Homemade Elderberry Syrup Recipe for Immune Support

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The Fall and Winter seasons are notorious for a spike in illnesses, specifically those of the viral variety. Viral colds and the flu seem to be inevitable this time of year so it is a good idea to boost your immune system in preparation. Homemade elderberry syrup and fire cider are my 100% must-have natural remedies to keep on hand! Today we are going to take a deep dive into my elderberry syrup recipe.

Benefits of Elderberry Syrup

First, let’s talk about the benefits of homemade elderberry syrup. 

Elderberries, Sambucus nigra,  have some pretty amazing health benefits ranging from immune support during cold & flu season to relieving constipation! 

Antiviral Properties

Studies show that elderberries inhibit viral replication inside cells so it is effective at reducing the severity of colds and flu symptoms.

Vitamin Rich

Elderberries contain high levels of vitamins A, B, and C. One cup of elderberries is said to contain 40% of your daily recommended Vitamin C! This is incredible for the immune system!

Digestive Aid

Elderberries are packed with digestive fiber so they can help to ease digestive upset.

Antioxidant Properties

Elderberries contain a significant number of flavonoids, most notably Quercetin, Rutin, and anthocyanins. These antioxidants help to boost the immune system and lessen cold & flu symptoms. 

Anthocyanin is the compound that gives elderberries their color. It is also known to be a powerful anti-inflammatory. 

Potential Side-Effects of Elderberries

Elderberries do contain cyanogenic glycosides that can release cyanide, similar to apple seeds and the pit of stone fruits. This isn’t an issue in this homemade elderberry syrup recipe because the elderberries are dried and they go through a high heat processing that renders the cyanide compounds harmless. If you use fresh elderberries without heating them, you may experience stomach upset.

Here are some articles and studies that go more into detail about the health benefits of elderberry syrup:

How to Prepare Fresh Elderberries

You can use fresh elderberries in almost the same way that you would use dried elderberries. However, there are a couple of things to note.

Elderberries contain Cyanogenic Glycoside, which is naturally occurring in many plants, that can generate cyanide. Sounds scary, but it really isn’t.

This study shows that the levels of Cyanogenic Glycoside in the berries are not high enough to be of concern, especially when the berries have been heated. The highest level of Cyanogenic Glycoside is actually found in unripened berries and the stems of the plant.

To eliminate the chance of ingesting cyanide (as small as the risk may be), it is important to remove the stems and leaves of the plant before using in syrups, tinctures, teas, etc. You can freeze the berries first to make stem removal easier.

Then you need to wash the berries well and heat them to over 78° F (this is the temperature at which cyanide evaporates). In this recipe, we boil & simmer the berries (without stems) for 45 minutes so the syrup is safely heat-treated.

You will also need to use double the amount of fresh berries as you would dry. In this elderberry syrup recipe, we use 3/4 cup dried elderberries so we would use 1 1/2 cups fresh elderberries. Read more about using fresh elderberries here.

Homemade Elderberry Syrup Recipe

Is your family prepared for cold & flu season? Make this immune-boosting antiviral elderberry syrup recipe to help ward off illnesses and reduce symptoms of the cold & flu.

Ingredients

Ingredients for Homemade Elderberry syrup: raw honey, dried elderberries, apple cider vinegar, ginger, cinnamon, cloves

Ingredient Options

Elderberries:

You can use dried elderberries, as this recipe calls for, or you can use fresh elderberries. See the notes above if you plan to use fresh berries.

Cinnamon:

This homemade elderberry syrup recipe calls for whole cinnamon sticks, but it can also be made with ground cinnamon. Substitute ½ tsp ground cinnamon for the whole cinnamon stick.

Cloves:

I like to use whole cloves in my elderberry syrup, but you can also substitute 1 tsp ground cloves for 1 TBSP of whole cloves.

Ginger:

Fresh ginger root is always preferred, but ground ginger can be used as well. 1 tsp ground ginger can be substituted for 1 TBSP fresh ginger. 

Honey:

The local raw honey in this recipe is added at the end (after the heating process) to help retain the nutritional value, but it can also be mixed in with the other ingredients to simmer. The main purpose of honey in elderberry syrup is to make it palatable, but retaining nutritional value is something that I strive for as well.

You can substitute processed honey if you plan to heat it. Maple syrup can be substituted at a 1:1 ratio as well. It is also a good idea to use maple syrup if being given to children under age one.

Steps to Make Elderberry Syrup

STEP 1: Combine and Heat

Add all of the ingredients (except the honey) to a large saucepan. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer for 45 minutes. The liquid should reduce by half and coat the back of a spoon.

Simmering Elderberry syrup ingredients in a sauce pan.

STEP 2: Strain

Remove the hot syrup from the heat and strain berries and other solids out with a fine mesh strainer. Use a fork, spoon, or potato masher to mash every bit of syrup possible out of the berries. Keep the spent berries to the side to make elderberry tea. 

Mashing elderberries to squeeze out the syrup

STEP 3: Add Remainder of Ingredients

Add 1 cup of raw honey and 1/4 cup ACV to the warm elderberry syrup. 

STEP 4: Cool & Store

Allow the elderberry syrup to cool to room temperature and pour it into airtight containers (like mason jars) to store.

Pouring syrup into a jar

How to Store Homemade Elderberry Syrup

Elderberry Syrup can be stored for 8-10 months in an airtight container in the fridge. I keep mine in a syrup jar or a mason jar.  You can also use this syrup to make elderberry gummies!

How to Use Homemade Elderberry Syrup

Using homemade elderberry syrup is simple! You can use this syrup daily as a way to prevent illnesses or you can take it to reduce symptoms of an illness that you already have. 

Adults:

  • 1 TBSP/day as an illness preventative
  • 2 TBSP every 4 hours when you feel a sickness coming on

Children over 1:

  • 1-2 tsp/day as an illness preventative
  • 3 tsp every 4 hours when they feel a sickness coming on
Homemade elderberry syrup in a jar

What to Do with Leftover Used Elderberries?

Don’t throw away the spent elderberries after your syrup is finished! Use the spent berries to make elderberry tea! This tea won’t be as medicinally rich as the syrup because most of the nutrients were cooked into the syrup, but it still makes for a healthy & tasty drink.

*These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. I am not a doctor. Do not use this syrup if you are allergic to any of the ingredients. This recipe is based on personal experience and research.

Homemade Elderberry Syrup Recipe

Homemade Elderberry Syrup Recipe

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup dried elderberries
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 TBSP whole cloves
  • 1 TBSP fresh ginger
  • 3 cups of filtered water
  • 1 cup raw honey
  • 1/4 cup Apple cider vinegar

Instructions

    1. Add all of the ingredients (except the honey and ACV) to a large saucepan. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer for 45 minutes. The liquid should reduce by half and coat the back of a spoon.
    2. Remove the hot syrup from the heat and strain berries and other solids out with a fine mesh strainer. Use a fork, spoon, or potato masher to mash every bit of syrup possible out of the berries. Keep the spent berries to the side to make elderberry tea.
    3. Add 1 cup of raw honey and 1/4 cup ACV to the warm elderberry syrup. 
    4. Allow the elderberry syrup to cool to room temperature and pour it into airtight containers (like mason jars) to store.

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