DIY Elderberry Syrup

Elder (sambucus nigra L. ssp. canadensis)

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 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.

NOTE: the elderberry pic at the bottom of this post 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!

Elderberries

  • 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.

Elderberry syrup recipes can vary greatly. That’s HERBALISM!! There are probably as many recipes as there are herbalists.  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 elderberries (fresh) or 1/2 cup elderberries (dried)
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.

ElderBerryPot

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.

ElderJuiceCup

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 elderberries (fresh) or 1/2 cup elderberries (dried)
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)

 

ElderberryFBSB

Photo Credit:  Karen O’Brien @ www.thegreenwomansgarden.com
For the most fabulous book ALL about ELDER ~ herb of the year 2013!!! Go to www.iherb.org
International Herb Association’s website.

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

With good green wishes “to your health” ~   Carol

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26 Comments

  1. 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

  2. dee m says:

    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. :)

    • carollittle says:

      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

  3. Deb says:

    I will add cloves to act as a preservative…they add a nice flavour too

  4. Mrs. PK says:

    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.

    • carollittle says:

      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.

  5. MK says:

    Hi, thanks for recipe, going to make this today. Just wondering how long you can store this for? Thanks!

  6. Debbie says:

    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.

    • carollittle says:

      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?

      • Debbie says:

        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.

        • carollittle says:

          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!

          • Debbie says:

            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.

          • carollittle says:

            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!!

  7. Debbie says:

    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.

    • carollittle says:

      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!

  8. Debbie says:

    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.

  9. Debbie says:

    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.

    • carollittle says:

      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.

      • Debbie says:

        Where do you get fresh berries from? Maybe that’s the trick. Thanks.

        • carollittle says:

          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.

          • Debbie says:

            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.

          • carollittle says:

            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.

  10. Debbie says:

    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.

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