How to Make Elderberry Syrup (Potent Cold + Flu Remedy)

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Wellness Mama » Blog » Natural Remedies » How to Make Elderberry Syrup (Potent Cold + Flu Remedy)

Elderberries are one of my most used go-to remedies for cooler months. The dried berries of the Sambucus nigra plant are naturally high in immune-boosting compounds that help with colds and flu. They can be used to make a variety of remedies, and my favorite is this simple elderberry syrup.

Elderberry: A Natural Remedy for Colds and Flu?

There’s certainly a time and a place for conventional medicine and doctor visits. Unfortunately, there isn’t much conventional medicine can do for the common cold or even a mild case of the flu.

If you or your child has ever had a rough case of the common cold or the flu, you know how miserable it can be. Especially for moms. It’s awful to see your children feeling so bad and not be able to fix it. Thankfully, nature provides us with remedies that can help us avoid minor illnesses. And help shorten the duration if we do get them.

Research shows black elderberries (Sambucus nigra) can help us avoid these illnesses. They can even help speed recovery time in those who already have them. I’ve also found elderberries offer some relief from discomfort during minor illnesses.

Benefits of Elderberry

Elderberries naturally have vitamins A, B, and C and stimulate the immune system. Israeli researchers found elderberries pack a punch when it comes to colds and flu. Their complex sugars are clinically shown to help support the immune system. It can cut recovery time in half or better!

Dr. Madeleine Mumcuoglu, of Hadassah-Hebrew University in Israel found that elderberry disarms the enzyme viruses use to penetrate healthy cells in the lining of the nose and throat. Taken before infection, it prevents infection. Taken after infection, it prevents spread of the virus through the respiratory tract. In a clinical trial, 20% of study subjects reported significant improvement within 24 hours, 70% by 48 hours, and 90% claimed complete cure in three days. In contrast, subjects receiving the placebo required 6 days to recover.

Elderberry Syrup: Easy Way to Get the Benefits

Elderberry syrup provides the concentrated immune-supporting benefits of black elderberries. Plus it tastes great! My recipe uses homemade elderberry concentrate with synergistic herbs like cinnamon and ginger. Plus raw honey for an extra immune boost. If you can’t/don’t use honey, see the substitution suggestions below the recipe.

Why Make Your Own?

For one, you’ll save a lot of money!

Several natural elderberry syrups are available at health food stores or online. But usually for around $15 or more for 4-8 ounces. This recipe makes 16 ounces for way less and kids love the taste! You can also fully customize this recipe based on your needs and flavor preferences.

Don’t have any dried elderberries on hand? There are some great pre-made elderberry gummies and elderberry syrup that work just as well. But these supplements do cost more. Also, if you have fresh berries or frozen elderberries on hand, just use double the amount in the recipe.

Making your own elderberry syrup is easy with this recipe!

elderberry syrup

Elderberry Syrup Recipe

A simple elderberry syrup recipe made with dried elderberries, honey and herbs for an immune boosting and delicious syrup. Can be used medicinally or on homemade pancakes or waffles.
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Cooling time 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 20 minutes
Calories 14kcal
Author Katie Wells


80 teaspoons



  • Pour the water into a medium saucepan and add the elderberries, ginger, cinnamon, and cloves.
  • Bring to a boil and then uncover and reduce to a simmer for about 30 to 45 minutes until the liquid has reduced by almost half.
  • Remove from heat and let cool until it's lukewarm.
  • Mash the berries carefully using a spoon or other flat utensil.
  • Pour through a strainer or cheesecloth into a glass jar or bowl. Discard the elderberries.
  • When the liquid is no longer hot, add the cup of honey and stir well.
  • When the honey is well mixed into the elderberry mixture, pour the syrup into a  mason jar or glass bottle of some kind.
  • Ta-da! You just made homemade elderberry syrup! Store in the fridge and take daily for its immune boosting properties. Some sources recommend taking only during the week and not on the weekends to boost immunity.


