Simple Elderberry Syrup to Boost Immunity (or Drizzle on Pancakes!)

by Sarah Natural RemediesComments: 83

elderberry syrup to boost immunity

When my children had whooping cough 8 years ago (all at the same time, no less!), I relied heavily on elderberry syrup to keep the mucous to a minimum which reduced the severity and frequency of coughing spells.

I never realized until that particular time that this common, nondescript little berry, particularly when concentrated into elderberry syrup, packed such a powerful punch when it comes to managing cough symptoms even for an illness as severe as pertussis.  The fact is, elderberry in many different forms has been used in folk medicine for centuries to treat flus, colds and sinusitis as well as coughs.

During my children’s bout with pertussis, I purchased elderberry syrup from our family chiropractor. It was a bit pricey, but definitely worth it especially for my youngest child, who was only 15 months at the time.

I have since learned that it is extremely easy and cost effective to make elderberry syrup yourself.

The simple elderberry syrup recipe below contains only 3 ingredients with a single batch enough to take your family through an entire cold/flu season!

Elderberry Syrup in Scientific Literature

elderberries on a bushElderberry syrup is not just good for when you are sick either.  It is a highly effective preventative too as it is loaded with antioxidants, Vitamin C and immune supporting minerals.

Scientific research is supporting the use of elderberries for illness.  In one study, elderberry extract inhibited several strains of influenza and reduced symptoms.  In another, elderberry syrup flavonoids were found effective against the H1N1 (Swine Flu) virus.

In the most compelling study, a randomized trial of 60 patients aged 18-54 suffering from flu symptoms for 48 hours or less received 15 ml (3 teaspoons) of elderberry syrup or a placebo 4x per day for five days. Researchers observed that “Symptoms were relieved on average 4 days earlier and use of rescue medication was significantly less in those receiving elderberry extract compared with placebo”.

Besides being effective at preventing and reducing symptoms, elderberry syrup also has highly practical applications as well.  It is delicious drizzled on pancakes and waffles, or healthy homemade ice cream when a sore throat takes hold and something cold on the throat is especially welcome.

In addition, elderberry syrup can help get less appealing whole food supplements like fermented cod liver oil down the hatch for your little ones.

Tip: A teaspoon of elderberry syrup is a fantastic chaser after the daily dose of fermented cod liver oil (FCLO). If your kids dislike the taste of FCLO, a spoon of elderberry syrup afterward will placate them as it is a tasty treat that will quickly eliminate any aftertaste and help quell fishy burps.

I would recommend making a batch of this elderberry syrup and having on hand in the pantry year round.  It is helpful anytime colds, flus and coughs are making the rounds in your household.

Simple, 3 Ingredient Elderberry Syrup

Makes about 6-8 small bottles of elderberry syrup


1/2 – 3/4 cup organic, dried elderberries (where to find)

3 cups filtered water

3/4 – 1 cup raw, local, unfiltered honey (where to find if honey is not in season in your area)


Place dried elderberries (or 1 cup fresh, ripe elderberries if you have them locally) and filtered water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer on medium-low for 30 minutes. Mash the elderberries to release any remaining juice.   Strain the mixture into a glass bowl using a cheesecloth (I like these).   When the liquid has come to room temperature, gently stir in the raw honey and mix thoroughly.

Store and label in small, 8 or 12 ounce glass, amber bottles (I like these).

This mixture will last many months in a cool, dark pantry or in the refrigerator.

Suggested Dosage

A single teaspoon once or twice a day is sufficient as a preventative measure.  If illness strikes, use more as necessary, with up to 3 teaspoons, 4x per day as used in the randomized study described above.  For young children who cannot have raw honey yet, half the maximum dosage is recommended and either dilute the syrup with hot water or heat on the stove before administering.

Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist


Sources and More Information

Elderberry Extract Inhibits Several Strains of Influenza

Elderberry Flavonoids bind to and prevent H1N1 Infection in Vitro

Randomized Study of the Efficacy and Safety of Oral Elderberry Extract

The Master Tonic: Natural Flu Anti-viral

Prevent and Treat Whooping Cough Without Drugs

The Best Vegetables for Boosting Immunity

Top 10 Ways to Boost Immunity

Homemade Strawberry Syrup

Comments (83)

  • Shalimar

    So how much water should you use to dilute for those too young to have honey? Or would it be best to heat on stove? Would it need to be heated to boiling or what? This is the first post I have seen that says infants can have this, whether diluted or heated. Many other sites say not to give it to them and benefits will be passed through breastmilk. My little one is sick with cough and congestion and I have a very small natural medicine cabinet. Thanks so much!!

