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Ginger Syrup: DIY Apothecary

ginger from an angle 2.jpgWhenever I feel a cold coming on I grab some fresh ginger, lemons, and honey and make a cup of tea for myself.  It doesn't always prevent the cold from coming (though it has once or twice) but it eases up the symptoms and makes me feel a lot better.  Ginger is useful for a lot of ailments such as nausea, indigestion, infection, sore throats, and the flu. 

Although I love making fresh ginger tea I sometimes want something stronger.  This syrup is it.  If you don't like your ginger too spicy you can reduce the amount of ginger in this recipe, it will still be effective, just more gentle.  Made my way it will burn going down, warming your whole torso.   

fresh ginger 2.jpgGinger is usually called a root and though I call it that myself it's really a tuberous rhizome.  When you buy fresh ginger you want to look for a piece of root that is supple and tan.  Don't buy any that has a shriveled or grey appearance or has mold on it.


4 ounces of fresh ginger
1 quart of water
1 cup raw honey  

chopped fresh ginger 2.jpgHow to make ginger syrup:

Chop the ginger into small pieces (no need to peel the skin).  Add the ginger to a medium sauce pot with the quart of water and put the stove on high heat until the water boils.

When the water boils turn down the heat (to med/low or low) so the water is only gently boiling.  Let it boil until the liquid reduces by half.  This will take roughly a half an hour but you should check it every ten minutes to see its progress. 

straining ginger 2.jpgWhen the liquid has reduced by half, take the pot off the heat and let it cool down for a while.  When it's cooled enough not to give you third degree burns, strain the solid ginger bits out by pouring it through a piece of butter muslin or doubled up cheese cloth.  Squeeze all the liquid you can out of the ginger and toss it onto your compost pile if you have one.

At this point you have a ginger decoction.  To make it into a syrup you need to add the honey.  If your decoction has cooled down completely, heat it up again so that it's warm (but not boiling), then remove from the heat and add the honey.  It's important that your decoction isn't boiling at this point because you don't want to cook the honey.  It has a lot of beneficial qualities in its raw state that it loses when cooked.

ginger syrup 2.jpg
Stir the honey until it's completely incorporated in the liquid.  When it's completely cool pour it into a bottle or a jar and keep it in the fridge.  It should last up to a month.

If you want a thicker syrup double the honey.  I didn't want a really thick syrup but more honey will make it even better suited to soothing a sore throat.

Dosage:  1 ounce every couple of hours while feeling acutely unwell or when your body feels low from an oncoming cold.  (This is merely my suggestion based on how I've found it useful and therapeutic.  You won't hurt yourself taking more or less ginger syrup.)

If you're coughing a lot you can add an ounce of ginger syrup to an ounce of vodka or whiskey.  The alcohol soothes spasms in the lungs.  Plus it soothes the mind at the same time.

Tip:  This syrup can be made into a lovely cocktail as well: 2 ounces ginger syrup, 1 ounce vodka or other favorite liquor, mineral water, ice, and slice of lemon.  Especially nice on a cold evening!

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Elderberry Syrup: DIY Apothecary

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bottled syrup 2

I used a bottle with a swing top closure (with rubber washer).  I've had this one for years and have used it to store flavored vinegars, liqueurs, and now elderberry syrup.  I believe I bought it at a Cost Plus.

elderberries macro 2

I foraged these elderberries from my neighborhood.  When foraging for elderberries:  never pick red ones, they are not safe to eat, even when cooked.  The twigs and bark of elderberries are toxic and should never be taken internally and when you're harvesting the berries, which are very small, be sure not to leave any stems on the fruit as these are also toxic.  The berries should not be eaten raw either*.  Cooking makes them safe to use in pies, jams, liqueurs, wines, and syrups.  They also become more flavorful when cooked.

elderberry syrup 2

Pouring the water into the pot of berries.

Cold medicine 2

The finished syrup poured into a little shot glass.

Elderberries have been used medicinally for hundreds of years.  The bark,  stems, and leaves have been traditionally used as healing poultices and the berries are used to make syrups to strengthen the immune system, to lessen the symptoms and shorten the durations of colds, coughs, and flus.  The berries have also been used to make jams, jellies, and pies.  It is important to always cook the berries- they are astringent when raw and could potentially make you sick.  Cooking them not only neutralizes the chemicals in them that can make you sick, but it enhances the unique flavor of the berry.  You can use both the American native varieties or the more traditional European varieties to make this recipe.

The proportions of ingredients here come from Rosemary Gladstar's book "Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health".  Rosemary Gladstar is one of the leading herbalists in our country and it was her herbal training books that my mom learned from to get her herbology certificate.

I had to do some considerable research to find out about recommended dosage.  I ended up calling my mom for information and what she told me confirmed the information I found online.  It is not possible to overdose on elderberry syrup.  The only ill effect anyone might experience  is a little diarrhea if you eat/drink too many elderberries**, but only in the same way some people experience this eating too much of any fruit.

  • For boosting your child's immune system during the cold season take a teaspoon every morning and every night.
  • For lessening the symptoms and durations of coughs, colds, sore throats, and flu: take 1 to 2 teaspoons every couple of hours until you are better.

What my mom said is that you can experiment to find what is most effective for you and your family members.  I found some recommendations on line that suggested taking 2 tablespoons a day for adults and 1 tablespoon a day for children to help avoid colds.  So there is a tremendous amount of flexibility here so that you can find what works.

Elderberry Syrup


1 cup fresh or 1/2 cup dried elderberries

3 cups of water

1 cup honey


1.  Put the berries in a medium sized nonreactive sauce pan and cover them with the water.  Bring the water and berries to a boil and then turn the heat down to low and simmer for 30 to 45 minutes.

2.  Smash the berries and then strain them out.  (I use butter muslin over a strainer and then squeeze the muslin to get all the juices I can out of the berries.)

3.  Add the honey and stir well.

4.  When the syrup has cooled put it into bottles (or jars- but bottles will make for easier pouring), label, and store in the refrigerator.   The syrup will keep for 2 to 3 months.

You can freeze any extra elderberries to make additional batches of the syrup as you need it.

*I have seen some extension service information that says you can eat the berries raw, I ate one before I read that they could potentially not be safe to eat raw and was thoroughly unimpressed with the flavor so I am not tempted to eat more raw.  Most sources state that you should cook the berries before eating.

**This is provided you aren't allergic to elderberries.

If you want to know more about foraging and identifying elderberries read this:

Elderberry: Plant Profile

Recent Comments

  • Angelina: I can't think of any reason why not. The only read more
  • ginia : Can u combine with elderberry syrup? For a blended wellness read more
  • Angelina: You're welcome! Vodka makes most things better! read more
  • Julie: Thanks for this great recipe. I love ginger and honey read more
  • natalie: have you done the soap tutorial somewhere else? I would read more
  • myrevolvingpassions: cannot wait to see the tutorial. I would also request read more
  • stitchy1: Cindy- I did more research and have included the information read more
  • ToilingAnt: I am VERY interested in a tutorial-- please post! :-) read more
  • stitchy1: Cindy-since I'm not an expert I had no idea- please read more
  • Cindy: Just to clarify, soap can't be made without lye. Melt read more