Hippocrates, the "father of medicine", described the elderberry plant as his "medicine chest". All parts of the plant offer potent medicinal properties, and the berries are particularly powerful in boosting the immune system. Elderberries are packed with anthocyanins, flavonols and antioxidants that have been shown to shorten the duration of flu symptoms by an average of four days when taken within the first 48 hours of the onset of flu symptoms. (1) Elderberries have also been used to aid in sinus infection relief (2), as well as calm inflammation associated with allergies.(3) Essentially, this plant is one of our best herbal allies throughout sniffly season.
Making elderberry syrup is one of the most delicious (& fun!) ways to empower yourself with the benefits of this herbal medicine. The berries alone have such potent medicinal properties, but I like to enhance the immune-boosting effects of the syrup by adding in some additional herbal powerhouses.
Rosehips - most potent source of Vitamin C among all fruits & vegetables (4)
Astragalus - ancient Chinese herb used to enhance immune system (5)
Cloves - powerful immune-boosting properties (6)
Ginger - antioxidant & anti-inflammatory benefits (7)
This syrup makes a great gift for loved ones, or even just yourself, over the holiday season when it feels like the common cold is just lurking around the corner. Plus, the addition of raw honey into the syrup makes this medicine an extra sweet part of your self-care routine <3
Immune-Boosting Elderberry Syrup
yields 3 cups
2 cups dried organic elderberries
1 oz. rosehips
1/2 oz. astragalus root (preferably smaller pieces)
2-in piece fresh ginger, peeled & sliced 1/4-in thick
8 whole cloves
2 cinnamon sticks
1 tablespoon whole allspice
1 small organic orange, peel only
4 cups cold water (filtered is best)
1 cup raw, local honey (or organic maple syrup/agave for vegan version); double the amount of sweetener to increase shelf life if not using alcohol
1 cup brandy (optional, to increase shelf life)
Combine berries, herbs, spices and orange peel with cold water in a pot and bring to a boil. It's best to use a non-reactive pot like ceramic, avoid anything with a non-stick coating.
Reduce heat and allow herbs to simmer 30 to 40 minutes (until liquid reduces by half). Mash berries with the back of a spoon to release more of their active compounds. Then, remove from heat and let steep 1 hour.
Strain berries and herbs using a funnel overlaid with doubled cheesecloth or undyed cotton muslin bag and squeeze out liquid (careful, liquid will likely still be hot!). Alternatively, use a fine-mesh strainer, pressing down the cooked berries with the back of a spoon to get as much juice out as possible. Collect the juice in a large, glass bowl or measuring cup. Discard used herbs in compost.
Once liquid has cooled to just above room temperature, add honey and whisk in well to incorporate.
If using brandy, add here and stir until well combined. The brandy preserves the syrup & allows it to be shelf-stable. If you'd rather skip the alcohol, you can either double the amount of honey, or simply store your syrup in the refrigerator.
Bottle syrup in sterilized glass jars or dropper bottles. The syrup will keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 months (without alcohol) or up to 6 months (shelf-stable). Take 1 teaspoon a day for prevention throughout cold & flu season, or several teaspoons a day for acute use after the onset of cold or flu sypmtoms.
Make sure to read here for any contraindications to using elderberry syrup.
*Recipe inspired by Mountain Rose Herbs