Elderberry syrup is a popular companion for those that get plagued with seasonal germ warfare during the cold and gloomy wintertime (yuch!) like we do here in the Midwest. I started making our own elderberry syrup years ago, and after a little fiddling and tweaking around, I’m FINALLY satisfied. This is my best elderberry syrup recipe so far, and of course I’m going to share with you!
But first, I want to tell you WHY you should make your own elderberry syrup. You know, in case you’re still on the fence.
- Making elderberry syrup at home is ridiculously easy. In fact, it’s so easy that my kids could make the syrup themselves if I let them use the stove unsupervised. If you know how to make tea with honey, you’re qualified to make elderberry syrup.
- By making your own elderberry syrup, you know exactly what’s going in. I’ll be talking about this a little further down this post. Don’t skip that part!
- Homemade elderberry syrup costs a fraction of a store-bought one. Who doesn’t love saving money?
- The elderberry syrup ROCKS. Read about the health benefits of elderberries that are supported by science if you don’t believe me. (You shouldn’t believe me. Go ahead and read it.)
Anyhoo, let’s get making!
BTW, you can make this elderberry syrup with fresh OR dried elderberries. Whatever works.
If you’re using fresh elderberries (which happen to ripen at the perfect time in our area – right before the ewww season hits!), please make sure you follow a few simple safety precautions – this is very important!
Here’s the ELDERBERRY SYRUP RECIPE, my best yet!
- 1 CUP fresh elderberries; OR ½ CUP dried elderberries
- 2 CUPS water
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 3 whole cloves
- Freshly squeezed juice from half a lemon
- ½ CUP RAW honey
Makes about 2 CUPS of elderberry syrup.
(The measurements in this recipe are approximate; using a little more or a bit less of anything isn’t going to ruin your syrup.)
NOTE: It is NOT RECOMMENDED to give HONEY (both raw and pasteurized) to CHILDREN UNDER THE AGE OF 1. Honey can contain spores of Clostridium botulinum which may lead to botulism poisoning – a rare but serious gastrointestinal condition occurring mostly in infants due to their immature systems.
TO MAKE ELDERBERRY SYRUP FOR BABIES: substitute honey with another natural sweetener like pure maple syrup or coconut sugar, or just use regular sugar.
How to make elderberry syrup:
- Place the first 4 ingredients (elderberries + water + cinnamon + cloves) in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for about 45-60 minutes.
- After about an hour, the liquid should be reduced to almost a half. Remove from heat and strain the mixture into another saucepan or a heat-resistant bowl using a mesh strainer. Gently squeeze the berries with the back of a spoon to get out as much juice as possible.
- Discard the berries and spices, and let the elderberry liquid concoction cool down.
- When it cools down to a comfortable lukewarm temperature, add RAW honey and mix well.
- Add fresh lemon juice and stir.
- Pour syrup in lidded glass jars – refrigerate – consume.
See? So easy.
This elderberry syrup is rich, delicious, and super healthy. It tastes like sweetly spiced berry syrup, except much better!
Shelf life: homemade elderberry syrup should keep in the refrigerator for about 2-3 months.
Curious about why I’m using all these ingredients besides elderberries and water? Keep reading!
Cinnamon is one of the healthiest spices known to man and happens to be delicious, too. That’s why I use it when I make elderberry syrup.
I have made elderberry syrup with ground cinnamon which left me with a texture I didn’t exactly love. You can of course use ground cinnamon if that’s all you have (I’d say use ½-1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon), but I much prefer using cinnamon sticks.
I incorporated cloves into my elderberry syrup recipe because cloves are naturally antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antifungal, and a great immune booster overall. I happen to like the taste of cloves and my kids don’t mind them, but if you don’t like cloves, leave them out. Your choice!
Why fresh lemon juice?
Lemons are rich in vitamin C. Lemon juice strengthens the immune system and helps fight off many types of illnesses (among other health benefits).
