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. Michele M. Walker Avatar
    Michele M. Walker

    5 stars
    I can’t remember if I ever thanked you for this recipe. It is phenomenal. I am making a new batch today because my husband came down with a bad cold. Even my extended family asks me to make some for them. Usually we try to use it as a preventative. I have researched other recipes (some recommend essential oils; I have heard essential oils can be toxic so ‘no thank-you’). I like that you use more natural and organic ingredients. Chi Miigwetch!

  2. Jennifer Avatar

    5 stars
    I need help. I’ve been making this recipe routinely for years and never had any issues. However I was using the older recipe (that says to simmer covered). I just saw where it now says to do uncovered so I tried that with my latest batch. I’ve now had to redo it twice because instead of ending up with 1/2 the original liquid, I ended up with barely 1/4 of what I started with. It’s reducing way too much! I’m watching it carefully, not letting it simmer to hard, and this last attempt I even kept adding water (probably added another cup over 45 minutes). I still ended up with half what I should have had. How do I fix this?! Would it hurt to start with more water? Is it still safe to take even though it’s super reduced?

    1. Jamie Larrison Avatar

      You don’t have to simmer it for 45 minutes, just until the liquid is reduced by half. If it’s still evaporating too fast you could leave the lid partially on. The important thing is for the steam to escape so the mixture can reduce and release the toxic cyanogenic glycosides. It’s safe to take as is, you just wouldn’t need to use as much.

  3. Melissa Avatar

    I haven’t made this yet. But I’m wondering if refrigerating the finished product (after adding honey) would make the syrup harden (like cold honey)? Or will I still be able to pour the syrup from a bottle after refrigerating it?

  4. Bethany King Avatar
    Bethany King

    5 stars
    Hi! I’ve been making your elderberry for several years, and we love it!! I now use fresh berries, and noticed on the recipe that the amount for fresh berries doesn’t change as you x2 or x3 the the recipe. Is that correct? Is it 1 1/3c no matter if you’re doing a single or triple batch? Thank you so much for such a great recipe!

    1. Jessica Avatar

      5 stars
      Absolutely loved it. I’m using fresh berries. I did the 3x recipe and with that I can fill 11 of the 8oz half pint jars.
      My question is, how long if properly water sealed are these shelf stable for?

      1. Jamie Larrison Avatar

        Even sealed this recipe has a high water content and a low sugar content. Jams and jellies have a longer shelf life because the sugar acts as a preservative. If you want a long lasting elderberry syrup it would be best to use a canning recipe specifically for that. This recipe can be frozen though if you want it to last a longer time.

  5. Cindi Avatar

    I have been making Katie’s recipe for years and love it! I’ve noticed though that after a couple weeks in the refrigerator, small flake-like particles floating around and stick to the sides of the jar. It doesn’t appear to be mold. Has anyone else noticed this?

  6. Jackie Avatar

    5 stars
    Thanks for the recipe! I am very fortunate where I live I am able to forage for a good amount of elderberries and purchase local honey. I made this recipe a couple years ago and quadrupled it because I had so many berries and wanted to share with friends during the winter months. A friend of mine was home in bed sick with Covid so I brought her a bottle. About a week later I got Covid and thanks to my syrup preparation I was only sick for one day! Well enough to go for a long beach walk the very next day. I love using herbs for cooking and other remedies but this recipe has definitely stood out with its effectiveness. Thanks again!

  7. Kristen Avatar

    How much of the liquid should be left after straining? I may have over reduced mine. I had about 3/4 cup after straining and before adding honey.

  8. Alvin Herbel Avatar
    Alvin Herbel

    5 stars
    Recipe is awesome! Resulting syrup and advice given by Jamie, top notch! Just wanted to thank you for being a super source for those wanting to know how to make elderberry syrup.

  9. Lilly Avatar

    4 stars
    I made this today using foraged elderberries, and found 1 cup of honey to be too sweet and the honey taste overwhelmed the delicate flavor of the elderberries. I fixed it by making another batch using only 1/3 cup water and adding the resulting concentrated liquid to the first batch. Came out perfect. I got exactly 4 half-pints, 3 of which I will be freezing. Thanks for the recipe!

  10. Malinda Avatar

    I see in a couple places you say adult dosing is 1 teaspoon. But under the slow cooker (I believe that’s what it was labeled) section you stated adult dosing was 1/2-1 tablespoon a day as preventative. Which one is best? Is either one fine?

    1. Jamie Larrison Avatar

      Either is fine. Katie does 1 tsp daily during cold and flu season as a preventative, but uses 1 TBSP daily if sick. Some sources recommend taking more than that and do several teaspoons as a daily preventative for adults.

  11. Barbara Avatar

    The recipe says: bring to a boil and uncover, but video shows the opposite. Can you clarify please?

    1. Jamie Larrison Avatar

      The video was made years ago when the recipe originally said to cook covered. The recipe has since been updated after more research and feedback, but the video wasn’t redone. So yes, the syrup should simmer uncovered.

