Elderberry Syrup Recipe for Flu Prevention

*Note from Sarah: You can also visit the author of this post, Katie, over at her amazing blog Wellness Mama.  Thank you Katie!

Unfortunately, flu season is fast approaching. While a good diet goes 90% of the way toward preventing illness, sometimes cold or flu can still strike.

One remedy I always have on hand during the winter is Elderberry Syrup. This remedy gained some popularity during the swine flu and avian flu scares, as it has been shown to help alleviate flu symptoms.

“[the properties in] elder stop the production of hormone-like cytokines that direct a class of white blood cells known as neutrophils to cause inflammation, especially in influenza and arthritis. On the other hand, elder increases the production non-inflammatory infection-fighting cytokines as much as 10 fold. Elder berries are known to be effective against eight strains of influenza.”  (source)

There are several commercial brands of elderberry syrup available commercially but it is much more cost effective to make it, and you can avoid the unhealthy syrups that are often in store brands.

Elderberry syrup can be used preventatively or for acute symptoms, and kids usually love the taste.

Homemade Elderberry Syrup Ingredients:

  • 2/3 cup black elderberries
  • 3 1/2 cups of water
  • 2 tablespoons of fresh ginger root, finely minced, or 1 tsp dried ginger
  • 1/2 – 1 teaspoon of cinnamon powder
  • small sprinkle of cloves or clove powder
  • 1 cup (or less) raw honey (or sweetener of choice- see note below)

How To Make Elderberry Syrup:

  1. Put all ingredients except honey in a medium sized sauce pan.

2. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 45 minutes to an hour until liquid reduces by 1/3.

3. Remove from heat and let cool slightly.

4. When cool enough to touch the pan with your hands, strain the liquid through a strainer or cheesecloth into a large glass jar or bowl. Discard the strained ingredients.

5. When liquid is still warm, add the honey and stir well to incorporate. [Note: alternate sweeteners like stevia can be used, though this will create a liquid, rather than a syrup and it will only last 2-3 weeks in fridge]

6. Store in a glass bottle or jar in the fridge.

Standard dose is up to 1 tablespoon a day for adults and 1 teaspoon a day for kids over the age of 2. Some sources recommend taking every other day or only during the weeks to boost effectiveness. If cold or flu strikes, this dose can be doubled or tripled until symptoms go away.

Ever taken elderberry syrup or tinctures before? What is your go-to cold and flu remedy?


  1. says

    I know it’s remedy – but that looks lovely!
    I’ve not seen elderberries here in Australia, I’ll have to keep a look out at the farmers market

    Luckily since I’ve been strict Paleo I haven’t had any colds – I used to seem to have a permanent cold every winter before!

  2. Maricel says

    Excellent timing Sarah! I have been scouring the net for cough remedies for my kids since my 1 year old spent the night nursing and coughing. my 3 year old could use this! The question now is, can I find elderberries right now?

  3. Henk Poley says

    What works even better is just supplementing with Vitamin D3, or staying in the sun, but that only works nearer to the equator and the southern hemisphere in this part of the year. Rule of thumb: your shadow longer than you? No D..

    Vitamin D serum levels and markers of asthma control in Italian children
    Reversing the defective induction of IL-10-secreting regulatory T cells in glucocorticoid-resistant asthma patients
    Epidemic influenza and vitamin D
    Randomized trial of vitamin D supplementation to prevent seasonal influenza A in schoolchildren

    • says

      Definitely agree that Vitamin D is really important, though from my experience, its effectiveness is best when taken regularly and preventatively. The elderberry syrup is handy to keep around in case illness should strike. Great links, by the way. So good to see more and more studies like this being published!

  4. says

    LOVE me some elderberries! I always make a big batch for the winter. That and Vit. D. drops keeps the whole family healthy through the winter. Last year, we got a little slack in taking our elder and other vitamins. My daughter and I both got the flu. (My first time getting the flu!) We started pounding back the elder and both felt better in one day! The doc said it was the fastest flu he’d ever seen (he even did blood tests to be sure).

