How to Make Homemade Elderberry Syrup for Colds and Flu

How to Make Elderberry Syrup for Coughs and ColdsWe’ve been building our arsenal of natural remedies to combat the flu as it continues run to rampant across the country. Besides taking Vitamin D3 to help boost our immune systems during the Winter, we’ve been thrilled with the healthy boost that our homemade elderberry syrup has offered us and our kids.

  • Black elderberries are anti-viral immune boosting little powerhouses. They have been shown is research studies to be especially effective against different strains of the influenza virus. In a double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized study, elderberries reduced the duration of flu symptoms to 3-4 days.
  • Ginger has anti-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-parasitic, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory and expectorant properties. It boosts the immune system, warms and induces sweating (which helps push fever and toxins out of the body), and calms coughs and sore throats quickly. It also stimulates appetite, which is important to sick individuals weakened by infection.
  • Garlic is a powerful anti-bacterial, anti-viral. It also offers great expectorant properties and has even been used for children with whooping cough, giving the juice of a garlic clove 2-3 times a day.
  • Honey adds a ton of anti-bacterial and anti-viral healing properties and can help soothe coughs and lighten the spice load of the elderberry syrup.

How to Make Homemade Elderberry Syrup

Here is my simple recipe.  Trust me, it’ll be worth the time and effort to fend off those germs. The kids won’t fight you on this one either because it’s delicious!  And you won’t have to worry about risky food dyes either.


2/3 cup dried organic black elderberries
3 1/2 cups water
2 Tablespoons of fresh ginger (peeled and sliced; you can also use organic ginger root powder)
1 1/2 Tablespoons organic cinnamon powder
1 teaspoon of organic clove powder
1 cup of raw, local honey (if you can’t get it locally, try this one)


  1. Add first 5 ingredients (everything except honey) to a medium size saucepan
  2. Bring to a boil, reduce heat
  3. Let simmer for 3- 4 hours to reduce by nearly half, stirring occasionally
  4. Remove from heat and strain liquid to remove elderberries and ginger, discard or compost
  5. Once completely cooled, add honey and mix well
  6. Store in airtight container and keep refrigerated (the syrup lasts about a month when refrigerated)


The standard dosage is 1/2 to 1 teaspoon for kids daily and 1/2 to 1 tablespoon for adults daily for prevention of cold and flu during the toughest part of the season.  If the flu strikes, take the normal dosage every 2 to 3 hours until symptoms disappear.

What’s in your natural arsenal?

Fighting a cough that just won’t go away?  You’ve got to try EcoKaren’s Asian Pear and Honey Cough remedy!

Be sure to check out our DIY thieves oilvapor chest rub, and tips for treating your baby’s fever naturally.

Updated 11/2016

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  • Jenbstamps

    Where do you buy the elderberries?  I can’t find them locally.

    • Hi Jen,

      We found them through Amazon because we don’t have them locally right now either:


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  • Desiree Fleck

    I have made a syrup just like this in the past and it works like a charm!! Even for my mom who had bronchitis for a week, when she took this she felt at least 90% better OVERNIGHT! It’s totally awesome! I have bought my elderberries from Mountain Rose Herbs in the past. I’ll need to buy some more since I also use it in many teas… but I’m hoping to have a big crop of elderberries later this year!! I planted some native elderberry bushes last year and I’m crossing my fingers and toes! 🙂

    • So glad you’ve found it as helpful as we did, Desiree. And good luck with your elderberry bushes. We’re hoping to have them in our gardens as soon as possible too!

  • Bce

    I bought already made syrup from my health food store for my son recently. I gave him the syrup late morning and the fever was gone in the night with no symptoms remaining (he had said his stomach hurt and he was sneezing). I would like to take it too, but the bottle says not to if you’re breastfeeding. It seems I should be able to take this since in is just berries. I’ll have to research it further.

    • It really works well, doesn’t it? And you’re right, ingredient research is definitely the way to go to answer your questions about the syrup and breastfeeding. We’d love to know what you discover!

      • Melissa-Quentin Jones

        so is it safe for nursing moms and nursling?

    • Woody Oakley

      Elderberries can be cathartic, which is why they are not recommended for babies and nursing mothers.

      • Hi Woody,

        I did a little research on your point above and here’s what I found: “The American Botanical Council reports in ‘The ABC Clinical Guide to Elder Berry’ that use of elderberry by pregnant women is not suggested solely on the basis of lack of research information. This publication says there is no data suggesting elderberry preparations, including elderberry juice, might have adverse effects during pregnancy or lactation. Thus, elderberry may in fact be safe during pregnancy.
        Read more:

        Hope that helps,


  • Stephanie Moram

    I can;t wait until elderberry season. I am going to buy so many!

  • mkeemouse

    Can you use fresh Elderberries?? and do you think you could can this??

    • Yes, fresh would work well. Just reduce water and simmer time (approx. 30 minutes). Something to consider regarding canning, Elderberry syrup’s health benefits can deteriorate over time. More research may be needed to determine whether this is a good idea.


