Making homemade elderberry syrup from fresh, frozen or dried elderberries is quick, easy and very affordable. In this simple tutorial I’ll show you the entire step-by-step process, and even teach you how to can it for long-term storage.
What are the Benefits of Elderberry?
Because elderberries naturally contain vitamins A, B, and C, they naturally stimulate and wake up the immune system. This makes it a great remedy for seasonal illnesses such as colds and the flu. Boosting your immune system when the weather begins to change can actually help you fight off those germs.
Doctor Madeleine Mumcuoglu researched elderberries and their effect on flu viruses. The results of her research was “Sambucol, a patented natural formula which contains a potent antiviral compound, AntiVirin, isolated from the black elderberry, and three flavonoids – naturally occurring plant antioxidants.”
Different Ways to Consume Elderberries
There are many ways to reap the health benefits of elderberries AND get to enjoy their delicious flavor at the same time. Some of our favorite recipes include:
- Elderberry juice
- Elderberry tea
- Elderberry syrup
- Elderberry wine
- Elderberry jelly
- Elderberry tincture
Easiest Way to Get the Benefits of Elderberry?
We think, hands down, this elderberry syrup recipe is the easiest way to reap all the amazing health benefits locked up inside this tiny berry. Not only that, but it tastes great! You can add a small amount to flavor tea or kombucha, and we love amping up the immune-boosting and virus-fighting properties by using raw honey and adding different herbs.
If you have small children (under 2 years of age) be sure to see my honey substitution recommendations in the “notes” section of the recipe.
What are the side effects of elderberry syrup?
According to the University of Rochester Medical Center, the “leaves, stems, raw and unripe berries, and other plant parts of the elder tree contain a toxic substance. If elderberry is not properly prepared, it may cause nausea, vomiting, and severe diarrhea.”
Sure an elderberry smoothie or elderberry ice cream sounds amazing, but because eating raw elderberries can be problematic, we don’t recommend this. It’s also why we strongly recommend sifting through your berries and eliminating any stems or leaves. Also, this syrup is cooked so there is no danger from the raw berries.
Why Make Your Own Elderberry Syrup?
There are many reasons to make your own elderberry syrup. Some of the most common reasons are:
- You save a lot of money
- You have a local source for elderberries
- You want to know exactly what’s in your elderberry syrup
- You know just how EASY it is to make it yourself!
Our reasons for making homemade elderberry syrup are ALL OF THE ABOVE! We happen to have quite a few elderberry trees and bushes that grow wild in our part of the country, so harvesting them is no big deal.
We love that we can customize our syrup based on our flavor preferences. And we know just how simple this syrup is to make. In fact, many of our children can make this recipe without any help from the adults.
Buying elderberry syrup at a health food store or online can easily cost over $15 for a small 4-ounce bottle. This recipe will make 2-4 cups of elderberry syrup and cost under $10 (depending on the cost of your elderberries and honey). What a deal!
Elderberry Syrup Alternatives
Not a fan of taking elderberry syrup? That’s OK! There are many other ways to get all the health benefits of elderberry without having to take it in a syrup.
Many people find that turning their elderberry syrup into elderberry gummies is a delicious and fun treat (especially for kiddos). All you need is some gelatin and fun little molds and you’re set!
You can find elderberry capsules online. This is a very easy way for adults to get the immune-boosting benefits without having to drink a sugary syrup.
Another option would be to make an elderberry tincture. Simply combine equal parts unsweetened elderberry juice or tea (the product you’re left with after reducing, but before adding honey) and food-grade alcohol. Not everyone is comfortable giving tinctures to their children, so choose which option you’re most comfortable with. (See our other elderberry recipe ideas above.)
- Elderberry Gummies
- Elderberry Capsules
- Elderberry Tincture
Where is the best place to buy elderberries?
If you can’t pick them locally, check out your local health food store. Even in our small town, our health food store carries the dried variety of elderberries.
You can also order in bulk online. (Pro-tip: order early in the season because they tend to sell-out quickly come mid to late fall! You can also save money by buying them off-season.)
How Long Does Elderberry Syrup Last?
If you follow our canning suggestions, elderberry syrup is shelf-stable and has a shelf life of up to a year or more. Once your jar is opened (or if you’re following our non-canning method) it should last in the refrigerator for 1-2 months. It’s possible for it to last even longer with the raw honey and lemon juice, but you’ll want to keep an eye on it for any signs of mold and discard immediately.
Can You Take Elderberry Syrup Daily?
In short, yes. Because elderberry is an immune system “supporter” it’s fine to take a small amount daily. If you’re currently fighting off a virus you’ll want to take a larger dose, more frequently until symptoms are gone. (See dosing recommendations below.)
How Much Elderberry Syrup Should I Take?
Wondering what is the dosage of elderberry syrup? My preferred dosage for daily immune support during cold and flu season is as follows:
- Adults take 1 teaspoon daily.
- Kids (6-12 years old) take 1 teaspoon daily.
- Kids (2-5 years old) take ½ teaspoon daily.
My preferred dosage when fighting off illness (until symptoms subside) is as follows:
- Adults take 1 teaspoon up to 1 Tablespoon every 2-3 hours.
- Kids (6-12 years old) take 1 teaspoon every 2-3 hours.
- Kids (2-5 years old) take ½ teaspoon every 2-3 hours.
* Not recommended for kids 2 years old and under if honey is used. (See non-honey recommendations below.)
Substitutions for Honey in Elderberry Syrup
For an elderberry syrup recipe that’s safe for children under 2 years old, you’ll want to omit the honey and use one of the following substitutes:
- Maple Syrup
- Brown Rice Syrup
Can I Re-Use the Elderberries After Making Syrup?
No. Because most of the vitamins, nutrients, and antioxidants have been cooked out of the berries and into the juice, re-using the berries will not only be less flavorful, but they won’t have the same amazing benefits as the first time around.
Elderberry Syrup Add-In Options
Boost the benefits of your elderberry syrup by adding in these flavorful and beneficial ingredients:
- Cinnamon Sticks or Ground Cinnamon
- Whole or Ground Cloves
- Dried or Fresh Ginger
- Cayenne Pepper
Elderberry Syrup Recipe
- 4 cups filtered water
- 2 cups cups fresh or frozen elderberries (or 1 cup dried elderberries)
- 2 cups honey
- 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
- Add water and fresh berries (or dried berries) to a large, heavy-bottomed pot. Bring to a boil.
- Simmer for 15 minutes.
- Strain liquid through a fine-mesh strainer, removing berries and add-ins. At this point, you can mash the berries a bit to release all their liquid.
- Continue simmering until the liquid is reduced by half.
- Remove from heat and allow liquid to cool to just above room temperature. You want to be able to touch is comfortably with your finger (or, if using a thermometer, about 110 degrees F or less).
- Add honey and lemon juice, stir until honey is dissolved.
- Ladle into your jars, label and put on a tight-fitting lid. Store in the refrigerator up to 2 months.
- After simmering for 15 minutes you now have elderberry tea or juice. This can be taken as is, but will only last a couple weeks in the refrigerator. Once cooled, this elderberry juice can be used to make a tincture.
- If canning, bring the syrup back to a boil after adding honey and lemon juice. Fill your jars to ¼ inch headspace. Waterbath can for 10 minutes (if at sea level), and adjust accordingly if you’re above sea level.