Nutrition Facts
Elderberry Syrup Recipe
Amount Per Serving (1 teaspoon)
Calories 14
% Daily Value*
Fat 0.01g0%
Saturated Fat 0.001g0%
Polyunsaturated Fat 0.004g
Monounsaturated Fat 0.001g
Sodium 1mg0%
Potassium 7mg0%
Carbohydrates 4g1%
Fiber 0.1g0%
Sugar 3g3%
Protein 0.03g0%
Vitamin A 7IU0%
Vitamin C 0.5mg1%
Calcium 1mg0%
Iron 0.04mg0%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.


Instant Pot option: Put all the ingredients except honey in the Instant Pot. Seal the lid, and set manually for 9 minutes on high pressure. Vent pressure and strain. When cooled to room temperature stir in the honey.
Standard dose is ½ – 1 teaspoon for kids and ½ – 1 tablespoon for adults. If the flu does strike, take the normal dose every 2-3 hours instead of once a day until symptoms disappear.

Like this recipe? Check out my new cookbook, or get all my recipes (over 500!) in a personalized weekly meal planner here!

More of a Visual Person?

Here is my one-minute tutorial video for how to make elderberry syrup:

What Does Elderberry Syrup Look/Taste Like?

I’ve found that elderberry on its own tastes a little sour, kind of like grape juice. The honey turns it into a sweet and tasty syrup though. Unlike some store bought versions, or syrups made with sugar, this one is thinner. So don’t be surprised if your elderberry syrup seems more liquid like!

How Long Does Elderberry Syrup Last in the Fridge?

The short answer is it really depends. I’ve found that placing the finished syrup in a mason canning jar while it is still warm creates an air-tight seal. This allows it to last much longer in the fridge, up to several months. As a general rule, it lasts about two weeks in the fridge and I typically freeze whatever I won’t use during that time. You can also freeze some in an ice-cube tray and defrost small amounts when needed.

You can also can the elderberry juice concentrate or the finished syrup. This greatly extends the shelf life.

Can I Harvest My Own Elderberries?

You can, and in fact, you can even grow your own elderberry bush. But it’s important to make sure you’re growing the correct plant. I also recommend working with a local herbalist to find/harvest fresh elderberries. Make sure to only harvest the berries. The stems and leaves are toxic.

Can Elderberry Cause Cytokine Storm?

According to Dr. Elisa Song, a Cytokine Storm is when the immune system overreacts and goes haywire. There is some concern that elderberry might increase the risk of this, especially with certain novel viruses. In short, the evidence right now points to focusing on Vitamin C, Vitamin D levels, sleep and a clean diet. Elderberry’s effects are new and unknown, but I personally think this is a balanced perspective…

From Dr. Song:

“While it’s true that some people have sadly died from influenza and other infections due to a “cytokine storm,” please remember that this is a RARE occurrence and that the media highlights the few and very sad cases of people who die from influenza (some due to cytokine storm, some not), and of course doesn’t highlight the 1000s of people who get influenza every year and do not die, including the many who have zero or very mild symptoms.

While we don’t understand the exact pathophysiology of the cytokine storm, we know it’s NOT just a problem of immune system OVERREACTION, it’s also a problem of immune system UNDERREACTION. The parts of the immune system that create inflammation are in overdrive, and the parts of the immune system that are supposed to REGULATE and bring this inflammation back to equilibrium is not active enough. Remember – INFLAMMATION is NOT always bad.. Inflammation is our body’s normal response to infection and stress. We need inflammation to heal. But inflammation that goes unregulated is the REAL problem. The cytokine storm involves dysregulation between PRO-inflammatory cytokines, ANTI-inflammatory cytokines, and REGULATORY cytokines.

And playing into this is a lack of antioxidants in most of our diets (think colorful fruits and vegetables), Vitamins A, C, E, and glutathione to mop up those free radicals that are produced when we’re sick with any infection. This is similar to what occurs in chronic inflammatory conditions and autoimmune illnesses, but not as dramatically as what has been coined the “cytokine storm.”

