A must-have in your home medicine cabinet during cold and flu season: elderberry syrup.

These deep purple-blue pigmented berries house potent immune boosting forces. Anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, anti-bacterial, elderberries are surely some of our best health allies during the colder seasons.

Hosting an impressive range of health benefits, I’m spotlighting elderberry syrup here for cold and flu prevention and acute care. Elderberry is one of the most used medicinal plants worldwide, for good reason.

For prevention: Dose 1-2 teaspoons of elderberry syrup per day in the fall and winter months. During the spring and summer months, enjoy 1 cup of berries per day, such as: blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, blackberries, and cherries. Fresh is ideal, but frozen is great too.

Acute care: If you feel a cold or flu coming on (anytime of the year), high dose elderberry syrup to 1-3 teaspoons every 3-4 hours for a few days.

Does this make you invincible? No. Well, I won’t argue with a good placebo affect. But, it does strengthen your terrain and if exposed to these bugs, it reduces your chances of getting them in the first place or at least can shorten the life cycle of that bug by 3-4 days, helping you heal and recover faster.

Also, making your own elderberry syrup is so easy to make and cost less than buying it. You simply need dried organic elderberries, filtered water, and raw honey. And 45 minutes later, you’ve made your own medicine.


Here’s the recipe template:

Homemade Elderberry Syrup

1 cups dried, organic black elderberries (or 2 cups fresh elderberries)

4-5 cups filtered water

1/4 cup local, raw honey

Optional: 2 cinnamon sticks, 1 teaspoon of whole cloves, 3 tablespoons fresh grated ginger root, a few cardamom pods, dried chilis, astragalus root, dried rose hips, or dried orange peel.


  1. Combine all ingredients into a pot, except for the honey.
  2. Bring to a boil.
  3. Once boiling, turn the heat down and allow it to gently simmer for ~30-45 minutes. Stir once about half way through. You can cover loosely with a lid.
  4. Remove from heat and immediately strain the berries. If using a mesh strainer, use a spoon to mash the berries a little more to ensure all the juicy goodness comes out.
  5. Add the honey while it’s still warm, but don’t boil the syrup so the healing properties of the raw honey are preserved. Add more honey if you’d like this to be sweeter, more syrupy, and include the soothing benefits that honey offers. This recipe is a less sweet version.
  6. Store in a sealed container in the refrigerator up to a month.


Buying it:

Be sure to purchase organic, dried, black elderberries, Sambucus nigra L. Mountain Rose Herbs is my top choice.

Made more than you needed? Share with a friend!

Enjoy adding different spices to make the flavors your own. Consider taking your daily dose with sparkling water or drizzle it over yogurt or oats. I also like to combine with balsamic vinegar, a little olive oil, and use it as a salad dressing.

This beloved winter tonic has been used in folk medicine for a long, long time. Though if you want to know more about the magic behind why elderberries are so effective and if you geek out over the research behind this like I do, check these studies out:

Randomized study of the efficacy and safety of oral elderberry extract in the treatment of influenza A and B virus infections

Elderberry Supplementation Reduces Cold Duration and Symptoms in Air-Travellers: A Randomized, Double-Blind Placebo-Controlled Clinical Trial

The inhibitory performance of flavonoid cyanidin-3-sambubiocide against H274Y mutation in H1N1 influenza virus

Inhibition of several strains of influenza virus in vitro and reduction of symptoms by an elderberry extract (Sambucus nigra L.) during an outbreak of influenza B Panama

A Comprehensive Study on the Biological Activity of Elderberry Extract and Cyanidin 3-O-Glucoside and Their Interactions with Membranes and Human Serum Albumin


(Photo: homemade elderberry syrup with rosehips and astragulus root bark)


***While elderberry syrup is known for its safety, if you have any concerns taking it, please consult your physician first.

(Elderberries in bowl image, source: istock)