Elderberry Syrup Recipe for Cold and Flu Prevention

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Elderberry Syrup Recipe - Holistic Squid

This Elderberry Syrup Recipe is a great way to keep your family healthy and happy while saving pennies too!

Elderberries (also know as sambucus or sambucol) have long been used in folk medicine to prevent and treat the symptoms of the common cold and flu. These tiny purple-blue berries are rich in anti-oxidant flavinoids and anti-inflammatory anthocyanin. Even modern studies have proved the efficacy of elderberry extract. (source)

I first fell in love with elderberry syrup when I discovered that my children were more likely to take their fermented cod liver oil when given with this dark sweet liquid. I bought several bottles before I realized I could simply make it myself.

Not only is homemade elderberry syrup easy-peasy and scrumptious, but you also get to control exactly what goes in it.

This means you can avoid the junk in many popular brands including high fructose corn syrup, preservatives, and ‘natural’ flavoring. Once you taste this stuff you will really wonder why it could possibly need additional flavoring!

This recipe is made with fresh ginger – used in Chinese medicine to warm and protect the digestion as well as fend off colds. Cinnamon is an immune booster that helps to resolve pain. Raw honey (which balances the extreme tartness of the berries) contains micro-nutrients and enzymes that give your body extra support as well. You can read about the benefits of raw honey here.

Take 1-2 teaspoons daily during cold and flu season (taking an occasional break for a day or two), increasing as needed if you start to feel rundown.

While it’s great on a spoon, we also like to drizzle elderberry syrup over french toast or swirl it into homemade yogurt.

Elderberry Syrup Recipe Ingredients

Elderberry Syrup Recipe Method

  1. Add all ingredients except for the honey into a medium saucepan.
  2. Bring to a boil, and then lower heat to medium.
  3. Continue simmering for 30-45 minutes until the liquid is reduced to half.
  4. Before the liquid cools, strain it through a fine mesh strainer.
  5. Allow the liquid to cool to about 118F (to preserve the enzymes in the raw honey), and gently combine the warm reduced berry liquid with the raw honey.
  6. Store in a jar in the fridge for a few weeks. For longer storage, freeze into ice cube trays to defrost for later use.

*If you are lucky enough to have elderberries growing wild near you, go on an elderberry picking expedition so you can use fresh berries for this elderberry syrup recipe. Remove the berries from the stems, and prepare as above, using half of the filtered water.

Here in Southern California, wild elderberries are in season in later summer and bushy trees can be found throughout the canyons and mountains. As with any foraging, be sure to properly identify your plant before ingesting.

Don’t have time to make your own?

I love this elderberry syrup just as much as the homemade stuff.

Elderberry Syrup Recipe for Cold and Flu Prevention - Holistic Squid

Do you have your own elderberry syrup recipe? Tell us how you make it below!

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  1. michele says

    The link for the berries is sold out. Any other vendors you trust? I’m not sure where else to buy them, I haven’t seen them in any stores locally.

  2. Leah G says

    I am 96.9% sure these are growing in my yard along with the blueberries, blackberries, and pokeberries but like you mentioned I need to find someone local who can identify them. so many things look so similar. great recipe. once i get this sorted out I will get it brewing.

  3. Michele says

    I’m getting ready to make my batch and realized I put the honey in before simmering! Is it similar to the freezing issue?

    • Lauren says

      I did the same thing. Really annoyed I didn’t read through because I even went ahead and added some manuka honey, and man is that expensive!! :(

  4. says

    I have a question..by “3 cloves” do you mean the spice, or Garlic?LOL when I think cloves, I automatically think of garlic! Thanks for the recipe, I’m so excited about making this! I’ve heard so much about the bnfits , and have seen it for sale..but I have trees I can make it now!

      • Michelle says

        I had a question on the cloves as well. Just 3 little cloves the little tiny round ones from the bottle??? I’m sorry I’m confused cause that doesn’t seem like a lot at all…just want to make sure I do it correctly :) Thank you!

  5. cj says

    A quick question. Do blue elderberries have the same medicinal qualities as black elderberries? We have blue elderberries growing on our property & wonder if they will work as well in the syrup as the black.

  6. Shalonne says

    When you use it to does the FCLO – what is the ratio you use? I just ordered the Butter oil / FCLO blend in chocolate cream – haven’t tried it before. Do you think it will work for that too? Thanks! Very excited to try this – will be planting elderberry bushes this summer.

    • Amy says

      I would also like the answer to this. I’m really hoping the elderberry syrup masks the FCLO so I can get it into my kids. Thanks so much!

