Winter Home Apothecary: Delicious Elderberry Syrup

October 8, 2023

As the weather begins to cool and the sun sets earlier and earlier, it signals to me that it is time to build my winter home apothecary. This will consist of a variety of different wildcrafted herbs, but one of my tried and true remedies is one you can easily make right in your kitchen. Elderberry syrup is a potent herbal remedy that not only helps boost your immune system, but may also help shorten the duration of cold and flu.

Elderberry Syrup

Of all the seasons in the year, winter is the one when we are most susceptible to illness. Colds, flus, and other respiratory illnesses are more easily passed from person to person as we spend more of our time indoors with one another. Also, quite literally, the cold weather helps aid replication of the common cold virus. By adding in this antiviral, antibacterial and antimicrobial elderberry syrup, we are providing a host of benefits to our immune system.

History of Elderberry

You have likely seen elderberry syrup on the shelves of your health food store. But it has a history much longer and older than our grocery stores. Elderberry has been around since 9,000 B.C.E and was likely in cultivation by around 2,000 B.C.E. It was well known for its medicinal benefits by renowned classical healers and physicians, including Hippocrates himself, who referred to it as his “medicine chest”. From Ancient Egyptians to the Indigenous Peoples of North America, elderberry has been a well-known traditional medicine used in a variety of ways, including a syrup.

Types of Elderberry

There are about 10 species of elderberry, but there are two that folks usually use to make elderberry syrup: black elderberry and blue elderberry. Black elderberry, or Sambucas nigra, is the most common elderberry used for herbal medicine making and is native to Europe. Blue elderberry, or Sambucas cerula, is native to the United States, mostly found on the western side of the country.

Both are commonly found as a tall shrub or tree, which produces beautiful white flowers in the spring. These elderflower can be harvested and used as a tea to also help with respiratory infections. Any unharvested flowers will become blue or black berries in the late summer/early fall. The stems, branches and leaves are toxic and should be removed before cooking the berries. It can be quite difficult to remove those tiny berries from the delicate stems, so many folks (myself included) will freeze the berries overnight to make them easier to remove.

If you are having a hard time finding fresh elderberry, you can use dried elderberry! Mountain Rose Herbs is an excellent source of quality herbs – I highly recommend buying your dried elderberry here.

Benefits of Elderberry Syrup

Elderberry syrup provide a range of benefits from its individual ingredients, some of which overlap.
Let’s take a look at some:

Elderberry Syrup Ingredient Benefits

  • Elderberry – Elderberry has antimicobial, antiviral, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory properties, as well as contain the ability to impair the propagation of influenza 1 
  • Honey – Honey has shown to possess antibacterial, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal, antiviral, and anti-oxidant properties. It can also help ease allergies and lower the incidence of acute respiratory symptoms 2
  • Cinnamon – This popular spice has antimicrobial, anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties 3
  • Ginger – This potent root is well known for its ability to reduce nausea and support digestion, but did you also know it can reduce pain and improve respiratory stress? 4

How to Integrate into Wellness Routine

Elderberry syrup is gentle herbal remedy that does not have standard dosing recommendations. I always recommend that you speak with your doctor before integrating anything new into your wellness routine, especially if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or on any medications. Also, it is not advisable to use these herbal remedies as a way to avoid getting professional health care.

elderberry syrup

With that being said, I will share with you how I integrate these two into my own wellness routine. I reach for elderberry syrup the second I start to feel a bit “off”. You know that I’m talking about – the muscle aches, fatigue – the “uh oh, I think I’m getting sick” feeling? I immediately go to my fridge and pour myself a tablespoon of my elderberry syrup. I repeat this every hour or so, while also integrating in rest, lots of liquids, fire cider, herbal teas, and a nutritious supportive diet.

It is important to note that elderberry syrup along alone does not make me instantly feel better. Rest, self care, and repeated dosage of these remedies are key. While it may not prevent me from getting sick, it usually reduces the duration and intensity of my illness!

I’m sharing with you my recipe that I follow each year. Feel free to get creative with the spices you use! And also feel free to omit the brandy, if you do not want alcohol in your syrup. The brandy acts as a preservative, allowing this syrup to last about 12 months in the fridge. However, the honey is also a preservative, which means it will last up to 6 months in the fridge with honey alone.

Elderberry Syrup

Winter Home Apothecary: Elderberry Syrup

A delicious immune supporting syrup
Print Recipe
Prep Time:1 day 30 minutes
Cook Time:1 hour
Total Time:1 day 1 hour 30 minutes

Equipment

  • Large pot

Ingredients

  • Black elderberry fresh or dried
  • Raw honey
  • Cinnamon sticks crushed
  • Cloves crushed
  • Ginger grated

Instructions

  • If you are using fresh berries, freeze them overnight, still on the stem
  • After fully frozen, you can easily remove berries from the stems
  • Add fresh/frozen berries and water into a large pot at a 1:1 ratio
  • If using dried berries, add in at a 2:1 ratio (water to berries)
  • Add in spices to taste
  • Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to low, letting simmer for about an hour to allow the water to reduce
  • Remove from heat let cool to room temperature
  • Once cool, strain juice from the berries and throw away berries
  • Combine juice with raw honey (3:1 ratio – juice to honey)
  • Add in brandy (4:1 ratio – syrup to brandy)
  • Mix well and store in fridge for up to 12 months

Notes

  • If you need to purchase, you can buy dried elderberries from here.
  • Elderberry seeds are toxic, so it is important to cook them to not crush the seeds
  • The stems and leaves are also toxic and contain none of the medicinal benefits – so make sure to remove them before cooking.
  • The length preservation of the syrup will depend on whether or not you added in brandy. If this recipe is followed with the brandy added, then it will last approximately one year if stored in the fridge. Without the brandy, it may be up to 6 months if stored in the fridge.
Keyword: elderberry syrup

This blog post is for educational purposes only. This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Not intended as a substitute for advice from your physician or other health care professional.

References:

1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3056848/
2.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5822819/#:~:text=Honey%20clasps%20several%20medicinal%20and,%2C%20antiviral%2C%20and%20antidiabetic%20effects
3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4003790/
4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7019938/

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