    March 27th, 2016 3:43 pm Reply
  • Dawna

    I make this for myself and my almost 3 year old boy. I LOVE this recipe and your blog. Thanks so much!

    February 13th, 2016 5:01 pm Reply
  • Kathy Barlean

    If I’m using fresh elderberries does the measurement increase and by how much?

    December 8th, 2015 1:13 pm Reply

    If i decide to freeze this, will any of the vitamins be lost if i decide to thaw and take at another time? I guess there is only one way of finding out whether it still works to stop coughs.

    I will cetainly give this a try. Thank you for posting Sarah.

    December 3rd, 2015 12:30 am Reply
    • Sarah

      Freezing does reduce the nutrient value a bit, but not significantly.

      December 3rd, 2015 8:58 am Reply
  • Julie

    Can I freeze this? thx

    November 15th, 2015 8:57 pm Reply
    • Sarah TheHealthyHomeEconomist


      November 16th, 2015 6:58 pm Reply
  • Tracy

    I have a child whose too young to eat honey. Can a child take elderberry syrup without honey and if so how should it be administered?

    October 30th, 2015 4:23 pm Reply
  • Lynda

    I just made this syrup but it sidetracked and simmered it wayyyy too high. I am left with only about 2-3oz. Should I just toss it? Can I just add water? Help!

    October 24th, 2015 9:14 pm Reply
  • Claire

    We have tonnes of elderberries growing near our house at the moment (we are UK based) and I’d love to make some syrup, but we try to seriously limit our sugar (fructose) intake, and although I’m not completely against trying it with honey, I was wondering if you think this might work with rice syrup instead? Is the honey primarily there as a sweetener?

    September 2nd, 2015 10:01 am Reply
  • William Motley

    Hi Sara,

    I’m wondering how this compares to the Master tonic in efficacy in your personal experience? Is elderberry good for infections like the Master Tonic or only for colds and Flus?



    June 21st, 2015 4:47 am Reply
    • Sarah TheHealthyHomeEconomist

      The Master Tonic is WAY stronger than elderberry syrup. I have both in my cabinet though. Master Tonic is for when I need the big guns.

      June 21st, 2015 10:34 pm Reply
  • Violetta

    Dear Sarah!

    I’m so glad to find this simple homemade recipe! My 19 months old got the whooping cough 1 months ago. It’s not too much if I give him 3×1 tsp/ day to treat the coughing fits?

    It’s possible to have whooping cough and stomach flu at once? Bc his stomach looks very sensitive,if he eating the normal portion of food,it comes back.He have no fever,looks happy toddler.
    I try to give him the elderberry syrup,cocconut water,lemon ginger tea to support digestion.I don’t know herbs,but the tea has organic ginger root,lemongrass,lemon peel, licorice root,peppermint leaf,black pepper.I don’t know how effect his body the tea ingredients.

    May 11th, 2015 2:30 pm Reply
  • Stephanie

    Hi Sarah,

    I have been making and taking elderberry syrup all winter and we have been far less sick this year than other years. I currently have the stomach flu and looked on your site for stomach flu remedies. I read your post about the “do nothing” approach. Then I just read this post on elderberry syrup. I am often conflicted on whether we should take elderberry regularly throughout the winter and when sick, or if we should use it sparingly and treat it more like a medicine, since it has such strong antiviral properties. I would love to hear your opinion on this!


    March 10th, 2015 7:00 pm Reply
    • Sarah TheHealthyHomeEconomist

      I prefer to do nothing and don’t take elderberry syrup or give it to my children every day throughout the winter. I just use whole food supplements like cod liver oil to make sure we get enough nutritionally. If the immune system is struggling, elderberry syrup is fantastic for a boost and to help get well faster. It really depends on the family though and is certainly and always should be a personal decision.

