If you haven’t noticed, elderberry is all the rage these days. But, it’s actually been around since before the 12th century, and today it’s often taken as an immune-boosting supplement to treat cold and flu symptoms. In fact, I was first introduced to elderberry syrup a few years ago when I had the flu. To my surprise, my doctor recommended it over any other over-the-counter or even prescription drugs!
Since then, I’ve been a believer, and it seems that I’m not alone. Statistics show that elderberry syrup is one of the most-used go-to remedies during cooler months. With that said, the raw berries, bark, and leaves of the plant are also known to be poisonous and can cause stomach problems. Today, we’re taking a look at elderberry, the evidence supporting health claims, the dangers of eating it, and how to make your own elderberry syrup.
What Is Elderberry?
Elderberry is a dark purple berry from the European elder tree. Elderberry is part of the Sambucus tree, a flowering plant. The tree is native to Europe but also grows in different parts of the world. The berries need to be cooked to be safely eaten¹.
Benefits of Elderberry
The flowers and leaves have been used for centuries for pain relief, swelling, inflammation, and more. Also, the dried berries and juice have been used to treat influenza, infections, headaches, and dental pain in addition to acting as a laxative and a diuretic1. Although many studies have shown positive outcomes, keep in mind they also mention the need for more clinical studies to draw firm conclusions.
Elderberry is high in nutrients:
- Elderberry contains vitamins A, B6, and C.
- There are 36 mg of vitamin C per 100 grams of fruit, which accounts for up to 60% of the recommended daily intake.2
- Though we don’t count calories, elderberry fruit is a low-calorie food that’s packed with Vitamin C, fiber, and antioxidants as well.
Elderberry can improve cold and flu symptoms:
- Elderberry and elderberry syrup has been shown to reduce the severity of colds and flu symptoms. As mentioned above, my doctor recommended it to me a few years ago, and ever since, I’ve been using it proactively when it’s cold and flu season. I love that it’s all-natural!
- Today, you can easily find elderberry syrup in addition to capsules, tinctures, lozenges, and even gummies. And we’re showing you how to easily make your own homemade elderberry syrup below!
Additional health benefits from elderberries:
- As a natural anti-viral, fresh elderberries have been shown to improve symptoms of cold-like illnesses such as sinusitis, bronchitis, and other harmful bacteria such as H. Pylori, which causes stomach distress.1
- Elderberry may support the immune system. In a study conducted on rats, it was shown to increase the number of white blood cells, thereby supporting immune defense.3 With that being said, elderberry can be useful to take year-round, but many find it helpful to take in the colder months when illnesses seem to run more rampant.
Elderberry Syrup: An Easy Way to Get Benefits
Now for the good stuff! We’re sharing two ways for you to enjoy all this goodness in a great-tasting way: elderberry syrup. For some, simply buying a quality source of elderberry syrup is the way to go. Other people may enjoy making elderberry syrup themselves. Either way, you can reap the health benefits!
Elderberry Syrup from Earthley
Elderberry Syrup (also called Elderberry Elixir) from our partner Earthley is a combination of elderberries and other immune-strengthening organic herbs such as astragalus root, cloves, fresh ginger root, and mullein leaf. Elderberry Elixir is shelf-stable and super-concentrated, meaning you need just a couple of drops each day for regular use (or higher doses if fighting a cold/flu). This syrup is a cost-effective, all-natural way to fight off those germs. This Elderberry Elixer is Gluten-Free, Soy-Free, Corn-Free, Nut-Free, and does not contain Added Sugars, Colors, or Flavors, and is also Vegan. There’s also a special kids formula that is alcohol-free and glycerin-based. Personally speaking, this is the elderberry syrup recipe we take to support our immune systems on a regular basis.
How to Make Elderberry Syrup
Making elderberry syrup at home is fun and easy, especially with the help of Earthley’s Elderberry Syrup DIY Kits. Within each kit, you’ll get:
- Wild-crafted elderberries
- Organic cinnamon chips
- Additional organic herbs (there are two versions—Cough and Cold Formula, and Immune Support—which the herbs will be based on)
Complete directions are included to make the elderberry syrup, but in addition to the ingredients that you get in the kit, you only need to add honey and water. If needed or desired, you can substitute maple syrup or organic sugar.
Using this kit, I made the syrup with my kids. We simply took the concentrate that was provided in the kit and boiled it with two cups of water. We brought it to a boil and let it stay there for 15 minutes. Next, we removed it from the heat and let it cool for 20 minutes. Next, we strained it and added 1/2 cup of raw honey. We needed to add a bit more water (you want the end result to be 2 cups), and we were set!
It was a fun activity that gave us a chance to talk through the importance of trying to stay proactive with our health, not only when it comes to the immune system, but overall.
Which Is Better? Buying Elderberry Syrup or Making It at Home?
Earthley’s Elderberry Syrup Kit makes 2 cups, which breaks down to just 65 cents per ounce. This is enough for 30-90 doses for one person, or for a family of four, it will last one month. This is by far the more cost-effective option, especially if you are using full doses to fight off an active cold or flu.