    Maricel, elder blooms in the summer (the flowers are wonderful for immunity and fever, too) and the berries are usually ready late summer. You will probably not find them on the bushes right now, but dried berries work just as well. If you are in the US, you can get them from Mountain Rose Herbs. (http://www.mountainroseherbs.com/)

  5. says

    You mention that it lasts 2 – 3 weeks if you use liquid sweetener, how about if you get a syrup? Same time-frame?

    Anything with ginger and cinnamon has to be awesome. I am not sure I can find elderberries here, but I’d love to try this next time we are sick. (knock on wood – it’s been a while)

    • says

      I’ve had the honey version (with raw honey) last months in the fridge (I think 5 months was the longest). Since the raw honey is naturally antibacterial, it won’t go bad easily and it is definitely the easiest one to take. The ginger and cinnamon give it a great taste… almost like a winter tea or chai taste.

  6. says

    I love Elderberry syrup, and have used it in the past but over the last several years I have put all my faith in homeopathy. I swear, it’s worked miracles for our family. I know it’s disputed a ton on whether it’s legit—but i go with what works and it works for me! I love ColdCalm, and Oscilloccinum. I also see a homeopath if any illness creeps our way that is more serious. I’ve gotten rid of ear infections, mastitis, and sinus infections without the use of nasty antibiotics—just using homeopathy. I love it! :) We also take our probiotics, fish oil, and vitamin D.

  7. Valerie says

    You mentioned that it would only last 2-3 weeks if you used the stevia. How long will the syrup last in the fridge?

      • says

        I actually make mine and then add enough grain alcohol or vodka to get a 25% alcohol level. Then it’s shelf stable and I don’t worry about it going bad.

        My absolute favorite recipe (though it does have more herbs that may be harder to find depending on where you live) comes from Kiva Rose on her blog:
        It’s down at the bottom of the post.

  8. says

    Thank you for this recipe!
    Like many others here I take 10K/day of vitamin D3, eat probiotic foods and a Paleo diet, so I don’t get colds and flu anymore, but this syrup sounds delicious and I can’t wait to try it with coconut flour pancakes.
    I’ve been ordering from Mountain Rose Herbs for 10 years. They are awesome!

  9. Hearthrose says

    I keep the elderberry pills in stock at all times. They’re a great fix if you feel a cold coming on. I’ve never seen elderberries here to make syrup on my own.

  10. Rosie says

    Do you recommend taking this syrup on a regular basis during the winter even if you are not sick, and then double the dose if you do get the flu?

  11. Kylee says

    Looks like a great recipes!! The website sells the elderberries in ounces. How many ounces do you need for 2/3 cup? Thanks!

  12. says

    I can attest to the wonderful healing properties in Elderberries! We keep this on hand in our refrigerator (the store bought kind — although I will now attempt your homemade recipe…thank you!). We also keep the liquid Vitamin D3 at all times and take extra (for three days only) at the first sign of illness. Those two combined work wonders (if that’s all you can afford). I have had many people ask for my “flu remedy” and finally shared it here: http://refusingtotiptoe.com/2011/09/28/fight-the-flu-naturally-and-win/

  13. Terry says

    I made some syrup for the first time at the end of the summer with a similar recipe. Can anyone tell me how to tell when it goes bad? I did not add vodka, but was thinking of doing that at this time as I don’t want it to go to waste.

  14. Laurie says

    I just harvested my first elderberries. I’m concerned about the stems. I understand that they are toxic. I viewed online some ways to remove the berries from the stems, but there are still some small stems in the berries. Is it necessary to get out every single tiny stem before you make the syrup? I don’t want to make something that’s toxic. Please advise. Thanks!

  15. Jennifer Morin says

    Hello, Just wondering how much dried elderberry to substitute since I am assuming the recipe calls for 2/3 cup of fresh elderberries? Or is it not a concern to make a more potent syrup? Perhaps it will just work better.. but sometimes more is not better! Just curious….

  16. Amy says

    You can pulverize the remaining pulpy elderberry goop, add it to applesauce and dehydrate it to make your own flu fighting fruit leather.

    • Jennifer says

      So this is probably the dumbest question EVER… But the recipe on the page that calls for brandy… You can’t give that to kids… Right??

  17. Jennifer says

    So this is probably the dumbest question EVER… But the recipe on the page that calls for brandy… You can’t give that to kids… Right??

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