      • MeanGranny

        I used to can several quarts of elderberry juice in a hot water bath. When someone got a cold, I’d open one, and we’d drink it. It was still very effective several months later!

      • Sherry

        I would not can this, you would lose most of the health benefits! A huge part of the healthful properties in honey comes from its enzymatic components, when you heat honey on high (or pasteurize it), you’re killing almost all of those things.

  • lovetoknow

    will this work with huckleberries as well?

    • I am not aware of huckleberries having the same amazing health benefits as elderberries. Although, I am sure huckleberries would make some wonderful jam.


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  • Bonny

    can this be frozen without loss of effectiveness?

  • Laurie

    I have fresh elderberries every year and would love to make this. I see you said they could be used…about how much water do you think I would need and do you think I would need the same measurement of berries?

  • ana

    Thanks so much for this post! I am wondering if this is safe to take daily while pregnant or nursing? Also is it safe for younger kids (toddlers)? Some articles online suggest otherwise (which surprised me). Thanks again!

    • Hi Ana,

      Congratulations on your pregnancy! I believe the online articles are talking about the fact the RAW elderberry leaves, berries, seeds and roots contain cyanide-producing compounds. They should not be consumed without cooking properly. -Joanie

    • Carol Halgrimson

      I remember hearing that HONEY is NOT to be given to children under 1 or 2 years of age. You may want to check on that to be on the safe side. Anyone else know anything about this?

      • You’re right Carol, most physicians recommend against giving honey to kids under one year. ~Alicia

  • Cindy

    When you simmer, do you put a lid on the saucepan?

    • Nope, leave the lid off. The simmer is to cook the elderberries but also reduce to concentrate the liquid- Joanie

  • Debbie

    Making some syrup now and since I’ve never smelled a boiling syrup in the process, does it have an unpleasant smell? My husband says it smells like feet!

    • Hmmm. It should smell very nice, even lingering long after it’s finished. Wonder if your berries have turned- Joanie

      • Debbie

        They don’t seem to smell as bad/strong now and they have been simmering for an hour. I’m following your recipe and this is the first time I’ve made, smelled, or worked with Elderberries. How would I know if they have turned? I’d hate to use the syrup not knowing what to smell or look for. Thank you.

        • Debbie

          Another thing, I have dried berries and they smell like berries while in the bag…nothing off and gross…to me they almost smell like licorice, but I also have a cold right now. When scooping out of the bag, am I supposed to sift through the berries and look for stems or woody pieces and discard them? I didn’t on my first bottle. Thank you for your help.

          • I’ve never needed to sift through my berries. And since you’re straining the final product wouldn’t stress out over this.

  • mary

    You say this freezes well? How do you store it, and how long does it last?

  • annie

    I’m brewing some up right now for my 2.5 yr old son who’s had a cough for ages. It smellsa amaamazing! Very heady. But I’ve found that it’s reducing too much too quickly even on the very lowest heat. Ive had to add more water before it disappears.! Im not sure why..? Oh I’ve also added some Mullein at the end of the brewing, which couldn’t have been more than 2.5 hours, it just evaporated too quickly. . But I can’t wait to try it out!

    • Hi Annie,

      Using a gas burner can cause the syrup to cook too fast and at a higher heat. To remedy this, I’ve found sliding the pan slightly off to the side so only part of the flame is heating can slow the process down to a simmer. Be sure to rotate the pan every so often so all sides are being heated. It is every important to simmer the elderberries for the full amount of time.- Joanie

  • disqus_leVjP0JQiY

    thanks so much for this, i have to make some! i have a high speed blender – wondering if i were to blend the whole mixture rather than straining off the liquid, could that intensify the healing properties? or would you recommend against doing that for any reason? thanks!

    • I’m inclined to believe processing berry casing would not intense the health benefits of the syrup. Instead it would change the consistency to the thickness of a smoothie rather than syrup. Also shorten storage time due to rotting berry casings, causing mold to grow~ Joanie

  • Jaedeykins

    So, I wasn’t able to find elder berries at my local herb shop, but they did have the flower. So I bought some of it dried and crushed. The shop owner said that the flowers can, in some cases, be more potent than the berries. Anyway, is there a way that I can make this syrup work with the flower? Or should I just stick to making some kind of tea?

    • Hmmm, I’ve never tried to make the syrup with the flowers. My first thought would be that the flowers would break down during the simmering (even if it was a shorter process). For example, much like when cooking with cilantro leaves, they need to be added at the end otherwise they will loss their flavor. On the other hand, if I were going to try making the syrup, I’d start by using the stems not flowers, but I really can’t say if this will work since I haven’t tested it before.~ Joanie

  • Greg Lasky

    I have been reading quite a few articles claiming that Elderberries are poisonous unless they are cooked…are the dried berries still poisonous?….how long do the berries need to be cooked in order to remove the toxicity?

    • Hi Greg, Raw elderberries themselves are mildly toxic and can cause stomach upset if consumed frequently or in large amounts. Use only black elderberries and cook them for 3-4 hours to make them completely safe to consume. The other parts of the elderberry plant (leaves, stems, roots) are much more toxic and should not be consumed. ~Laura

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