      March 10th, 2015 7:32 pm Reply
    • Connie

      I listen to my body’s cues. If I feel ‘scratchy’ at the back of my throat, if I feel ‘off’ in any way, at the first sign of a cold or flu (whatever that sign may be) I will do some elderberry. The trick is to catch it as soon as you can. The elderberry will fortify one’s immune system and with its help you will be easily be able to fight off the cold or flu. I LOVE Elderberry and haven’t had a cold or flu in 14 years because of it! (Also I become very good at noticing the ‘cues’.) In the winter I will carry it in my purse in a little flask and if I feel anything suspicious, take a little swig immediately. Also I use a little on my food perhaps once or twice a week because it tastes so fine! I really like a little on my tamales.

      May 25th, 2015 1:18 am Reply
  • Pingback: Flu prevention with homemade elderberry syrup » Practically Hippie

  • Linda

    I made this and love it but I notice it looks like it is fermenting. It is about one month old. Does this happen? Is it still good? Thanks

    November 18th, 2014 1:44 pm Reply
  • Mandy

    I made this according to the recipe and bottled it into 3 8oz amber glass bottles. I stored 2 in the dark, dry cabinet and set the other on the counter top. About 5 days later when I opened the countertop bottle, it had some built up pressure and smelled “spicy”. I checked the other bottles and they also had the same pressure. Do I need to toss them out? What could be the problem??

    November 9th, 2014 7:52 pm Reply
    • Sarah TheHealthyHomeEconomist

      Not sure what the weather or temperature is in your house, but best to refrigerate it seems.

      November 10th, 2014 1:00 pm Reply
      • Mandy

        Would it be harmful to add a tsp of citric acid to my next batch? I noticed the ones sold in health food stores have citric acid added.

        November 11th, 2014 6:17 pm Reply
        • Sarah TheHealthyHomeEconomist

          Citric acid has MSG residue and is usually made from GMO corn so no, I would recommend skipping it.

          November 11th, 2014 7:43 pm Reply
  • cb

    I was wondering if the plastic lids of the bottles you recommend are PVC free? I cannot find any details regarding what they are made of.

    October 28th, 2014 11:44 pm Reply
  • jennifer

    The price for the elderberries on Amazon had soared to $350. I’m assuming those on this post didn’t pay that much! Is there anywhere else I can find the elderberries? Do stores such as whole foods or native sun carry these? I may have to resort to store bought because I need some quick!

    October 20th, 2014 8:56 am Reply
    • Julie

      I ordered my berries from Frontier herbs. I am not sure why Amazon would have such an outrageous price.

      November 20th, 2015 12:15 pm Reply
  • Jean |

    Sarah, I can’t wait to try this! It’s one of those things I read about, tore out the page, lost it, forgot about it … (Is it just me, or do other people do that?!) And now is the time to do it!

    October 16th, 2014 11:15 am Reply
  • Catherine Maggard

    I steamed/juiced my elderberrys and froze juice. Can I use it and what would the appropriate amounts be? Thanks in advance.

    October 16th, 2014 10:37 am Reply
    • Sarah TheHealthyHomeEconomist

      Not sure … have never tried this before! Let us know if you try it and what proportions worked for you.

      October 16th, 2014 4:29 pm Reply
  • Dee

    I followed the recipe exactly–using the source links for dried elderberries and 8oz amber glass jars. I only got 3 – 8 oz jars out of it. What am I doing wrong?

    October 15th, 2014 3:17 pm Reply
    • Sarah TheHealthyHomeEconomist

      How long did you boil down the syrup? The recipe calls for 1 cup of honey and 3 cups of water so you should get approximately 6-8 jars unless you boiled a lot of water off during the simmer step?

      October 15th, 2014 5:00 pm Reply
      • Dee

        I simmered it for thirty minutes. Kept a careful watch–it was a low simmer. 6 or 8 bottles would be 48 to 64 liquid ounces. Three cups of water and one of honey would be 32 ounces, or 4 bottles. You would lose some water through simmering and then straining out the reconstituted berries.

        So, while the math seemed right for the three bottles I wound up with…I was trying to understand how 6-8 bottles would be possible?

        October 15th, 2014 10:14 pm Reply
        • Sarah TheHealthyHomeEconomist

          When I wrote down my recipe, I must have figured it using the 4 oz bottles. Glad it all turned out for you then!

