination and sweating, a reason why it is effective against colds and flu and some general respiratory problems.
- Elderberry juice contains high amounts of flavonoids called anthocyanins, which are very strong anti-oxidants!
- The anthocyanins produce cytokines. Cytokines are little protein messengers that help boost the immune system by alerting the immune cells that a pathogen, or invader, is on the prowl in your body, and it’s time to build the army and fight it off.
- Elderberries are high in Vitamin C which increases the antioxidant effect
- They appear to strengthen cell membranes to prevent viruses from penetrating into the cell wall.
- Great expectorant and very helpful with coughs; really nice after this fire season!
I’m sure you’d love to keep sickness out of your house as much as possible too, so with that, I’ll quit with the scientific herb nerd stuff, and get on to the goods. Here’s my basic elderberry syrup recipe for you. Scroll to the bottom for a list of other potential herbs to add in if you feel like getting a bit more creative. I usually do!
Elderberry Syrup Recipe
- 1 1/2 cups freshly-picked Elderberries (or substitute 3/4 cup dried organic berries)
- 3 1/4 cups water
- 1 1/4 cups honey - raw, local honey if available
- 1-3 inch cinnamon stick
- 3-4 whole cloves
- 1 Tbsp dried ginger (or substitute 2 Tbsp grated fresh ginger)
- Combine everything but the honey and bring the mixture to a boil.
- Reduce heat and slowly simmer for about 20 minutes to 1 hour.
- Using a potato masher, or another crushing device, crush the berries and set aside to cool for a while.
- Strain the concoction, compost solids, and set the liquid aside.
- Add the honey and mix to dissolve.
- Viola! You have made your own Elderberry syrup!
- This makes approximately 4 cups of syrup and can be stored in the refrigerator for about 8 weeks. This can also be frozen in ice cube trays for longer storage and taken out as needed.
Standard dose is ½ tsp to 1 tsp for kids and ½ Tbsp to 1 Tbsp for adults. It can be taken daily during flu season, as a preventative. You can also take it for a week, then take a few days off, and repeat that process. If the flu does strike, take the normal dose every 2-3 hours instead of once a day until symptoms disappear.
There are many ways to adapt this recipe and make your own personally blended elderberry syrup. Below is a list of other possible herbs to enhance your syrup and make it ideal for your needs. Keep in mind that the more dense herbs (roots, barks and berries) need to be simmered for longer, whereas the more delicate herbs (flowers and leaves) should be added at the end when beginning to cool it down. Have fun with it, get creative, and save money while doing it!
Rosehips: are high in nutrients and a great source of vitamin C, important for immune system function. Put it in as a powder, once the syrup has cooled, to preserve the vitamin C.
Cinnamon: aromatic and pungent herb that is highly antimicrobial, anti-viral, anti-bacterial. It is included in this recipe to “warm-up” the recipe. It also tastes great!
Licorice: Licorice is another powerful antiviral herb and is a wonderful synergistic herb that can be added in small amounts to formulas. Licorice should not be used for people with hypertension or during pregnancy.
Black Pepper: Pepper is a wonderful activator herb that helps other herbs be more effective. When you add small amounts of pepper to other herbs it makes them more bioavailable (easier for the body to take in) and thus more potent.
Ginger: Warming, expectorant, good flavor, beneficial for colds, flu, and congested sinuses, immune stimulant, anti-inflammatory, analgesic, anti-nausea
More Great Herbs to Consider Playing With
Immune stimulants: Echinacea, Astragalus, Reishi, Chaga, Ginger
Soothing Lung Herbs: Mullein, Licorice, Elecampane, Hyssop, Lungwort
Warming Herbs: Cardamom, Osha, Cinnamon, Ginger, Orange Peel, Cayenne
Relaxing Expectorant Herbs: Wild Cherry Bark, Elecampane Root, Anise Seed, Fennel, Yerba Santa, Mullein, Althea, Hyssop, Lungwort, Lobelia
Maybe you don't have the time or desire to make this delicious medicine in your own home, or you just want something quick and easy on hand. You could try our Immuni-Tea or our Respiratory Rescue blends as a tea, or even add them to the basic elderberry syrup recipe. The Chaga Chai is sure to spice up your immunity, and taste amazing while doing so: (hint hint, this would be a great one to simmer with elderberries too)!
Also, consider our Germ Thieves, and our Lovely Lavendula to have around if you’re worried about yucky germs spreading everywhere. We keep some in our little girl's backpack, and my purse all of the time.
I hope this helps you to feel empowered to take your health and your family’s health into your own hands. Nature truly is amazing, and she provides for us in so many ways. Herbal medicine is just one of them! Drop a note, and let me know how your syrup turned out.
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*Always remember to contact your healthcare provider when considering the use of botanical medicine as a possible treatment option and the medical considerations. While the information in this article is absolutely relevant, herbs work differently for each person and each condition.
**I am a trained herbalist and not a licensed or registered healthcare practitioner. I cannot diagnose health conditions, nor prescribe medicines legally; I am not a medical doctor. However, I will recommend or suggest medicinal herbs for various health complaints, as I do believe in the safety and efficacy of botanical medicine.
***The information I’ve provided is not intended to be a substitute for medical treatment. Please consult your medical care provider before using herbal medicine, particularly if you have a known medical condition or if you are pregnant or nursing.
About the Author: Melissa Mutterspaugh
Melissa lives in Oregon, in the foothills of Mount Hood. She's a clinical herbalist, environmental educator, mother, wilderness therapist, lover, nemophilist, music loving maniac, and the founder of Mountain Mel's Essential Goods. She is passionate about inspiring others to take better care of our planet, through taking better care of themselves, naturally!