    • says

      Hi Shalonne and Amy – Half and half with the FCLO pulled up in the syringe first so the elderberry hits the palate first. It should work with the Butter oil/FCLO blend in chocolate cream, as long as it is liquid.

  7. Mindy says

    Okay, so I’ve been using homemade elderberry syrup (with FCLO) with my littles (ages 2 & 4) for a couple months now and I have 2 questions. #1. My two year old develops red splotches on his skin wherever the syrup touches him (which is typically just around his mouth) even if I wipe it off seconds later. He has no other symptoms, and the splotches disappear within an hour or so. Is this common? Or should I be alarmed? And #2. This combo works SO well (with an almost magical disappearance of oncoming symptoms when I boost their intake!) that I feel slightly concerned their immune system’s will suffer in the long run! I don’t know if that makes any sense, but as it’s my understanding that their developing immune system gets stronger with every bug they fight off, I’m wondering if the elderberries are doing all the work and their immune system isn’t getting the exposure it needs?? (In other words, will their immune system grow dependent on elderberry syrup, so that without it, even as adults, they would catch every little bug?!) I HOPE this is an absurd and unfounded concern! But just would like some insight on the inner workings of the child immune system and exactly how elderberry syrup might be effecting it long term (good OR bad)! Thanks in advance for your expert input! :)

      • Mindy says

        Glad at least that I’m not alone in my over analyzing! 😉 I really hope it’s an unfounded concern…I’m very anxious for a expert response from Emily!

    • Melissa says

      This is a year after you posted but wanted to answer this question. The elderberry isn’t fighting illnesses. It’s boosting their immune system to fight those illnesses. Your kids are probably coming in contact with viruses etc and because of the immune boost, are taking care of them quicker…. Either by no symptoms of illness of very minimal ones. Whether your kid gets a 2 week flu or a 2 day flu doesn’t determine whether you their bodies are learning to deal with them. Why go through 2 weeks of misery when it could be short-lived. With that said, if you know you have an illness like the flu in your home and everyone is managing it easily, as was our case this year, do others a favor ad still quarantine yourselves. You are still infectious a few days after. It’s tough when the kids are feeling great, but that same illness may land someone else in the hospital. Just a thought.

      • Anna says

        I wanted to add. All our extended family just went through a week of flu! Poor kiddos. We were knowingly exposed at a holiday function. Started our elderberry and my kids 3 & 7 had it for 1.5 days each. :) It works!

  8. Lara says

    I was just about to make a batch of elderberry syrup & realized I’m out of clove:( Can I use clove oil instead, & if so, how much? My girls are fighting some serious colds or allergies & need some immune boosting asap!

    • Lauren says

      I realize that you posted this well over a month ago, but I didn’t have any whole cloves either, nor did I have cinnamon sticks. I used ground for both and it turned out fine, just ended up with a syrup that isn’t as clear as in the picture.

  9. Becca says

    Hi! I just have to say, I recently subscribed to you on facebook and I really love your site. We seem to have a lot of the same passions when it comes to traditional whole foods and I have been learning a lot from you!
    I have a question about your elderberry syrup recipe. My mom has a bunch of elderberry bushes near her house. I told her they were medicinal, so she picked some elderberries last year, then boiled them in a little bit of water until they were soft, strained out all the juice, and then froze it. She still has it in her freezer, and doesn’t know what to do with it. Can you recommend a way for us to adjust your syrup recipe so she can use this elderberry juice to make it? It’s extremely strong; she only used enough water to cook the berries. I’m hoping if I can show her a way to make syrup out of it, she will kindly share some with me, as I am not lucky enough to have any elderberry bushes in my yard! 😉 Of course, now that we have your recipe, we can just use the fresh berries when she picks them again this year, but we’d like to keep last year’s juice from being wasted if possible. Thanks!

    • says

      Hi Becca, that’s great! I’ve never made it this way, but I would probably concentrate the juice by reducing it on the stove with the other ingredients then add honey at the end. Thanks so much for sharing!

  10. Anne says

    So I’ve just found a location near our home with wild elderberries growing. Can the berries be frozen and then thawed so I can make small batches weekly throughout the winter? Or is it better to make a large batch and freeze the syrup (minus the honey – I love the suggestion of adding it later as you thaw each batch). Also, if you can the syrup instead for freeze it, do you need a pressure cooker or will a 15 minute boiling bath do the trick? I’m new to canning and have only canned food that requires a boiling bath since I don’t have a pressure cooker. Thank you for the tips!

  11. Gwyneth says

    I would like to make this recipe vegan. What sweetener should I use in place of the raw honey? Would date paste or stevia work?