          October 15th, 2014 10:44 pm Reply
          • Dee

            Oh, okay…I didn’t think of smaller bottles. I thought I was missing something. And thanks for a wonderful recipe. It’s already helped my husband with his seasonal sniffles.

            October 16th, 2014 6:55 am
          • Sarah TheHealthyHomeEconomist

            Sorry for the dumb math mistake :) Glad it is working for you already!

            October 16th, 2014 7:58 am
  • Jen

    Love these kind of recipes. Thanks for this! I picked up dried elderberries from the food co-op in bulk and used my local raw honey and made syrup this morning – very easy. I hadn’t had a cold in a couple years and just got one this past weekend. So great to have this for the future and also for the cold I’m getting over (kinda forgot how miserable a cold can be).

    October 15th, 2014 12:19 pm Reply
  • Aimee

    I add fresh lemon juice to increase the vitamin C. I like this recipe because I am not a fan of the “spiced” version. I add elderberry syrup to sparkling water. So yummy and refreshing! They use it all over in Europe, in German called hollunderbeeren (berries) or hollunderblumen (flowers).

    October 15th, 2014 11:01 am Reply
  • Shona

    I made this today but it’s very thin. How thick should the syrup be?

    October 12th, 2014 2:54 pm Reply
    • Sarah TheHealthyHomeEconomist

      It really does vary from batch to batch and also the consistency and thickness of the raw honey will affect it as well. Next time, boil it down a bit before adding the raw honey if you like it thicker.

      October 12th, 2014 9:33 pm Reply
      • Shona

        Thank you! My son woke up with a cold town daus after I made this. Between the elderberry, fclo, and essential oils the cold was gone by the very next day!

        October 18th, 2014 9:45 am Reply
  • Alan Santana

    I am definitely doing this one. Such a nice and simple recipe, plus I know it will help with my sinus problems.

    Thanks for sharing.

    October 11th, 2014 2:30 am Reply
  • Jennifer Jacobs via Facebook

    Hope to make some tomorrow

    October 10th, 2014 12:12 am Reply
  • Jeanine Vella via Facebook

    U suggest taking daily, I’ve also read to only take at 1st sign of sickness, why is this?

    October 9th, 2014 9:19 pm Reply
  • Ellen L

    I think the volume conversion from dried amounts of 1/2c – 3/4 cup dried to 1 cup of fresh are not accurate. When fresh fruit is dried it shrinks significantly. Minimum of 4x the volume, often shrinkage in volume and weight is 10X. I see what goes in my dehydrator compared to what comes out over the last 15 years I have been dehydrating portions of my harvest. Using only 1 cup of fresh will yield a weak watery version.

    October 9th, 2014 6:21 pm Reply
  • Dina-Marie @ Cultured Palate

    Thanks for the recipe – I will have it soon! My children don’t mind the taste of CLO (as you mentioned in the comments) either but it would be great for a preventative! Thanks!

    October 9th, 2014 5:17 pm Reply
  • Julie

    Thanks for this recipe. I just ordered my Frontier brand dried elderberries!

    October 9th, 2014 11:02 am Reply
  • Sofia

    Does it make one 8 oz bottle or 8 bottles in total of 8 oz each?


    October 9th, 2014 10:42 am Reply
    • Sarah TheHealthyHomeEconomist

      It’s going to make about 8, 8 oz bottles.

      October 9th, 2014 11:08 am Reply
  • Michele Krile

    Do you know if boiling the elderberries kill some of their medicinal properties, since high heat destroys antioxidentss? And how can I make a safe version for myself to use during pregnancy?

    October 9th, 2014 10:34 am Reply
    • Sarah TheHealthyHomeEconomist

      You will have to consult with your OB or midwife about using it for your pregnancy.

      October 9th, 2014 11:11 am Reply
  • Jama Harris via Facebook

    Is it safe for young kids and pregnant women to take?

    October 9th, 2014 9:24 am Reply
  • annie

    In an earlier post, you wrote that you would not use it or other things like it. “Elderberry syrup to ward off a cold that you feel is coming on? Pass. – See more at:
    I’m confused. Which is it?