You don’t want to add too much lemon juice because that would make the elderberry syrup way too sour, but you can add more than I use if you’d like.
Lemon juice is also a good natural preservative, so I wonder if it can help improve the shelf life of homemade elderberry syrup. (I wouldn’t know; we always go through ours way too quickly to find out!)
Adding honey not only reduces the extreme tartness of elderberries (boy are these berries tart!) but also increases the medicinal benefits of the elderberry syrup. You’ll want to use the real deal though (if you can) – RAW HONEY!
HONEY is the next main reason (besides the price tag) why homemade elderberry syrup beats store-bought – you know exactly which honey you’re using! Real and raw! Believe it or not, much of conventional honey is diluted with water and high fructose corn syrup or other questionable sweeteners. And, some honey isn’t even real honey after all. (I got this first-hand from a honey inspector.)
How do you know which honey has the elderberry syrup manufacturer used? You don’t.
If you’re not familiar with raw honey, it’s honey that hasn’t been processed and retains the full spectrum of its nutritional value. Raw honey is antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal. It contains all kinds of goodies – pollen, vitamins, minerals, trace enzymes, amino acids, phytonutrients, and other beneficial health-boosting elements.
You can use more (or even less) honey when making the elderberry syrup using this recipe. I recommend going easy on the honey, especially if you’re using extra, so you don’t add too much. You want a little bit of that tartness. That’s what makes the elderberry syrup taste so good!
IMPORTANT: Add honey after the elderberry liquid has cooled down. Otherwise, you’ve just killed good honey.
HOW MUCH elderberry syrup to take and HOW OFTEN?
So here’s the deal: I don’t have a PhD in Elderberry Science. You shouldn’t be taking any elderberry advice from me.
Besides, the recommendations about elderberry syrup use and dosage vary.
Not very helpful. I know!
It’s true though. Just ask around and you’re bound to get a number of different responses.
Some people take the elderberry syrup daily as a preventative measure, some recommend against and only take it when they’re sick or feeling like coming down with something. Some take a teaspoon, others swear by a tablespoonful. One or two of either, or even a whole shot glass.
What do WE do?
We take it when we feel like it and if we happen to remember.
Some days that means daily, but then we may go days or even weeks without because we forget.
When we don’t feel well, we try to make the effort to take the elderberry syrup along with other supplements like vitamin C and probiotics.
The kids get 1 teaspoon-ish and me and my hubs get 2 and lick the side of the bottle. Gross, I know.
If illness seems to want to strike, we take that dose multiple times a day, I’d say about 4-5 times.
If you’re breastfeeding and your baby has a stuffy nose and/or cough or other signs of a viral illness, take the elderberry syrup yourself and nurse-nurse-nurse around the clock – nothing beats mama’s milk in overcoming a bug. It’s the best thing ever.
PS: You can add a little bit of ginger to the elderberry syrup as well. I’ve never done that because my kids are funny with ginger – some days they could live off ginger-carrot smoothies and other days the smell of ginger makes them gag. I’m NOT ruining an entire batch of homemade elderberry syrup with a teensy bit of ginger.
Oh and one more thing!
I would have almost forgotten. Classic.
Pure homemade elderberry syrup isn’t thick and syrupy.
Like, at all. In fact, it’s nowhere near the consistency of store-bought elderberry syrup (which is always thickened).
You should know, so you don’t think you did something wrong!
Now, you could technically add corn starch, tapioca starch, or arrowroot powder to thicken your elderberry syrup (or brown rice syrup or glycerin, I guess, but I can’t say I’m a fan of either of these two), but I’ve never used any thickeners with my elderberry syrup so I can’t share my experience. I actually don’t mind the not-so-syrupy consistency of my elderberry syrup and prefer things in their simple version.
If I ever use any elderberry syrup thickeners, I will update this post.
I hope you like this elderberry syrup – do let me know!