According to herbalists, Elderberry syrup is a great preventive for colds and flus, an antiviral (helps prevent viruses from replicating) and immune stimulant. European Black Elderberries (Sambucus nigra) are the best type to use. Here is a simple recipe for making the syrup at home:
1) Use one cup (appx 100g) of dried black elderberries.
2) Place the dried berries in a bowl and add 2 cups of boiling water. Cover with a plate and allow to sit overnight.
3) In the morning, pour the mixture into a blender and blend them to a mush.
4) Pour the berry mixture into a fine sieve held over a bowl and using your fingers, work the material around until the seed-free juice is expressed into the bowl . Alternately, pour the mixture into a cheesecloth and wring it out by hand into a bowl, or if you have a tincture press, use that to press out the juice. Basically, you are removing the seeds, which may be composted, and saving the juice.
5) The volume of the juice should be about 2 cups. In a saucepan, simmer the juice on very low heat, stirring frequently, until it reaches half volume (1 cup).
6) The juice is now very thick and concentrated, loaded with pectin and bioactive compounds. Allow the juice to cool until lukewarm and add an equal quantity (1 cup) of raw honey or vegetable glycerine and stir well until homogenous. The finished volume is now 2 cups.
7) Bottle the syrup in amber glass bottles and refrigerate.
Dosage: Adult, one tablespoonful taken twice daily. Children: 1 teaspoonful taken twice daily.
38 thoughts on “How to Make Elderberry Syrup”
Could you tell me what kind of pant with pink flowers is pictured at the top of this page? We had it in front of our house in my childhood and I have often wanted to replace it but don’1 know its name. Thank you!
how long do you think this could be out of the rerigerator? wanting to use this wonderful recipe for my herbal csa and boxes will be shipping around country. could take up to week for boxes to arrive given usps flow and wonder if cool winter weather most places still will suffice & keep this elixir safe til it can get into a refrigerator. thank you!!
When covid hit and everybody wanted elderberry syrup (yes, I know there is an underswell of herbalists and others saying not to use elderberry for covid) but back to what I was saying, when demand went through the roof here at our business and I needed to share the syrup with employees and family, none of whom by the way got covid, I broke out 2-year-old elderberry syrup from the cabinet and it was absolutely delicious if a bit thick. It had no mold or deterioration. It was glycerine preserved as per the recipe. I have honey-preserved syrup that has gone a year without degrading, unrefrigerated. I suppose somebody could have a different report, or might make the syrup differently than I do, but anyhow, that is my direct experience with it–very stable material. richo
thank you so very much for this! it’s really helpful & a good reminder!! grateful for all your work in the world!
super interesting. why is glycerin a preserving substance? can it really be used instead of sugars/honey (i don’t want to include and honey or sugar).. thanks. My danish mom used to msake an elderberry soup out of the fresh elderberries steamed over time (i don’t remember how long) in a cheese cloth and wrung out,similarly to what you do. .thanks
hi johanna, glycerine is going to preserve herbal preparations if used at 55% total volume. That is its nature.
see pages 59 to 61 of my book “Making Plant Medicine” richo
Is it harmful to take too much, as a beverage?
no, elderberries are harmless as a beverage. don’t eat the raw seeds.
What are your thoughts on Usnea for this virus?
Hi Mary, I personally have always used Usnea for treating fungal infections. It also works well for cold sores, and those are virally mediated. It seems to have a cold energetic, which to me seems contrary to what is needed. I suppose it could be great, just don’t know. Richo
Thank you all for the recipe and advice on using the syrup as a preventative measure vs. if already sick. Great discussion, and a reminder that we all need to do our research before jumping on any “bandwagon”!
Yes, I find out I learn more when the bandwagon dumps me back into the dirt!
Can you advise on how to make an elderberry tincture.
OK, best to go for the glycerite and not the alcoholic tincture, Iactually don’t recommend trying to extract the berries with alcohol–the glycerite is excellent. page 166 of “Making Plant Medicine,” Glycerite of dried berries: 1:5 (60 gly:40 Water)
Thanks so much for pointing out elderberry’s mechanism of action – very important to prevent the virus from getting a foot hold
Thank you for sharing your wisdom, kindness and love.
How long does the finished syrup last? I plan to use raw honey for mine, figuring that has some preservative power – but would be good to know if there’s a rough use-by timing. I really appreciate your generosity in sharing your knowledge. Thank you –
I just dispensed to my workers and family syrup made over a year ago and it is still bright and lovely!
I’ve got fresh frozen berries. What would your conversion be for fresh vs dried berries?
Frozen Berries are processed the same as fresh berries. Allow them to thaw, mash and extract the juice (and exclude the seeds), reduce down on the back of the stove in the same manner as reconstituted dried berries. The full recipe is on page 79 of “Making Plant Medicine” 4th ed.
What are your thoughts on this?
Can other herbalists chime in their thoughts?
Shared from a friend to whom I forwarded your elderberry link: re: elderberry syrup and COVID-19
With COVID-19 so rampant, I’m seeing people hunt for elderberry syrup for prevention and healing.
And elderberry is *excellent* and medically sound as an antiviral for many flu and respiratory issues.
BUT for the coronavirus, its best to AVOID elderberry at this time.
