Every year, as winter approaches, I reliably get emails from clients asking me about the best herbal remedies to use during the cold weather months. Among the most common questions we get is, "What are the best herbal remedies I can use to help keep my family strong and healthy throughout the cold and flu season?". Of course, there are so many wonderful herbal remedies to support your family's immune systems to choose from in our shop, but I thought I'd share a DIY Elderberry Syrup with you because it is delicious, enjoyable to make, and so effective.
Benefits of Elderberry Syrup
The berries, flowers, and bark of the elder (Sambucus) plant have long been prized by herbalists across the globe, and modern studies have also substantiated the berries' ability to help maintain normal, healthy functioning of our immune system*. This makes elderberry an excellent plant ally to promote resilience during times when our body's systems are particularly stressed, which tends to increase during the holidays.
One reason is practicality. Most traditional elderberry syrups are made with a good portion of raw honey, and the sugar content (combined with honey's legendary shelf life) acts as a natural preservative.
The second reason is because it tastes delicious! The flavor of elderberries really shines with a little sweetening, which is why variations of elderberry syrup are used for purely enjoyable reasons, such as a topping for pancakes, or desserts.
One thing I want to mention here about preservation and taste is that many syrup recipes include some high-proof alcohol to extend their shelf life further. This added preservative can potentially allow you to enjoy your syrup all season long, and people tend to appreciate how the honey or other sweetener helps mask the alcohol flavor.
Simple Elderberry Syrup Recipe
Makes about 3 cups of syrup without alcohol and 4 cups with alcohol.
Active Time: 1 hour
- 2 cups or one package of Roots and Fruits Immune Support Tea Blend
- 4 cups cold water (distilled, purified, or spring water works best)
- 1 cup raw, local honey (or organic maple syrup or agave for a vegan/infant-friendly recipe); double the amount of sweetener to increase shelf life
- 1 cup vodka or brandy (optional to increase shelf life)
- Combine the herbs with cold water in a pot and bring to a boil.
- Reduce heat and allow herbs to simmer for 30 to 40 minutes.
- Remove from heat and let steep for 1 hour.
- Strain berries and herbs using a funnel overlaid with doubled cheese cloth or an undyed cotton muslin bag and squeeze out liquid (careful, the liquid will likely still be hot!). Discard used herbs in compost.
- Once the liquid has cooled to just above room temperature, add honey and stir to incorporate.
- If using vodka or brandy, add here and stir until well combined.
- Bottle in sterilized glass and store in the refrigerator.
- Be sure to add honey in a ratio that is at least half of the total volume of liquid after it has simmered. This amount can change slightly, and you want to ensure you have enough preservatives (honey) so your syrup won't spoil. (Example: If you are left with 2 cups of elderberry decoction, you will want to add at least 1 cup of honey.)
- This recipe is easy to multiply if you'd like to make a big batch to store or give as gifts. My family enjoys a teaspoon or two of this syrup right out of the fridge just about every day during the cold and flu season.
Tips for Making Elderberry Syrup
HOW CAN YOU MAKE ELDERBERRY SYRUP SHELF STABLE?
As we covered above, syrups that are shelf stable, meaning that they can sit out at room temperature for a long period without spoiling, require more sugar, alcohol, or a combination of the two. You're going to have to add something to discourage the development of bacteria and mold. To make this syrup more family-friendly, my recipe uses less sugar and no alcohol and is intended to be kept in the refrigerator. However, if you want a more shelf stable syrup, you can double the honey in our recipe or add the optional alcohol.
IS ELDERBERRY SYRUP SAFE FOR BABIES?
Honey acts as a natural preservative as well as a sweetener (and has other healthful properties besides), so it's my preferred choice for my herbal syrups, but it is not recommended for children less than one year old. This is because of a rare condition called infantile botulism—it sounds scary, and you don't want it! So, if you're planning to share your syrup with a very little one, you would need to substitute either sugar or maple syrup for the honey and, again, keep it in the refrigerator.
WHAT SHOULD I COOK MY ELDERBERRY SYRUP IN?
When preparing your syrup, be sure to use a ceramic, glass, or other non-reactive pan that won't off-gas. Pans with synthetic nonstick coatings release some nasty stuff when heated, so avoid them when making syrup. I'd discourage you from having them in your house to cook anything, anyway!
WHAT KIND OF WATER SHOULD I USE TO MAKE ELDERBERRY SYRUP?
Remember that your finished herbal product is only as good as the ingredients you start with, and that includes water. The water you include should be distilled, or it should be a good spring water or purified water, depending upon where you live and what you have access to.
LEARN ABOUT THE HERBAL PROPERTIES IN ROOTS AND FRUITS IMMUNE SUPPORT TEA.
Roots and Fruits Immune Strengthening Herbal Tea is a proprietary blend of Organic Elder Berries, Organic Rose Hips, Organic Oregon Grape Root, Organic Licorice Root, and Ginger Root.
The Elderberries and Oregon Grape Root boosts immunity, strengthen the adrenals, and ward off bad bugs. The Licorice Root makes it effective for both dry hacking and deep wet coughs. Rose Hips are high in Vitamin C, and the Ginger Root tastes amazing and stimulates both immune and digestive functions.
Once brewed, Roots and Fruits is a beautiful deep purple tea filled with potent bioflavonoids and Vitamin C, making it a powerful and delicious immune booster for the cough, cold, and flu season!
Roots and Fruits can be enjoyed as a tea or made into potent and delicious cough syrup.
I'd love to see your creations! Tag us @birthsongbotanicalsco on Instagram.
I hope you enjoy making this simple, delicious, and potent elderberry syrup for your family and friends.
May you and your family be healthy all season long!