    • says

      Hi Gwyneth, thanks for the question. I’m not really sure but I don’t see why it wouldn’t work. Let us know how it goes if you try it out. We’d love to hear your experience.

  12. Sylvia says

    What a wonderful recipe. I have elderberries in my garden. Can you advise how I would dry them so as to use them at a later date? Thank you very much.

    • says

      Hi Sylvia, thank you for the question. Using a dehydrator is really the easiest but if you don’t have one you could dry them in your oven on a baking sheet at a low temp. Hope this helps!

      • Ginna says

        I realize this answer is a year later, but I discovered that you can put foods to be dehydrated on a flat surface IN YOUR closed CAR. Mine gets plenty warm even late in he season.

  13. Keren says

    I am bout to make thos syrup… How often and what quantity should this be administered to the child? Is it a daily thing even when they are not sick?

  14. says

    Thanks so much for this post! We have LOTS of elderberry bushes on our property. We make jelly with them but had never thought of making anything else.

    • says

      Hi Chris, provided it is 100% organic elderberry juice, you could probably use 4 cups but the reason why I like to use the dried elderberries is because you know how you are processing them and getting all the goodness along with them. Otherwise, you may not get the full health benefits.

  15. AthenaK says

    Hi Emily,

    I don’t think anyone has asked this, I’ve read vitamin C is heat sensitive, and I know elderberries are high in vitamin C, if you boil the elderberries, aren’t you “killing” all the vitamin C. Also are all the other nutrients intact after boiling it?

  16. Heather says

    To the lady who’s mother had the berries and boiled them down. Please make sure all the stems were removed, they contain poison.
    I’ve been making my own tonic from berries on my property and use it whenever I feel anything coming on. It’s a true booster, and holds up to all the hype.
    My children 4, 9, and 10 also take it.

  17. Kristina says

    This brings up a recent question I have about raw honey. I have been buying local “raw” honey that is supposedly not heated but is in liquid/syrup form (I’m wondering why its not solid like some other certified organic raw unfiltered honeys I’ve been buying), but my main question is:
    What about medications the beekeeper could be using on the bees, I saw many types of medications on a bee keeping website and now I know why another local farmer specified “treated only with essential oils”. Now I’m worried that my new jar could contain bee medicine/chemicals and should I visit the bee keeper to find out and is it dangerous?

  18. Michelle Rockwood says

    I made this and it tastes as I would expect it to. Enjoyed my first few teaspoons but then found myself sick with a cold the next day! Even more odd, my brother tried a spoonful and found himself sick with a cold the next day as well. Could this have anything to do with the elderberry syrup? It just seems odd that we were both feeling healthy and then found ourselves sick and the only difference was the syrup.

    • says

      Hi Michelle, thank you for your question. I’ve never heard of that before – maybe you were already infected while making the syrup?

  19. Jessica says

    LOVE elderberry syrup, but, I want to try my hand at making my own from now on. Can you tell me how much actual syrup this recipe yields? I know their are 4 cups of water and 1 cup of honey, so…total that should be 5 cups, but, I’m sure the boiling process takes this down quite a bit. How much syrup will I have in the end? Thanks a bunch!

  20. VJ says

    Hi, I have seen that it is not recommended to eat this syrup if you have rheumatoid arthritis or other autoimmune conditions, is that true? Looking for a good vitamin C supplement but also not sure if this is allowed to be taken daily.

    • Angie says

      I have read this on WebMD, that the interactions elderberry has is to people with autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and MS or those who take medications that supress the immune response (ie: steroids). Due to it making the immune system more active it can flare up the disease symptoms

  21. Valerie Harris says

    Hi can you please post the link to the site where you used to buy the elderberry syrup from? Thank you! The link above isn’t working.

  22. andrew says

    Hii guys i was wondering if my gf can take elderberry syrup if shes pregnant and gets the flu, im just concerned about this deadly influenza going around especialy with pregnant women, and i was curious if she could take elderberry if she got sick thanks for the blog :)

    • M Worley says

      Yes, it’s totally fine during pregnancy, confirmed by Holistic Squid in previous comments. She would be best off taking it daily to prevent getting sick, and take it several times a day if she feels something coming on. If she doesn’t already, taking fermented cod liver oil would help tremendously too (see Holistic Squids post on the topic for more info). I hope your GF didn’t get the flu shot! It may seem tempting, but personally I’m staying FAR away! Too much risk (esp for pregnant women!) , and it’s proving to be especially ineffective this year, IMO.

  23. Jennifer says

    So what do you do with the elderberries once the syrup is made? Could you use them like blueberries in muffins?

