DIY Elderberry Syrup

Your Cold Season Solution
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Elder medicine has been used by herbalists for centuries. I like to use both the flowers and berries in my herbal apothecary, sometimes together and often separately in teas, tinctures, vinegars, honey and syrups.  Probably THE most popular of these remedies, is the highly nutritive immune-building and anti-viral superstar:  Elderberry Syrup.
When collecting elderberries, ensure that they are
1. elderberries from one of the sub-species “sambucus nigra”.
2. ripe berries ~ dark purple, almost black. Don’t use any un-ripe berries as they can cause stomach discomfort.

Elderberry Syrup FBSB

NOTE: this elderberry pic  shows berries in several stages of growth. We would only use
the very dark berries. Sometimes, flowers and early berries are available on the same bush, and it can take a week or two from beginning of the first ‘ready-to-pick’ berries until the last available…and then there’s the local bird population who love elder’s fruit!


  • are powerful anti-oxidants (5 times those of blueberries + twice those of cranberries)
  • contain more vitamin C than tomatoes or oranges
  • are a good source of Vitamin A, B (niacin + thiamine)
  • contain 3 times the protein of blueberries
  • are a good source  of iron + calcium

The supportive ‘tonic’ actions in Elderberry can be helpful in cases of adrenal burn-out, exhaustion & chronic fatigue syndrome.  The berries have a slight laxative as well as diuretic action so can be mildly detoxifying.  Anti-viral properties can help to enhance immune function against viruses worldwide and are the subject of an increasing number of studies. If you’d like to learn more about this wonderful herbal ally, here’s a post called “ElderBerry Medicine”

Elderberry syrup recipes can vary greatly. That’s HERBALISM!! There are probably as many recipes as there are herbalists.  I’m sharing two recipes and there are many more!. I choose to make my healing Elderberry Syrup with honey, preferring raw honey to sugar. We are working with the immune system, after all!
Here’s one of my recipes ~ easy to make and delicious:

Elderberry Syrup (with Raw Honey)

Caution: Children less than 12months old, should not drink syrups made with honey*

Makes 2 cups
1 cup ‘fresh elderberries’ or 1/2 cup dried elderberries
2 cups pure water
1 cup raw honey

Place the berries and the water in a non-aluminum pot. Bring the mixture to a boil. Turn down the heat and simmer for 30 to 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.

* Replace the honey with 1 cup organic sugar if you want the syrup to be suitable for infants.

ElderBerry Syrup in the making Elderberries in Pot

If you have a hand-held (immersion) blender, pulse it briefly 5 or 6 times to extract more juice from the berries. It is important to be quick with this step to avoid breaking up the berries’ seeds, which can be bitter. Alternatively, use a potato masher to gently extract as much juice from the berries as possible.
Strain the mixture through a fine sieve. I typically strain the juice into a glass, measuring cup at this point and allow the juice to cool down from hot to warm^. When the juice is still quite warm, add the raw honey. Stir well. Pour into a bottle or jar. Label.
^ It’s better to add the raw honey to a warm juice to avoid heating it too much, and subsequently destroying some of the healing power.

Elder Berry Syrup process Elder Juice in measuring Cup

If additional flavours are of interest, any combination of aromatics can be added part way through the ‘simmering step’ in the recipes above. Last year I used some cinnamon sticks, ginger root + lemon peel. I have also used cardamom pods, orange peel, nutmeg. My latest experiment included organic powdered turmeric + black pepper!
The resulting syrup is always tasty, nutritious and a highly effective herbal remedy. Store in the fridge and enjoy within 6 months.

Here’s an example:

Aromatized Elderberry Syrup

1 cup ‘fresh elderberries’  or 1/2 cup dried elderberries
2 cups pure water
1 cup raw honey

2 Cinnamon sticks
2 Ginger root pieces, each about 2 inches long
Lemon peel, from 1/2 to 1 Lemon (organic preferred)


Elderberry Syrup FBSB

Photo Credit:  Karen O’Brien @
For the most fabulous book ALL about ELDER ~ herb of the year 2013!!! Get it here.
at the International Herb Association’s website.

I search locally and normally make my elderberry syrup with fresh or frozen berries. If that’s not do-able for you, here’s an online source (through my affiliate association with Amazon) for organic elderberries from Frontier herbs:
Elder Berries Whole Organic – 1 lb,(Frontier)
 Elderberry Syrup

How do YOU make Elderberry Syrup?  
Love to hear your ideas ~ recipes ~ comments!