Do I think that elderberry can trigger or make a cytokine storm more likely when you have influenza? I really don’t. The centuries of use of elderberry and data on its activity against the influenza virus, its immunoprotective and antioxidant effects leave me with very little concern that its “immunostimulatory effects” will cause your immune system to go haywire. Elderberry has been shown to increase BOTH PRO-inflammatory cytokines and ANTI-inflammatory cytokines, and REDUCE oxidative stress (oxidative stress = free radicals) and may help to REGULATE inflammatory disease like autoimmunity. There have not been case reports of elderberry-induced cytokine storms, and I have not stopped using elderberry for my kids or my patients, even with autoimmune disease. But as with anything, it’s always best to check with your naturopathic or functional medicine doctor!”

One study from 2021 looks at Elderberry’s effect on cytokines. The study authors found no evidence of a link between elderberry and cytokine storms. And there was some evidence elderberry may help reduce inflammation. They also reported on a small study that found elderberry sometimes worked as well as the anti-inflammatory drug diclofenac.

Where is the Best Place to Order Elderberries?

We don’t have a local source, so I’ve always ordered in bulk from an online source. (Order early because they always run out come Fall!) You can get wildcrafted or organic elderberries here. If you would like to purchase a full kit, our friend at Kombucha Kamp has a great one for sale.

What is Elderberry Syrup Used For?

Our family uses it as a preventative remedy by taking 1/2 to 1 teaspoon a day during peak cold and flu season. If we get hit with a minor illness, we double or triple that dose until we feel better. Elderberry is commonly used for immune support and can be used year round as needed for its health benefits.

The unique and complex flavor of elderberries also makes this syrup a great ingredient in certain recipes. I’ve made an elderberry panna cotta by substituting elderberry syrup for the sweetener. It would also make a yummy topping for homemade ice cream.

How Much Elderberry Syrup Should You Take Daily?

This is really a question for an herbalist or natural healthcare provider. Personally, I take 1 teaspoon a day as an adult and give half of this to my kids. During illness, I double or triple this amount.

Ingredient Substitutions

I prefer to use raw, local honey when possible, but raw honey from the store will also work. I also use fresh ginger here, but you could use powdered if that’s what you have (just reduce the amount to 1/2 tsp). And cinnamon sticks and whole cloves could be substituted for the powdered herbs.

Some elderberry recipes add herbs like rosehips, echinacea, star anise, or even lemon juice. There are lots of options, but I’ve found the recipe above to be simple yet effective.

Is There a Substitute For Honey in Elderberry Syrup?

Some people prefer not to use a sweetener. Honey also isn’t recommended for babies under 1-2 years old. Some easy substitutes are:

  • Use maple syrup or nutrient-rich molasses in place of the honey.
  • Omit the sweetener altogether (this will make elderberry juice which will need to be consumed much more quickly).
  • Make an elderberry tincture for adults. Mix the concentrated elderberry syrup with equal parts food-grade alcohol like vodka or brandy instead of sweetener. This obviously wouldn’t be for kids but is a sweetener-free elderberry extract option for adults.

Can I Use Powdered Elderberries?

Yes, I’ve used powdered elderberries when whole elderberries weren’t available. Just use about 1/2 cup in this recipe instead of 2/3 cup.

Can the Elderberries Be Reused?

I don’t recommend reusing them. Ideally, the boiling/mashing process removes much of the nutrients from the berries. Also, there’s some evidence that consuming large amounts of whole berries can be problematic.

This article was medically reviewed by Dr. Scott Soerries, MD, Family Physician, and Medical Director of SteadyMD. As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor.

Ever taken elderberry? Will you try this recipe? What natural ways do you use to ward off illness?