  24. Kristy says

    My sons are 10 month and 3.5 years. Is Elderberry safe for a child under 1? I know I’ve been told not to give him raw honey but even if I omit it I wasn’t sure if he could even have it. I came across the article when reading about ear infections which is a reoccurring problem with my youngest son. I regularly take elderberry and I have a kid version for my 3.5 year old. I was also wondering if this recipe is too strong for a kid his age? Thank you..

    • says

      Hi Kristy – Thanks for your question. I can’t give you medical advice, but I can tell you that I would and did give this to my kids when they were old enough for solids. I personally don’t buy the fear of raw honey.

  25. Jenni says

    Thank you for posting this recipe! I am wondering how often this can be administered? Is it ok to give to this children for months at a time for prevention? Also: how long does a batch of syrup last in the refrigerator? Thanks!

    • says

      If you are using it for prevention :: 12 years of age and older, 1 tablespoon daily. 5-12 years of age, 1/2 tablespoon daily, 2-4 years of age, 1 1/2 teaspoons daily.

      When treating a cold/cough :: 12 years of age and older, 1 teaspoon every 2-3 hours. 5-12 years of age, 1/2 teaspoon every 2-3 hours. 2-4 years of age – 1/4 teaspoon every 2-3 hours.

      Children Under 2 :: ALWAYS mix with hot water. 18-24 months, 8 drops every 2-3 hours. 9-12 months, 5 drops every 2-3 hours. 6-9 months, 4 drops every 2-3 hours. 3-6 months, 3 drops every 2-3 hours. Younger than 3 months, 2 drops every 2-3 hours.

      The above dosage is for Elderberry Cough Syrup, made just using Elderberries, water & raw honey. As long as your child does not react to any of the other ingredients listed in the recipe above, you would be okay to follow this dosage as well.

  26. Trish Longley says

    I plan to make some elderberry syrup; the bushes in my area (U.K.) are loaded so what amount
    of fresh berries do I need for the recipe?
    Also are people taking this as a preventative against colds or to help cure colds and flu.
    Manythanks forany help you can give.

    • says

      Hi Trish – Thanks for your comment! The elderberry syrup is best used for prevention. As for the amount of fresh berries, generally 1 cup fresh equals 1/2 cup dried, but this might vary a bit. Hope this helps!

  27. Petra says

    I’m just wondering if this is safe to take during pregnancy? I am 15 weeks so I am past my first trimester :). My mother in law has a huge elderberry bush on her property so we want to make a bunch :)
    Thanks so much!!

  28. Shannon says

    How poisonous are the stems? I couldn’t get every little itsy bitsy stem out. It’s simmering now. Out of the cup about 4 tbs were from those I picked. The rest was store bought without stems. I don’t want to kill anyone. Thanks!

  29. Mick says

    Made elderberry syrup with Demerara sugar and vodka early September foraged in woods lose to Cirencester. Great with blackberries myroballen plums and the elderberries in a compote, keep great in the fridge as a weekly or longer jam. But have made lots of Elderberry wine in the past, give it the time and some time later is as good as a Madeira.

  30. Marie says

    I just made my elderberry liquid from berries gifted by a colleague. I forgot to add the seasonings in the cook down phase so will try “steeping” the ginger, cinnamon (and lemon, she recommends) in the crock pot for the day, and sweeten with honey.

    I used fresh elderberries and my end result was 1 liter/1000 ml of liquid – how much honey should I use (ballpark)?

  31. Suz says

    After straining everything what do you do with the leftover berries? Can you put them in pancakes/waffles/smoothies/etc? Can you use them at all or do you have to discard/compost them?

  32. Brittany says

    My question is if I have all organic powdered ginger and clove powder (from mountain rose herbs) can I use that instead? And if so how much? Thank you!!

  33. Tami says

    So when you give to your kiddos with FCLO, do you mix it together with the syrup? I can’t get my kids to eat the oil EVER because of the smell, but they always take the syrup with a smile. TIA

  34. Angela says

    Can I use cinnamon powder (Ceylon kind) instead of cinnamon sticks for this recipe? If so, how much? Also is this safe to give to my 1 year old?

    • says

      Hi Angela, thanks for your question. I haven’t tried it with cinnamon powder – you’re welcome to try and we would love to hear back. Technically, honey isn’t safe to give to children under 2. Hope this helps.

  35. Mountain Mama says

    A year later, I’m sure you’ve figured out the answer. But just in case, I’ve been doing this for a number of years now and it seems to work just fine. I double the batches so I freeze the raw berries in bags of 2 cups each so it’s easier to whip up a batch when I start to run out.

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