Alternatively, you can buy shelf-stable and super-concentrated Elderberry Elixir pre-made in 1 oz, 2 oz, 4 oz or 8 oz sizes. These come in both kid and original varieties and are very convenient.
Personally speaking, I’m one of those people who think—FUN! I’d love to DIY those candles/lip balms/etc., but in truth, I’m better off buying the product (read: I’m not great at DIY’ing). So I would tend to buy the elixir already made. That being said, this kit is SO easy to use (can someone please make a DIY deodorant kit?!) that I do actually use it. It’s a fun activity with the kids, and it makes a significant quantity. Besides, the price point is SO reasonable.
We did the math so you don’t have to! Below you’ll find a cost comparison for adult serving sizes suitable for fighting the cold/flu. The cost for the kit shown below includes the price of honey (based on the cost per ounce at my local grocery store).
Cough and Cold Syrup Kit: $11 for 32 servings at $0.31 each
8 oz Elixir: $43 for 84 servings at $0.51 each
4 oz Elixir: $26 for 42 servings at $0.62 each
2 oz Elixir: $18 for 21 servings at $0.85 each
1 oz Elixir: $12 for 10.5 servings at $1.14 each
Should You Try Elderberry Syrup?
In summary, elderberry syrup can help provide vitamins, fight off the common cold, and support the immune system. And it’s all-natural! There are two ways to get the syrup—by buying it pre-made, or by making your own. Which would you prefer? And if you’ve been using elderberry syrup with success, we’d love to hear about your experience in the comments below!
Homemade Elderberry Syrup
- Measuring cup
- Small pot
- Glass jar or other air tight container
- 1 Elderberry syrup DIY kit comes as a juice concentrate (there are two versions—Cough and Cold Formula, and Immune Support)
- 2 cups cups of water add more if needed to yield 2 cups in the end result
- 1/2 cup raw honey can sub maple syrup or organic sugar
- Place the contents of the juice concentrate and 2 cups of water in a pot and bring to a boil. Boil for 10 – 15 minutes, then remove from heat and let it sit for 20 – 30 minutes.
- Strain, and add 1/2 cup raw honey and additional water, if needed, to make 2 cups.
- Carefully pour the syrup into a glass container and take at the first sign of illness.
This post is by blog team member, Kiran, who is a Certified Holistic Health Coach. To learn more about Kiran, check out our about page or her blog!
The statements within this article have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The products mentioned are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
13 thoughts on “What is Elderberry Syrup? (and how to make it!)”
I’m glad to see that this article has recently been updated to emphasise the dangers of consuming raw elderberry! I’m glad you noticed how the original article was dangerously misleading by claiming elderberries were too tart to eat raw.
how long will the kit last on the shelf before making the syrup? Is this something I can buy and store up for later use or should it be made right away and kept only for a month?
Thanks for sharing such valuable information. It definitely help us. Preparation should be in proper process as you have mentioned. It gives long time benefit to all.
So glad to see that this article has recently been revised to make it more clear the danger of consuming raw elderberry! So glad you saw how the original article was dangerously misleading by saying elderberries were just to tart to be eaten without cooking.
We have Elderberry growing on our property in No. California. I have been picking them and making my own syrup for years.
I just bought this and am looking forward to trying it. The package says to take 2-3 teaspoons for an adult but doesn’t say how often. Can you please share that information? Thanks!
Hi Melissa, I use it once daily. – Nicole
I’ve never tried elderberries but I am super excited to give them a shot after reading this! Thanks!
Be sure not to eat the berries though. Only consume the syrup from them after thoroughly boiling them!
I like to freeze some of my homemade syrup in ice trays and chop up a small cube to give to my children when they have a sore throat. Serving it this way can be very soothing on a sore throat. I just would not serve it like candy though, just one ice cube worth. Remember it is only a supplement to aid and prevent sickness. Also remember not to eat the raw berries if making at home with fresh berries! I have heard of people sampling them while making it and the results were not pleasant. They had severe diarrhea.
When reading this post I noticed at the beginning of the post you mentioned that the raw berries, stems and leaves are poisonous and can cause stomach distress and you also said the post would discuss the dangers of eating them. But the danger of consuming the raw berries was never specifically mentioned later in the post. The warning not to eat raw elder berries should have been made more clear in your post.
You did mention that the berry is very tart and has to be cooked to be eaten, that just makes it sound like they are just to tart to eat raw, when in fact they are dangerous and could lead to a trip to the ER esp. for a child that may consume them raw!Please make it more clear the danger of eating raw elderberry. It makes me so nervous when I read posts like this with the caution not made clear enough. There are a lot of people that read this site that are new to clean eating and holistic health and they may not know the danger!
We have Elderberry growing on our property in No. California. I have been picking them and making my own syrup for years. My husband and I take a tablespoon everyday all year long. The benefits are wonderful and neither of us has been sick in several years. Not even a cold! It is very time consuming to make, but so worth the benefits!
You’ve got the ultimate DIY setup, Barbara! :) Glad to hear about your positive experiences with Elderberry. Thanks for sharing. – Jason