      1. Cami Avatar

        I was doing this while I was a bit distracted with my children and added my honey with everything else. Then cooked it all. Is this going to mess things up?

      2. Abby Avatar

        5 stars
        I have quite a bit frozen that I had made simmering with the lid on. I just discovered the recipe change today to simmer uncovered. Any negative effects from the lid-on batch? Does simmering without the lid just evaporate the water better? TIA for your help!!

        1. Jamie Larrison Avatar

          It helps thicken it better and it allows the cyanogenic glycosides to evaporate in the steam. It probably won’t hurt to use what you have though.

      3. Lindsay Avatar

        I’ve made this several times and my family enjoys it. I’ve only made the instant pot version. I’m making another batch right now and I just realized the stovetop version says to mash the berries after cooking but the IP version doesn’t. What’s the difference and should I mash them or not in the IP? Thanks!

  12. Sherry Avatar

    4 stars
    Came out good. The only problem was the smell, my kids were complaining. Hope this prevents us from getting sick this flu and winter season.

    1. Jamie Larrison Avatar

      No, that would probably not be safe. The seeds have cyanogenic glycosides in them that convert to cyanide in the body. This can cause nausea, moderate to severe vomitting and diarrhea (for up to several days) if the ground seeds or uncooked berries are used. This is why it’s also important to remove as many of the stems as possible since they also have this problem.

  13. Ellen Toomey Avatar
    Ellen Toomey

    5 stars
    I have used this recipe for the past 5 years with dried elderberries. This year however, I was blessed with a couple of fruitful bushes. I noticed for increased volumes, the amount of fresh was still 1&1/3 cups? I want to make a larger batch for family members and wanted to be sure of amount with regard to fresh/frozen. Thanks!

  14. Tracy Taylor Avatar
    Tracy Taylor

    5 stars
    Made a batch today as suggested by the wife’s doctor. I would call it a great result. Seems to help her cough and tastes great. I’m taking it as a preventative. I used avocado honey which has a bold flavor, but it was great in the syrup. Thank you.

  15. Joyce Lundeen Avatar
    Joyce Lundeen

    5 stars
    I am making this again. We use it for immunity especially in winter.

  16. Melisa Rolfe Avatar
    Melisa Rolfe

    I followed the reciepe and mine wasn’t syrup it is a juice. Can I add something to it like cornstarch to thickening it?

    1. Jamie Larrison Avatar

      Because it doesn’t simmer with sugar like other herbal syrups, the end result is more watery. It will still do the job though! Cornstarch may make it more like gravy, but if you try it let us know!

    2. Kim Avatar

      I changed the recipe to 3× and the fresh elderberry weight doesn’t change? Is this a mistake?

  17. Ria Avatar

    5 stars
    I’ve made this recipe recently & the results are such I will be adjusting my generations old family recipe in the future.
    An interesting thing about elderberries, they seem to inhibit the proliferation of virus from cell to cell. So taken early enough they may have a favorable impact on viral illnesses, including COVID (see article below)
    Anecdotally, we thought we had made it through this pandemic “scott free”. Then on 1 Dec 2022, my husband came home with the news, his Director had tested positive. By late Sunday my husband definitely had the symptoms & tested positive. By Tuesday, I was sick & tested positive. Where his symptoms lasted about 4 days, mine (taking elderberry syrup since his announcement) lasted only 24 hours through a brief fever & some bed rest.
    Needless to say I’ve made another batch to get me through the rest of cold & flu season.

    1. Courtney Remmenga Avatar
      Courtney Remmenga

      Hi! I have been making your stovetop version for a few years and love it. Thank you!

      A question I have often wondered about the instant pot variation: do you start with half the water that the the original recipe calls for? (1.75 cups instead of 3.5?) In the stovetop version, you boil until the liquid is reduced by half. But if you add all the original ingredients to the IP and cook for manual for 9 minutes as per the instructions, you would still have the full original volume of water, since none boils off in the IP. Wouldn’t that make the resulting syrup half-strength?

      1. Jamie Larrison Avatar

        Some of the water evaporates when you do the steam release. The finished product will be pretty thin though. You could use 2 teaspoons of the Instant Pot version instead of 1 if you want.

        1. Sarah Avatar

          4 stars
          5 stars for the recipe!
          My children love it. I’ve reduced the cloves to half tsp (as my kids don’t like that so much) and halved the honey plus I add a whole juicing orange to the mix. So yummy.

          Has the original recipe every been tested for how much vitamin is actually in it?

          1. Jamie Larrison Avatar

            Sounds delicious! Be careful though because reducing the sugar and adding fresh juice significantly reduces the shelf life so this may only last for about a week in the fridge before it starts growing microbes. This specific recipe hasn’t been tested, but you can find the nutrition data for dried elderberries at different places online.

    2. Jess Avatar

      Hello! In nutrition facts it says 560 calories in a tsp,
      Is this correct ?
      Thank you

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