Do you have a copy of my eBook “Cold + Flu Season ~ Are YOU Ready?” Be prepared.
Check it out here


With good green wishes “to your health” ~   Carol













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    • Thank you on that last reply. I decided to update you on my syrup making. As of that last attempt to make a batch with just berries and then honey once it’s cooled…I have just gone with it. We have used it for a few days and if you’re reading this…we’re still alive! I guess it will take some getting used to as it certainly isn’t as tasty as Sambucol, but maybe it will grow on us. I have driven my husband crazy with all of my talk and searching about Elderberries, but it’s good to learn what you can. I ordered another bag from the same company, but the organic dried berries, as they were out of stock when I placed my first order. I figure this will at least help me compare the smell of them and know that they are not off in any way. Thanks again for all of your help.

  • Wondering if you could help me with a question I have. I believe there is an elderberry plant on the property I live on but I am not sure which KIND of elderberry it is. Aren’t there some species that are actually poisonous?

    I have a book on foraging and from what I can tell they are blue elderberry? Is that the sort you would use for the syrup?

    I can’t seem to find an answer no matter how many different ways I google it…

    Thanks! <3 Jackie

  • I have Elderberries that I froze for eating. I would like any feedback
    as to whether I can use my “frozen” Elderberries to make this? Do they have to be
    fresh or dried only?

    Thank you. :)

    • HI Dee, Thanks for your question. I have used frozen elderberries successfully for many years.
      Provided these berries were picked at their ‘peak’ and frozen immediately, they will yield a healing syrup.
      Enjoy!! Let me know how it turns out! green blessings, Carol

  • Please advise: made this today, but my honey and juice are not mixing thoroughly. Does yours? I have clumps of honey at the bottom of my jar. Temperature of liquid is now room temp (70 degrees). Thank you.

    • HI there! Although you don’t want to boil the mixture, you can most likely fix this by gently heating in a pot and stirring to mix the honey + the juice. Perhaps you just needed to keep them on the heat a little longer. Good luck ~ it should come together just fine.

  • Hi there.

    I just made my first Elderberry syrup yesterday and I was hoping you could answer a few questions for me?

    1. Is there an odd smell to boiling/simmering Elderberries? What do/should they smell like? My family thought they smelled like cheese!

    2. How would I know if they were bad?

    3. Is it possible the added ingredients could cause the finished product to taste a little bitter? Maybe too, cinnamon?

    I appreciate any help/tips you may offer because I’d like to keep at this syrup making since the store bought versions are getting to be too costly. Thank you.

    • HI Debbie. I will try to help. Some questions though, first!

      Did you use frozen elderberries? What did you add to the berries?
      What ingredients did you add? I offered a few ideas there so not sure what you used.
      Have you tasted it? How much honey did you use?

      If you used good quality elderberries, fresh or frozen – all should be good.
      I haven’t noticed a cheese like smell, either, to be honest.
      Maybe others have?

      • Thanks for your quick reply. I bought dried berries, but not sure if they were kept frozen at the site I ordered from. I used 2/3 cups of dried berries, a few small pieces of fresh ginger, 1 1/2 tablespoons of ground cinnamon, and a 1/2 tsp of whole cloves. I brought to a boil, then simmered for about 2 hours, per the recipe. I let it cool and stirred in a cup of raw organic honey. I do have a cold right now, but I thought the berries smelled like a berry while in the bag so I have nothing to compare them to. Thank you again.

        • Debbie, just wondering… Did you strain out the cloves and ginger before adding the honey?
          If the berries have been dried in a good way, they would not also have been frozen, I don’t think.
          Anyways, that’s fine.. I would strain the whole mixture and then store in a cool place.
          Take lots of it to minimize your cold.
          Excited to tell you that my Cold + Flu ebook is available. Check on my site under Books!
          Feel Better!

          • I did strain everything before adding the honey and it’s in the fridge. Could my measurements have been too much of something? Is there a way to know if the berries were not good? I’m thinking of scrapping this first bottle and trying again with either less of the added ingredients, or only going with honey. Thank you.

          • Why do you feel that there’s a problem? I suggest you go with your intuition on this one.
            Another thought.. when you do make it again. Make it with the berries and leave out the other herbs n’ spices until you know what elder tastes like. It’s always a wonderful plan to get to know the herb as a ‘simple’ first. Then you’ll know the taste. Meanwhile.. if you bought your berries from a reputable place, you may just have put too much cloves or whatever, and that doesn’t meant it won’t be good for you!!

  • I bought mine from a site called Starwest Botanicals…first time ordering from them. I guess I’m not sure that something is wrong with the berries at all. I have only ever had the syrup from the store version called Sambucol and that one tasted really good, but making my own does not taste the same. You may be right on needing to know what the berries smell or taste like on their own first. I will scrap this jar and give it another go without adding anything. Would there be some sort of smell that would be obvious when I open the bag that they are in that would alert me to them being off? I don’t get that vibe, but I never smelled them before either. I am so happy to have your help and so quickly too. Thank you again…and again.