  1. Hawkins, J., Baker, C., Cherry, L., & Dunne, E. (2019). Black elderberry (Sambucus nigra) supplementation effectively treats upper respiratory symptoms: A meta-analysis of randomized, controlled clinical trials. Complementary therapies in medicine, 42, 361–365.
  2. Wieland, L. S., Piechotta, V., Feinberg, T., Ludeman, E., Hutton, B., Kanji, S., Seely, D., & Garritty, C. (2021). Elderberry for prevention and treatment of viral respiratory illnesses: a systematic review. BMC complementary medicine and therapies, 21(1), 112.


Elderberry Syrup is an effective and healthy remedy against colds and flu. It's easy and inexpensive to make at home and kids actually like the taste!
Katie Wells Avatar

About Katie Wells

Katie Wells, CTNC, MCHC, Founder of Wellness Mama and Co-founder of Wellnesse, has a background in research, journalism, and nutrition. As a mom of six, she turned to research and took health into her own hands to find answers to her health problems. is the culmination of her thousands of hours of research and all posts are medically reviewed and verified by the Wellness Mama research team. Katie is also the author of the bestselling books The Wellness Mama Cookbook and The Wellness Mama 5-Step Lifestyle Detox.


1,620 responses to “How to Make Elderberry Syrup (Potent Cold + Flu Remedy)”

  1. Bonnie Anderson Avatar
    Bonnie Anderson

    November 29, 2022
    I’d like to use the instant pot method,but how does the liquid reduce??? Do you use less to begin with? It won’t cook off the same as the stovetop method. Really a bit confused about that. I hoped to make this tonight. Thanks!

    1. Jamie Larrison Avatar

      It doesn’t reduce that much, but there is some steam released from the quick pressure release. Some people set it to simmer for a bit after the pressure release to reduce it down some more, but that may also overheat the herbs. The stovetop method is preferred, but some people prefer the ease and speed of the Instant Pot.

  2. Andrea Avatar

    5 stars
    I’ve been making this recipe for a few years now, and I love it! My kids like it, and it is easy to make. I sometimes make 1/2 recipe just to guarantee freshness. Thank you!

  3. Ann Avatar

    5 stars
    I have been doing this syrup for my kids,along with the gummies,for many years now.
    I plan on making some for the adults by using some organic alcohol.I would like to bring the alcohol to 20-25%.Will this make the syrup safe?
    Also,does the honey needs to be added too if using alcohol?
    Thank you.

    1. Jamie Larrison Avatar

      Concerning tinctures, the resulting liquid usually needs a minimum of 40% alcohol by volume (80 proof) in order to be shelf stable and preserve the product. I imagine a syrup without any sugar (or honey) to preserve and only 20-25% alcohol wouldn’t last very long.

      1. Ann Avatar

        Thank you.I ended up using honey (per recipe) and just added the extract too (it’s not a tincture, but extract from herb pharm that I purchased recently while waiting for mine).

  4. Tammy Porter Avatar
    Tammy Porter

    I love it. I found you can add 20% volume of clear alcohol for extended shelf life and it also enhances the flavor. Thanks!

  5. Jeff Avatar

    Doesn’t heating this kill all or some of the beneficial properties of the elderberries?

    From an herbalist website: “Heat and drying, whether it is stove top heat, or drying in dehydrators, microwaves (!), or any other heat source can degrade to a degree or destroy many the flavonoids in plants. (1). The antiviral and anti-inflammatory actions of the anthocyanins in elderberries are reduced with heating. 10 minutes in a hot water bath reduces the anthocyanins by up to 10%. Rather than steeping elderberries in hot water, most people boil their elderberries on the stove for much longer than 10 minutes at a much higher heat, which destroy a greater percentage of the healthful actions.“

    1. Jamie Larrison Avatar

      Elderberries contain cyanogenic glycosides that turn into cyanide in the body. These can also have a cumulative effect. It becomes a balancing act of preserving the nutrients and denaturing the cyanide forming components. While raw elderberries don’t give everyone gastrointestinal problems, they’re likely still doing damage simply because of their constituents. Most herbalists recommend cooking them first and the safety research I’ve seen supports that. Cooked elderberry is still very effective against illness in the scientific literature.

