Building a Medicine Cabinet: Elderberry Syrup


We have officially entered the coldest month of the year for us Texans. In the last few weeks our house had gotten quite dry, and I hadn't been running the humidifier as often as a should. It wasn't surprising, then, when the husband recently came down with a cough and sore throat. He promptly made himself a pot of tea made with echinacea, marshmallow (the plant, not the fluffy white cylinders), fennel, orange peel, and cinnamon bark - we use Traditional Medicinals Throat Coat. But, after a few days the cough and sore throat were still there. Master Tonic should have been the first line of defense, but we were lazy and didn't reach for the bottle as early as we should have. The Master Tonic, while extremely powerful, does have quite a zing, and therefore, isn't my husband's favorite medicine (although, he did take it with him to work the past two days!). 

As with any sickness, it is important to first reflect on your diet, the amount of sleep you're getting, exercise, and the stress in your life. Remove all refined sugars, if they are still present, from your diet. Drink copious amounts of homemade chicken broth, and increase your daily servings of lacto-fermented foods. Take more time to relax, avoid stressful activities, if possible, and go for a walk once a day. Your body needs to rest, so find the time to nap, and go to bed earlier. Once you have thought over these steps, use herbal medicine to ease your symptoms and aid your healing. 
Knowing my husband's throat was one of the main factors in his illness, I decided to whip up a batch of elderberry syrup. The berries from the elder flower are highly esteemed for their use in fighting colds, flus, and upper respiratory infections. Both the flowers and the berries of this plant work well in reducing fevers, if present, by inducing sweating. The elder plant contains immune-enhancing properties, and tends to be especially effective when combined with  echinacea. An important note: use only blue elderberries, as the red elderberries are potentially toxic. Also, never eat elderberries that haven't been cooked yet.
I also decided to use other ingredients to make this syrup: cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and raw honey. Each of these ingredients adds its own particular benefit. Cinnamon has antiviral and antiseptic qualities, and increases one's circulation. Cloves are known to have the highest antioxidant quality than any other food. They also have germicidal benefits which help fight colds and flus. Ginger is a classic herb of traditional Chinese medicine, and is highly regarded as a primary herb for reproductive, respiratory, and digestive systems. In this case, it is used to increase blood circulation since it is a warming herb. Finally, the raw honey is used for its antibacterial qualities, and for its ability to make the syrup more palatable.
Lastly, I buy my herbs from Mountain Rose Herbs or the Bulk Herb Store. I am just beginning to be able to grow herbs consistently, and I hope to expand my meager collection, but until then these two companies offer high quality products at reasonable prices (I don't receive any sort of benefit from promoting either of them). It only takes about 10 minutes of prep time, and then 20-30 minutes of cooking time to end up with a fantastic syrup that your family will think is delicious. The best part is that it will help your family through the winter flu blues!

Elderberry Syrup
1/2 cup dried elderberries, or 1 cup fresh elderberries
1 cinnamon stick
5 cloves
1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger
2 cups filtered water
1 cup honey

1. In a small pot add the elderberries, cinnamon stick, cloves, ginger, and filtered water. Cover, and bring to a boil.

2. Once the water has boiled, turn the stove down to a low simmer for 20-30 minutes. Keep the pot covered. After this time the liquid should be reduced by half.
3. Strain the liquid into a bowl. Take a spoon and push the berries down to squeeze out the liquid.

4. Add the honey and stir until thoroughly combined.
5. Pour into glass jars (I like to use dark amber jars). In the fridge the syrup will last for only 2 weeks, however, you can easily store the syrup in the freezer and pull it out when a bout of illness strikes.

Dosage: Take 1 tablespoon/day to prevent illness, or take 1 T/hour if you are already experiencing cough and sore throat symptoms. Children under 12 years of ago can take half the adult dose (1 - 1 1/2 teaspoons). Toddlers can take 1/4 of the adult dose (a little less than a teaspoon).

There are thousands of natural remedies for all sorts of ailments. 
What topics are of interest to you? 

This post was shared at The Healthy Home Economist's Monday Mania,  Real Food Forager's Fat Tuesday, and Kelly the Kitchen Kop's Real Food Wednesday.


  1. Very interesting. Would it be safe for a toddler and what type of dosage would you do?

    1. Great comment! I completely overlooked putting in the dosage. Oops! I have edited the post to include the dosage now. Yes, elderberry syrup is okay for children and toddlers. You can find the dosage above! :) Thanks, Annie!

  2. Do you have anything to say about using Gentian Violet for yeast infections? My daughter had a bad case of this due to breastfeeding and then of course, Tori had it bad too. We used Gentian Violet to get rid of it.

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  4. Hi Amanda,
    I thought I would leave a quick comment to thank you for this post. I was searching online to find the dose for my daughter who is a missionary in Africa and her little guy is very, very sick. She took him for testing yesterday to see if he had malaria but the test came back negative.

    Anyway, as I was praying for him today Elderberry syrup popped in my head and I phoned her to tell her to give him some - but we weren't sure of the your post came up in the search. Thank you so much!! I'm phoning her now to tell her.

    Blessings from Phoenix,