    • HI Debbie. Quick replies today because I am here..i.e. in my office.. today ~ not always the case LOL.
      They are a reputable company. I have not ordered from them recently but they have a good reputation.
      Sambucol is, of course, a preparation, made for many years, and formulated to taste great. When we make our own versions, we need to play a bit to find something we like. I am not sure why you are not wanting to use the one you’ve made.. You mentioned you aren’t well. Get those berries into you!! They will help you feel better!
      and.. You are welcome.. Carol..Feel better!

  • I’m relieved to hear that you’re aware of that company…I went in without ever knowing of them. Right now, I have a cold that turned into a sinus infection (in my opinion) and I’m trying to work that out. I’m passing on the syrup I made because I really can’t stand the smell or taste of it. I really am thinking it was the combo of ingredients and maybe too much cinnamon. I still have the store version on hand and I’ll go with that until I try your suggestion on making the syrup with just the berries and adding the honey after it’s cooled…of course. I’m hopeful that will be all it needs. I will keep you posted. You have been such a great help all day today! Thank you and goodnight.

  • Well, not much luck today with a batch of just berries…in my opinion. They still had an almost cabbage like smell while simmering, but it seemed to be better after it cooled and the raw honey was added. The end result seemed a little bitter, but maybe that’s how homemade syrup is? No idea. Could it be because the berries were dried or from Croatia (says it on bag)? I’m lost with this stuff. Thanks.

    • I’ve not made anything with dried elderberries so truthfully can’t comment re a cabbage-like smell.
      A little bitter is not a problem. Bitter is good for us! Mine is not bitter at all. Has a delicious flavour.
      It’s all a process to learn, so please don’t be discouraged.

        • I normally pick the berries in the wild. Sometimes, I find a farmer to share some. There are a few places locally. Ask at your local farmers’ market, perhaps, in the summer? Maybe source frozen berries.

          • I was doing some reading on different recipes for making syrup and I noticed some people add several drops of grapefruit seed extract or something called grapefruit seed crush. Do you ever add that or have heard about adding it? Its said to prevent mold from growing.

          • HI Debbie! I have not heard about adding it. I’ve not heard about mold being an issue either.
            I’ve been making this recipe for almost 20 years. I’ve made it for friends, family and clients. WHen I had Studio Botanica — the physical store, I made LOTS of it and it was a best-seller – I have not had issues with any problems with the recipe. Hope that’s helpful.

  • When someone has a cold, how much is a good amount to take, and how often–adult and children? I have a 16 month old and it’s almost cold/flu season.

    • Hi Shaina, Thanks for writing. Take a teaspoon per day as a preventative – I also take Vit C, Vit D and my Echinacea Combo immune boost tincture, as well as many of the topics on STUDIO BOTANICA. I have written a cold + flu eBook as well..packed with lots of ideas.
      At first symptom or if feeling overtired or if feeing at ‘risk’ due to time spent with a sick friend, for example, I would suggest increasing to a couple of doses. If sore throat or achy body or whatever symptom continues, I take 1 tsp every hour or two.
      It’s a syrup made with powerful elderberries. Elderberries are a potent healing food. Hope this helps.

    • HI Mike.
      This plant medicine is actually a potent food mixed as a syrup. I suggest a teaspoon a day for prevention.
      If symptoms present, we can take elderberry syrup more often ~ perhaps 1 tsp hourly– 5-6 times daily.
      I suggest a multi-herb approach when dealing with colds + flu. My blog is filled with ideas to support you.
      Thanks for getting in touch.

  • Hi Carol. It is a nice surprise. I found this blog, looked at the profile picture and thought, “I’ve met this lady.” :) Anyway, you might not remember me, but I was one of the volunteer at the Herbal Symposium you organized in Toronto last July.
    Anyway, I’ve been making elderberry syrup for a while but haven’t thought of adding lemon peel, while I’ve had an accumulated container of citrus peel in the freezer for some time. Thanks for the idea – I’m definitely trying that this time around.

    • OH yes! I’ve used the syrup many ways in the summer. Add a little to Seltzer water or add to any iced tea for extra flavour!
      I’ve added it to a cold Rooibus tea I make as well. Experiment!

  • I’ve just made my first batch and I used fresh ginger, lemon peel, cinammon sticks and organic coconut palm sugar as I didn’t have any raw honey. It’s for my 4 year old and 15 month old, as well as for me and my husband. Any idea on dosage for kids vs adults? As a preventative/immune booster during autumn/winter and back to school season!

    • HI Natalie. Sounds great.. I’d give a tsp every 20-30 minutes in acute situations to the kids.. and a tablespoon or 2 every 20-30 min to the adults.. It’s a food more than anything. Most important is to have on hand and start immediately — proven to catch and kill the cold virus.. which replicates every 20 minutes.. As a preventative.. give a tsp or tbsp every morning before food or at some point.. without food.. Hope this helps. Email me if you have any other questions..

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