  6. Maggie Avatar

    Can you use fresh or frozen elderberries and if so, how much and does it change the recipe?

  7. LADNEA Avatar

    Ugh why do we always go through this concerning measurements?
    1 Cup is 1 Cup no matter wet or dry!!

    If you want to know the WEIGHT of 1 Cup of ingredients then WEIGH it!
    Each item has a different weight because they are NOT the same so stop trying to ask how much in weight should you buy and buy some!

    Frankly if you believe you are ONLY going to buy enough for 1 recipe then you most likely be incorrect!

    Also it is easier to make SMALL batches of things that only last a short time like this is 2-weeks!

    If your product changes form DO NOT use it UNLESS you ask a Chemist!

    Now my question; WHY MUST this be refrigerated? What in it that causes it to spoil? Mold? Then refrigerate and it should last as long as the ingredients.

    Honestly I feel bad for people who make recipes and kindly share them because most questions are common sense or can a quick “DUCK IT” OR “Google if you prefer” and you get the answer!

    Please read the FULL recipe and what is talked about BEFORE giving to children for ALL recipes!

    Thank you for your site and hard work- I just wish it was more up-to-date as I do not even know if you are still around <3

  8. Sandy Avatar

    5 stars
    Katie, are usually make a batch up for medicinal purposes, when the early fall begins to settle in. While I would not add all of the ingredients the rest of the time, is there any reason you would advise against drinking a cup of elderberry tea perhaps with honey in it throughout the year ( not necessarily every day maybe just a couple times a week) just because it would be good for you? I know it may seem like a silly question but I was just wondering if By taking it throughout the year in a different way, if that would just be a good tea to drink or if it would cause your body not to respond as well when you need to take it during the cold and flu season as a syrup

  9. Michael Munoz Avatar
    Michael Munoz

    If you add Malic Acid to the recipe to shelve stabilize – How much do you use?

  10. Linda Avatar

    Why do you put the honey in after it cools? Does it affect the potency and immunity benefits? What happens to the potency when you can(water bath) it? Thank you!! BTW…it is soooo delicious. We take it daily in smoothies!! Yum!!

  11. Stacey Avatar

    5 stars
    Thought this was a great recipe! Making a double batch today to make gummies. I think my family would be much more apt to take gummies rather than the syrup, just easier. I will be using this recipe again and again! Loved all the information on the berries themselves as well. Always want to learn more!
    Thank you!

  12. Lou Avatar

    How does this compare to store bought elderberry? How can I measure a specific dosage (example: how many mg are in a teaspoon?)

  13. JK Avatar

    Has anyone calculated out the milligram dosage of the end product? Perhaps mg per tsp?

  14. Lisa N. Avatar

    Thank you for sharing this Katie! <3
    Might you have a recipe for adult dosing as well?
    Be well, Lisa

  15. Jasmine Avatar

    So I have a long list of those who want some elderberry syrup. Specifically about 20 orders. I use 32 oz jars. I bought 3 pounds of elderberry. How would I formulate this recipe to make 20 32oz jars? I know that is a massive amount lol.

  16. Edie Avatar

    Hi! I was wondering if anyone has any thoughts or experience on adding ionic zinc to the elderberry syrup? Any pros or cons?

  17. Arminda Stalnaker Avatar
    Arminda Stalnaker

    Curious as to what type of elderberries can be used? Your article said if you grow your own, it’s important to use the right kind, but you don’t mention what those are. We have discovered an elderberry bush in my neighbors yard that she wants me to use, but they’re American black it appears. Is this an acceptable berry?

    1. Jamie Larrison Avatar

      Black or blue elderberry varieties are good to use, but many experts don’t recommend using red elderberries or dwarf elderberries. They’re higher in toxins that can cause digestive upset. Like anything, there’s some debate on the subject, but sambucas nigra (black elderberry) and sambucus cerulea (blue elderberry) are the most popular and healthiest to use.

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