I know that’s counterintuitive for a respiratory issue, but let me explain why. As an immune stimulant, it can basically cause your lungs to damage themselves with this particular virus.
The mechanism in question is a “cytokine storm” as referenced in the very credible The Lancet: https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(20)30305-6/fulltext
Elderberry increases cytokine response, basically, so when the body is already attacking itself in a cytokine storm, the elderberry further strengthens the response.
Pretty much all my herbalism mentors who usually swear by elderberry are urging extreme caution.
We understand the elderberry mechanisms pretty well, and we understand that the COVID-19 is seeing a lot of cytokine damage in the most acute cases and fatalities. The virus hasn’t been known long enough for more solid science than that on the direct interactions yet.
So it’s basically “don’t use a thing we know feeds this immune response, because this immune response is causing harm with this organism until we know more” in the same way we don’t pour accelerant on a fire.
Usnea and reishi mushrooom are what I’m seeing most recommended right now, in place of elderberry.
That’s as much as I can offer at current.
I’ve steered away from too much discussion about COVID 19 because I don’t want to contribute to the hysteria. The “Cytokine Storm” theory has done exactly that–contributed to the hysteria. Here are some thoughts:
First off, I don’t see anyone stating the obvious. We have at least 3 stages we should be talking about and developing strategies for: Prevention, Treatment and Recuperation.
In terms of prevention, there are social (or antisocial) issues that are relevant. Go on retreat and focus on your homelife. Fumigate with white sage. Meditate, wash your hands and don’t touch your nose. Take Eleuthero, Ashwagandha, Tulsi and ELDERBERRY SYRUP. “It inhibits the early stages of an infection by blocking key viral proteins responsible for both the viral attachment and entry into the host cells.”
In terms of treatment, that is once flu-like symptoms appear, stop taking the preventive things and start to take the warming herbs. Every herbalist is going to tell you different stuff, because they have different plants in their back yard and tinctures in their apothecary. I respect that, its fine, I simply go out to my environs and collect the herbs and make the tincture. If it is outside my comfort zone (for instance I like green plants, not mushrooms and lichens) then I just don’t use it. Some of the herbs I would dig and use would be Lomatium mixed with dandelion which saved a lot of people in the last pandemic, lesser galangal (Alpinia officinarum) which is an incredibly warming and anti-dysenteric and underappreciated herb that I have growing here, Osha kills most pathogens and has a deep influence on the upper respiratory tract, elecampane for the same reasons. Calamus that is warming and bitter. All of these could be combined with dandelion and chickweed which is coming on right now and will help relieve the system of toxins.
For recuperative phase I suggest burdock, astragalus and (despite my leanings against shrooms) the widely available shiitake, all boiled up in soup until it is mushy and taken hot.
Can I just come live with you?:))
Can elderberry tincture be substituted for syrup in prevention stage and/or can the tincture be converted into syrup? If so how?
Elderberry tincture (from the berries, not the flowers) can be used as a preventive just like the syrup. Directions for use are on the bottle. There is no reason to try to convert the tincture into a syrup–both of them, if properly made, contain the same compounds.
Thanks. Good to know. I have a few gallons set back that I made with berries from the wild in 100 proof vodka macerated a minimum of 2 months.
Thank you, Richo, for setting this straight!
Cytokine storms occur when a person is about to die. It is your body going haywire. I spoke in depth about it with my doctor who worked in the ER. She basically said that claim you are referring to was an oversimplification of pathophysiology. When our immune system is working normally the cytokine response helps our immune system.
Hi Summer, Yes, thank you, if you check the feed you’ll see my barefoot herbalist’s assessment of stages and herbs for same.
I have frozen elderberries but they are from 2 seasons ago. Is it possible they still have medicinal value? I do have a small amount of dried elderberries also, should I mix dried and frozen to increase potency of my syrup? Thanks for this post!
Thanks for the blog! Is there a different process if I am using fresh elderberries? Is drying the elderberries an essential first step?
You’re welcome. Yes, the frozen elderberries would be defrosted and processed as if they were fresh. That means mash and squeeze and then reduce back the juice as in given instructions. You don’t need to add any water. Make the dry elderberry syrup separatelyu and when they are both finished, combine them if you want. richo
Oh, Hi Linda. We received your kind communication only once, and are glad to hear from you. Conspiracy theories abound. We have to stay healthy on the ground. Yes, we do still have black elderberries in stock. You can check the link on the blog. Hope you get outside and do a lot of gardening, that seems to be the best preventive out there.
Thank you for this timely blog! Could I just juice the elderberries after they are soaked? In a low heat high quality juicer (Omega)?
I think so but I haven’t done it.
Hey Richo, thanks for the great elderberry recipe. I was thinking of you and Nadia today and wondering if elderberry was on your mind. I ordered some dried berries yesterday. They are selling out I noticed in the Oregon sites. Do you have any to sell? My recipe was lacking. Yours is the best I think! Wish I could converse a bit with Nadia. I bet she has some things to say about the recent virus thing. The woo people I know say it’s the low frequency masculine dominant energy fighting to attach and stay on the planet. We are called to hold the frequency of immunity and love, not fear. I tried to leave a comment earlier. This may be a repeat. It seemed to invoke an error code.