Learn how to make elderberry syrup at home with this step-by-step guide and discover what you need to know about immune-boosting elderberries.
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Tis the season for colds and flu. What are you doing to stay well?
Last fall, I got an incredible gift package from one of my favorite supplement makers. The box included a supply of oil of oregano, echinacea, several other supplements, and a tiny bottle of black elderberry syrup. I was intrigued. But I put it on the shelf for a couple months as I wasn’t sure I would use it.
Then I came back from Lisbon in late January sick from plane germs. I started taking black elderberry syrup and quickly noticed a difference in how I felt. And like all colds, it eventually went away but I was convinced that the elderberry syrup played a role in getting me back to normal much faster.Learn how to make homemade elderberry syrup and why you want to do it! #functionalnutrition
Research both supports and refutes my little study of one. While there’s not enough evidence to reliably say that elderberry extract can help prevent the common cold, some evidence suggests it might help reduce the severity of colds and the duration by as many as 2 days.
This is in line with my experience with whatever I picked up on that long plane ride through two airports from Portugal earlier this year. Since then, I’ve been doing research about elderberries and loving all of the potential benefits. I wanted to share this post many months ago – but it’s finally here – just before cold and flu season really ramps up.
So at this point, you may be wondering…
What are the benefits of elderberry?
Elderberry is getting a lot of attention because clinical research shows that some elderberry extracts, lozenges, may help reduce flu-like symptoms and duration if taken within 48 hours of onset. That does not mean it prevents or cures the flu. Please seek medical attention if you believe you have the flu or if you have any symptoms of the flu.
However, with it’s antiviral and antioxidant properties, black elderberry may have other benefits. Preliminary research shows that elderberry tea (not what I’m showing here) several times per day may help some people with constipation.
Are elderberries safe to eat?
When I started researching making my own elderberry syrup, I immediately uncovered warnings not to eat certain elderberries and to make sure that the ones you buy are safe. Cooked dried black elderberries are considered safe to as long as they are fully cooked and from a reliable and safe source.
According to the National Institutes of Health National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), the leaves, stems, raw and unripe berries and other plant parts of the elder tree are toxic. Avoid those. They also caution against taking large amounts of the elderberry flower since those may also have the same substance present.
In this post, I’m only talking about black elder (Sambucus nigra L), also called black elderberry or Euro Elder. It’s notable that many different parts of the elder tree have been used in traditional medicine for years.
The bottom line on elderberries
Elderberry has been used for immune support for centuries. However, scientific evidence supporting the benefits of elderberry to fight the common cold and influenza is not a slam dunk. Although there’s some research that elderberry may help reduce flu symptoms, the evidence is not strong enough to recommend it as a sole solution to cure the flu.
Keep in mind that many syrups, teas, and tinctures contain elderberry extract, elderberry flowers, and other ingredients like echinacea, which can also have an impact on your immune system. Whatever you take, be sure to tell your health care provider about any alternative or natural approaches you take. You might be able to avoid certain interactions by simply letting them know.
Now that all of that’s out of the way… let’s get on with the easy recipe!
How to make homemade elderberry syrup
Homemade elderberry syrup is very easy to make. I’m using dried elderberries for this one. You can also cook with fresh black elderberries to make jams, pies, or beverages using the juice or muddled fruit. However, it’s important to note that these foods may not have the concentration necessary to get the clinical effect of an extract or syrup.
For this recipe, you’ll need water, dried elderberries, fresh ginger, cinnamon sticks, and honey. And it will take just a few steps and about an hour to finish making your own elderberry syrup. Plus, you can make it for a fraction of the cost of buying a bottle of elderberry syrup.
How much elderberry syrup should you take?
This depends on the strength of your elderberry extract or syrup, lozenge, or gummy. I’ve personally found 2 teaspoons per day to be helpful when I had an active cold. Again. This is a study of one – me. I cannot tell you how much to take – discuss that with your personal health care provider. Though some people take it daily, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it. It hasn’t been studied for long-term, daily use. But stay tuned, I will be sure to update this post as more information becomes available.
Where to buy dried elderberries?
I found my organic dried elderberries at a local health food store. After dropping into the bulk section of a couple stores with no reward, I called around to see which stores had them in stock. Apparently, Atlantans made a run on elderberries earlier in this season and everyone was sold out. It was nice because I was able to buy a small amount to experiment.
It’s easy to find dried elderberries online. I found a few co-ops selling dried elderberries with a range of $20-30/pound, with the higher end being for organic berries. I recommend going to the source instead of buying from an unknown seller on Amazon. The prices over there are inflated too.
If you’ve made it this far down, the recipe is coming right up. But I also wanted to share the article I wrote a couple years with some tips on fighting cold and flu naturally.
Be sure to tag me on Instagram when you make this elderberry syrup and share your thoughts on staying well naturally in the comments!
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How to Make Elderberry Syrup
- ¾ cup dried elderberries
- 3 cups water
- 3 -inch piece fresh ginger, sliced
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- ½ cup honey
- Bring the boil the water and elderberries to a boil in a small saucepan. Simmer uncovered 45 -60 minutes - until the mixture reduces by half.
- Remove from the heat. Let the berries steep and cool slightly. Mash the elderberries with a potato masher or fork to extract as much elderberry juice as possible.
- Strain the elderberry juice into a jar or bowl using a cheesecloth, fine mesh sieve, or nut milk bag. Discard the spent berries, ginger, and cinnamon sticks.
- Whisk in the honey until well combined. Your syrup is done! Store the elderberry syrup in a sealed jar or bottle in the refrigerator.