Sunday, September 9, 2012

Homemade Elderberry Flu Medicine

"You have some elderberries!" my cousin exclaimed one day as she was leaving our home.  I hadn't even noticed!...and anyway, what are they good for???   I immediately began an online search.

Do you know that elderberries contain a natural antioxident called anthocyanin which is a powerful immune booster?  The berries have been used medicinally since Hippocrates' time (BC 460-BC 370).  According to the book, Smart Medicine for Healthier Living, page 290, a 1995 study showed elderberry extract   "reduced both the severity of flu symptoms and also the duration of flu from 2-3 days in the treated group versus 6 days in the placebo group."  
Melissa at says  "I have successfully warded off the flu and bad colds numerous times.  If I start feeling sick/ achy/ feverish, I start taking elderberry syrup whenever I think of it--along with extra Fermented Cod Liver."  

So.....let's get busy and prepare to stay healthy with some homemade Elderberry Syrup!

Snip off the ripe elderberry bunches...making certain they are not Pokeberry, the impostor that some have confused with the elderberry plant.  Check out the article, Elderberry vs Pokeberry, at for pictures that clearly illustrate the difference between the two plants.

 Remove the berries from the stems, keeping only the black or blackish-red berries. This was the most time-consuming part.  Some people use a fork, some use a wide-toothed comb and some use their fingers as a comb to rake through the berries, pulling them off the stems into the bowl.  If you freeze them for a bit first, the process may be easier.  Stems are toxic to eat, so only keep the berries. Also be sure you are wearing old clothes...elderberries stain!!  Put the berries in some ice water and allow any debris to float to the top...which you will pour off.

             Finally!  All the berries are off the plant and ready for the juice to be extracted. 

 Ahhh...What a lovely color!  Use the immersion blender set on low to break up the berries....but don't beat so much that the seeds are crushed.  Now pour this into a heavy pan and bring to a boil, stirring often. Remove from heat.

 Separate the pulp and seeds from the juice!  Allow the juice to cool before adding the honey so the enzymes in the honey are not destroyed. 

Add the honey...equal amounts with the juice you have extracted. Mix well, put in jar(s) and store in the refrigerator or freezer.   Mmmm---Mmmm good!

  Some people sweeten and preserve the syrup with sugar, but honey has so many healthful properties, you get a "double whammy" by using honey. (However, use sugar if you plan on giving some to your child who is under 1 year old.)  Others also add 1 cup of apple cider vinegar for extra health benefit. Then there are those who add rose hips, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, etc.

I found many, many blogs and other web sites with information on making elderberry syrup....each having added information or  slight variations to the process.  I found to be the only one using the immersion blender and no water.  Jill at was very helpful when making my second batch using dried berries.  Here are the recipes I used for my 2 batches:

Batch #1:  3 pounds elderberries, destemmed
                  Raw honey to equal the amount of juice you extract                                                    
                  Follow the directions above in the tutorial.

Batch # 2: 2 cups dried elderberries
                 4 cups water
                 3 cups raw honey, local if possible

                   Bring berries and water to a boil and simmer about 30 minutes. Use the immersion blender to break up the berries.  (If you don't have an immersion blender, you may use a food mill to break them up.)  Separate the berries and juice from the seeds using a food mill. Allow the juice to cool, then add the honey.  Mix well, put in jar(s) and refrigerate or freeze.

How much should you take???   Whatever you wish since you cannot overdose.  But to maintain the immune system: Adults-1 Tablespoon/day; Children-1 Teaspoon/day.  Take the same amount hourly if sick.  It is more effective to take small amounts often than large amounts occasionally.

Did you know you can buy Elderberry Syrup at the store? You might find it under the name, Sambucus nigra which means black elderberry. Berry Well is also the name of one on the market. These are much more expensive to buy than to make! 

Where can I get dried elderberries?  I ordered mine very reasonably from Frontier Natural Products through our local food co-op. You may also order from the Bulk Herb Store,, and Mountain Rose Herbs,

What else can I do with elderberry syrup?  This is sooo good you can pour it over vanilla ice cream, mix it with plain yogurt, put it on pancakes, add some to sparkling many possibilities.  The berries make a wonderful tea...just steep 1 teaspoon of the dried berries in a cup of hot water for 3-5 minutes....tasty and healthful!

Tea anyone??

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