A lot of folks are looking for all-natural, proven ways to boost their immune system strength—enter elderberry syrup! Making this elderberry syrup recipe is an excellent way to dabble in home herbalism. The ingredients are easy to find. The syrup is a breeze to make. And it tastes awesome (which is definitely not true for all herbal medicines, trust me).
Elder has been a darling of herbal medicine for centuries (literally, they were writing books about the benefits of elderberries back in the 1600s), in large part because of its powerful immunostimulant and antiviral properties. I personally am all about trying home remedies that have been passed down for generations, but if you need a little more scientific proof to get you on the elderberry bandwagon, there is that, too. So. Much. Of. That.
And if you’re looking for anecdotal evidence, well, I’ll say that my family has regularly taken elderberry syrup for years and we’ve seen a very obvious reduction in seasonal illnesses because of it. This is particularly amazing considering I am immune-compromised, and we have a school-aged-child!
Nowadays, you can buy elderberry syrup in the pharmacy section of a lot of major supermarkets, but I have two issues with the big brand store-bought varieties: (1) price—lordy, they ain’t cheap, at almost $20 per eight ounces and (2) ingredients—sugar, sugar, sugar. Flip over the box of store-bought elderberry syrup (or the gummies, more on those in a sec), and you’ll find sugar or corn syrup listed toward the top of the ingredients list.
Now, I love a good brownie or cookie as much as the next gal, but the truth is, a diet high in processed sugar has been linked to a reduced immune response. To me, taking a remedy that’s supposed to boost your immune system but contains an immunosuppressant as one of the first ingredients? That seems counterproductive. So I made my own elderberry syrup recipe!
What are the benefits of elderberries?
Because the use of elderberries has been around for centuries, the merits of the plant are well documented. Here are just a few of the benefits of elderberries:
- Stimulates the Immune System—The main one you’re probably here for! Elderberries are renowned for their immunostimulant properties. Elderberries contain anthocyanidins, chemical compounds that are known to stimulate the immune system. Elderberry and elderflower have been shown to help with cold and flu, sinus infections, and inflammation that can cause seasonal allergy symptoms.
- Lowers Blood Sugar—Research has shown that both elderflower and elderberry help stimulate the metabolism of glucose and the secretion of insulin, which could help lower blood sugar.
- Acts as a Natural Diuretic and Laxative—Elderberry has been shown to help promote both urination and proper digestive action.
- Supports Healthy Skin—The same anthocyanidins that promote immune stimulations also have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that some researchers believe may improve the skin’s condition.
Why should I make this elderberry syrup recipe instead of another one?
There are as many recipes for elderberry syrup out there as there are people taking it—it really is a place where you can experiment with flavors and herbal medicines that work for you and your family. I landed on this current recipe for a number of reasons. First of all, I always have the ingredients on hand (minus the elderberries, which I buy in bulk from Amazon—at least until my own plant starts fruiting).
Secondly, I think it’s a great combination of immune-boosting and antimicrobial herbs without tasting yucky. There are so many awesome antiviral and antibacterial herbs I could put in there, but I can’t guarantee it’d taste good. This combo of elderberries, cinnamon, ginger, and thyme? It tastes awesome!
What ingredients do I need for elderberry syrup?
Here’s exactly why each ingredient is in my elderberry syrup recipe:
- Elderberries: Packed with immunostimulant compounds, antioxidants, and acts as a powerful antiviral.
- Water: Because you need something make your syrup out of, duh.
- Apple Cider or Juice: Adds a touch of sweetness to the syrup without adding sugar. It also has a nice dose of antioxidants!
- Cinnamon: A natural anti-inflammatory that also helps balance blood sugar, which helps your body manage the large amount of honey in the syrup.
- Ginger: A powerful anti-inflammatory, a natural antibiotic, and a friend of our tummies.
- Thyme: A superhero when it comes to bronchial health, thyme is a natural cough reliever, and is a powerful antibacterial and antiviral.
- Honey: Well, it tastes awesome! But it’s also an antibacterial rockstar (you can even use it as a salve on cuts and wounds) and is clinically proven to be a better cough suppressant than traditional cough syrups on the market.
- Astragalus (optional): This traditional Chinese herb isn’t well-known in the West, but it should be! It’s a powerful long-term immune-booster that I think tastes like caramel! You don’t have to add it in, but it does up the immunity ante if you do. It’s an herb that is highly recommended for immune support by Wholefully’s herbalism expert, Sarah Beth Adel.
Why does this have less honey than other recipes?
Many folks use a much higher amount of honey in their elderberry syrup recipe than I do—closer to a 1:1 elderberry juice to honey ratio. The reason for this is storage life. With a 1:1 ratio, the sugar in the honey makes the syrup shelf stable for upwards of a year. Which was great back in the olden days when no one had a fridge, but now? Well, I just keep mine in the fridge door and it lasts fine for the 3-4 weeks it takes us to work through a bottle. I also find the 1:1 ratio way too cloying to take daily, so I do about a 3:1 juice to honey ratio—still sweet, but not like you’re doing shots of straight honey.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children less than 12 months old do not eat honey, so elderberry syrup and gummies should not be given to children under the age of one.
Can I use fresh elderberries?
Sure can! Just remember that raw elderberries are toxic—so make sure to cook them before consuming. To use fresh elderberries in the recipe below, use 1 pound (about 4 cups) of fresh, stems-removed elderberries, and reduce the added liquid to 1 cup of either water or apple cider/juice. Proceed with the rest of the recipe as written.
How much is a dose of this elderberry syrup recipe?
The dosage for elderberry syrup is pretty simple (and you really can’t OD on the stuff unless you have blood sugar control issues, like through diabetes). For daily immune support, adults take one tablespoon per day and kids take one teaspoon. We only take this during prime cold and flu months—about September through March. Some folks recommend “pulsing” your dosage to up efficacy—so you take a day or two off each week. We personally don’t do this.
When you are sick or feel something coming on, up your intake to one dose every 2-3 hours until you’re feeling well again. Then go back to the regular dose.
How do I make elderberry gummies?
Now what about elderberrry gummies? You’ve probably seen those on store shelves near the kids’ vitamins. Why make gummies for a syrup that is delicious? Because kids are weird. xAnd they sometimes won’t drink the syrup even though it tastes amazing. But put it in the shape of a Lego dude, and BOOM, they happily take their medicine.
We were originally buying the gummies for our daughter, and then one day, I flipped over the bottle and looked at the ingredients. The first two were “sugar” and “corn syrup.” Yeah. No. I can do better than that. So I turned my homemade elderberry syrup recipe into homemade elderberry gummies. Easy. Peasy.
What is a dose of elderberry gummies?
All you need to make the gummies is premade elderberry syrup, gelatin, and some silicone molds. I prefer to get molds where the cavities hold 5ml (or 1 teaspoon), which makes for a perfect single toddler dosage. Molds that come with big eye droppers also really help when it comes to filling.
Check with your dentist before giving your child vitamin gummies regularly. While these gummies do not contain the high levels of sugar that you find in over-the-counter vitamin gummies, your dentist still might ask you to avoid giving children gummies for fear of cavities.
Do the gummies need to be stored in the fridge?
Once they are set up, you pop them out and store them in an airtight container in the fridge.