    October 9th, 2014 9:18 am Reply
    • Sarah TheHealthyHomeEconomist

      Yes, I generally don’t use it preventatively as my kids don’t mind their daily FCLO and don’t burp it up. I do use it for illness but not early as I want to give them a chance to fight it off and detox appropriately. I considered pertussis to be a special case though .. in a league of its own :) I think its important to understand that dealing with children holistically is far from black and white and using common sense and intuition in a given situation is important … you know your children best so you must be the judge of when it is appropriate (or not) to use a given remedy.

      October 9th, 2014 11:14 am Reply
  • Anastasia @ eco-babyz

    My daughter had something coming on two nights ago. First it was just sniffles, then she was tossing and turning and couldn’t fall asleep at all. I also felt her getting hot like a fever was coming on. I tried elderberry syrup for the first time with her, just recently bought some (not homemade). I also massaged her feet with essential oils. She fell asleep right away and slept the whole night, woke up well! I was amazed! I wish I had known about it last winter, my kids were sick for like a whole month.

    October 9th, 2014 8:15 am Reply
    • Brandy CP

      Curious what essential oils you used.

      October 12th, 2014 8:21 pm Reply
  • Cathy Jones via Facebook

    I add more chopped ginger root. I don’t boil, just heat it enough to break the juice out.

    October 9th, 2014 7:59 am Reply
  • Kristin Cusamano via Facebook

    Is this good for strep throat

    October 9th, 2014 6:49 am Reply
  • Becky Nicklas via Facebook

    This is totally on my to do list for this season. Question: does it have to be in an amber colored jar? Because I have numerous clear ones and that’s what I had planned on using.

    October 9th, 2014 5:59 am Reply
  • Alexandra

    we were lucky to find elderberries growing on our property. We froze them, then picked them off the stems. Much easier to do when frozen. then followed same instructions and bottled up a lot of syrup. we have been taking it with our kombucha daily!

    October 9th, 2014 5:42 am Reply
  • Tracey Fountain Godfrey via Facebook

    I add cloves to mine. I have it warm each day through the winter. Delicious. The elderberries were great this year in the UK. So many. Thanks for sharing.

    October 9th, 2014 5:13 am Reply
  • Lisa Outhwaite via Facebook

    Got a better recipe that doesn’t require heating at all…and uses the flowers too!. Get a clean wide mouth mason jar and cram it full of fresh elder flowers (bit late now, I realise but keep in mind for next year), pour over pure vegetable glycerine (derived from coconut/palm oil), clamp down lid and leave to steep on a sunny window for a couple of weeks. By this point it smells divine. Strain out the flowers using a jam strainer, pouring the glycerine back in the jar. Next cram in elderberries (as many as will fit and be covered). Let steep for a few days, turning the jar upside down now and then. Once the colour has changed to a deep purple, strain again and store in the fridge. This stuff is truly magical. No heating and all the goodies bonded to an oil so more bio-available.

    October 9th, 2014 4:43 am Reply
  • Cassandra

    I love your site. As a know a good source of elderberry trees can I use fresh elderberries instead of dry. Earlier in the year I often collect elderberry flowers for drying and using for elderberry tea during the winter months. It also cures many a cold overnight as it causes you sweat during the night.

    October 9th, 2014 4:24 am Reply
  • Eileen

    What’s the best brand of ready made elderberry syrup to buy and where can I find it?

    October 9th, 2014 3:27 am Reply
  • Donna Koenig via Facebook

    Been taking for years! I think it really makes a difference.

    October 9th, 2014 3:17 am Reply
  • Emily Faucher via Facebook

    How right you are Amanda !! Our house is going to stink like thieves and elderberries from now until April!!

    October 9th, 2014 1:00 am Reply
  • Amanda Marra via Facebook

    Emily, we need to get this ready for the winter season!

    October 9th, 2014 12:58 am Reply
  • Judy

    Great tip–thanks! Is it OK to use this every single day after CLO, or is it like certain remedies/herbs where it’s not a good idea to use it on an ongoing basis? Any tips on getting reluctant children to take fermented CLO?

    Would elderberry be powerful enough for prevention of illnesses like ebola, enterovirus, and the other strange and terrible illnesses that we hear about these days? Maybe you could do a post just on the topic of preventing these types of illnesses? I assume fermented CLO is another key part of your strategy. We should all be focused on prevention more so than ever these days, and boosting our immune systems, in light of the threats from those illnesses.

