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

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from Elderberry: Plant Profile « Stitch And Boots on November 28, 2009 1:10 PM


Great post! I lost the name of the farmer I was going to pick elderberries from when my computer crashed, gah! I hope I can find him and that its not too late in the season. Elderberry syrup has been on my to-do list since last year and I was really looking forward to making it.

What an excellent and timely project! I just wish that I knew where to get elderberries... Perhaps I'll need to plant some in my yard.

Elder is a very helpful plant. Years ago back in the seventies when I was a student, one time I had the flu, and a high fever. My friend Suzanne made me drink a big mug of elderflower tea, then sent me to my room and covered me up with extra blankets. The tea was truly nasty tasting, but it encouraged my body to "break" the fever and sweat out the sickness. The next day I was weak, but on the mend...

There is supposedly a place in Canby that has them but I don't know any more than that. You can purchase them dried, of course, but I think it would be most satisfying to find a fresh source of them.

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