    I think I read something about ebola being able to bypass the immune system, or something like that. Doesn’t make sense that the immune system would fail in that way. Tons of misinformation going around about ebola and other topics, making it very difficult to discern what is true and what advice to follow! Thanks again for being a voice of reason.

    October 9th, 2014 12:14 am Reply
  • MrsD

    Is there any truth to the stems being toxic? I already made my syrup and then read that somewhere. Now I’m paranoid I may have boiled a few tiny pieces of stem in there….:( I’m a worrier….

    October 9th, 2014 12:13 am Reply
    • Sarah TheHealthyHomeEconomist

      My understanding is that it is best to use very ripe berries.

      October 9th, 2014 11:38 am Reply
  • Susan

    Sarah, how would this do with Manuka honey, or is local, raw honey better. I need to find another local source for it. I don’t care for the owners of the one closest to us.

    October 9th, 2014 12:01 am Reply
    • Sarah TheHealthyHomeEconomist

      Manuka is truly amazing honey, but I think local and raw would be best as this would provide benefits given the plant life in your particular area.

      October 9th, 2014 11:39 am Reply
  • Chris Nagy via Facebook

    This is all well and great…but I just buy it. My time is limited. Do you have an herbal company you recommend?

    October 8th, 2014 11:56 pm Reply
    • Crystal Bantel

      Etsy has a handful of shops that sell homemade elderberry syrup.

      April 12th, 2016 10:49 pm Reply
  • May

    Sarah, just wondering why the heating of the elderberries does not kill the Vitamin C?

    October 8th, 2014 11:43 pm Reply
    • Sarah TheHealthyHomeEconomist

      Yes, it would probably reduce it some. The fact that the water is brought to a slow boil on a stovetop rather than flash, brutal pasteurization would be a good thing. Pasteurization of milk, for example, reduces the vitamin C by about half if I am recalling correctly.

      October 9th, 2014 11:41 am Reply
  • Nicole Mathews via Facebook

    Easy peasy- so good, so healthy!! Elderberries, cinnamon, cloves.. Add aw honey. Done!

    October 8th, 2014 11:23 pm Reply
  • Elizabeth Pomeroy via Facebook

    Thanks! This is even easier and fewer ingredients than the recipe I currently use.

    October 8th, 2014 11:21 pm Reply
  • Jennifer Kost via Facebook

    A friend of mine recently sent me an article saying that people with autoimmune diseases shouldn’t take elderberry syrup. Does anyone on here have any thoughts or other articles regarding that subject that they can share? Thank you!

    October 8th, 2014 11:11 pm Reply
  • Vieve

    Could you please address elderberry syrup causing a cytokine storm? I have read that people take it up to the point of becoming ill and stop because it can cause a cytokine storm. I would love to make it and actually have the elderberries, but I’m so afraid of causing a huge problem! I know that Vitamin D3 can have some affect on cells and not allow a cytokine storm, but I’d love for you to clear the whole issue up for us! Thank you!!

    October 8th, 2014 11:03 pm Reply
  • Debbie Eisa via Facebook

    I have this on hand right now! I started out buying it at the store for more than $10 a bottle…now I make my own. I also have an elderberry tincture going as well. I order a pound of organic dried elderberries from Starwest Botanicals for a little under $20.

    October 8th, 2014 10:55 pm Reply
  • Elene Murray via Facebook

    Made mine today! added echinacea tincture

    October 8th, 2014 10:55 pm Reply
  • Laurie Lemons via Facebook

    I’ve never had elderberry before, worth a taste!

    October 8th, 2014 10:49 pm Reply
  • chrystal

    I would like to note that elderberry can cause lowering of the blood sugar. Those with hypoglycemia may want to use caution. I give this to my family with great results, however, I personally cannot use it regularly due to sugar issues.

    October 8th, 2014 1:52 pm Reply
    • Sarah TheHealthyHomeEconomist

      The raw honey in this syrup counteracts any mild effects. It is best to use the raw honey instead of glycerin when making the syrup (as in most elderberry recipes) for this reason. Perhaps in the past you used a glycerin or commercially made alcohol based elderberry syrup? Another way to easily handle the problem if you have low blood sugar issues is to take the syrup with or after a meal.

      October 8th, 2014 3:00 pm Reply

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