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Elderberry Syrup for Helping Colds

Bear and I caught our first major cold-flu of winter this week, so we’re both rather pitiful and sticking close to home as we nurse sore throats, headaches and the lot.

Yesterday my friend Katie urged me to make elderberry syrup to both fight the illness and ease our burning throats. So I did just that.

I hauled out my carefully saved hoard of elderberries, a collection of spices, rainwater from our tank, and raw honey.

Elderflower syrup is lovely on its own, but the addition of bacteria and virus-fighting spices makes it extra good. I like cinnamon, cloves, ginger, cardamom pods, and my favorite, star anise. You could even through in some lemon zest.

Thankfully it not only tastes good and works well, it’s also easy to make. Just put everything but the honey in a saucepan and simmer until the liquid reduces by half. Then strain, cool, sweeten with the honey, and start taking 1 Tbsp every few hours (For grown-ups. Consult your pediatrician before giving elder to children.). I use about 1/4 cup of raw honey for mine, but if you want a thicker syrup consistency and more sweetness, add more honey.

It is incredibly soothing. I told Bear it’s like each spoonful is a warm, soft blanket for my throat.

The efficacy of elderberries isn’t just folk medicine. Scientific studies have found it to be a safe, efficient, and cost effective treatment for influenza.

Sixty patients (aged 18-54 years) suffering from influenza-like symptoms for 48 h or less were enrolled in this randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study during the influenza season of 1999-2000 in Norway. Patients received 15 ml of elderberry or placebo syrup four times a day for 5 days, and recorded their symptoms using a visual analogue scale. Symptoms were relieved on average 4 days earlier and use of rescue medication was significantly less in those receiving elderberry extract compared with placebo.
Department of Virology, Hebrew University-Hadassah Medical School, Jerusalem, Israel

I love when science and tradition work hand in hand to help us feel better faster.

Now I’m going to curl up in bed with a good book and hot tea.

Do you have a tried and true remedy for helping you through cold and flu season? xo

For more recipes for traditional remedies, click here.

Elderberry Syrup


1 cup elderberries (dried)
4 cups water
spices (cinnamon stick, clove buds, star anise, cardamom pods, etc)
raw honey to taste (I use about 1/4 cup, use more for thicker syrupy consistency.)


  1. Place elderberries, water, and spices (NOT HONEY!) in medium pan over high heat. Bring to boil, reduce to simmer, cover and simmer for 20-30 minutes or until liquid reduces by half. Remove from heat, stir well and let steep a further 5-10 minutes.
  2. Strain mixture through a sieve, discard spices, save berries for baking or compost them.
  3. Let cool 5-10 minutes then stir in honey to taste.
  4. Pour into sterile bottles, seal, and refrigerate or freeze until ready to use.
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Deborah Regen - Krista, this sounds very soothing…whether one has a cold or not!

Krista - I’m much better, thank you, @tandysinclair:disqus 🙂 I wonder if you can order the dried berries online?

Krista - I’m learning more and more all the time, @Kayrpea61:disqus 🙂 It’s especially nice when they actually work. 🙂

Tandy Sinclair - Hope you are feeling better! We don’t get elderberries here so I have to use my imagination to figure out how good this must taste 🙂

Ken Powell - Mistress of magic medicines, eh! 🙂

budgetjan - Where do you get your elderberries from Krista. Marty succumbed to a cough while down here so we bought some raw honey from the Burleigh Heads School Market. I am a great believer in raw honey even when our kids had an asthma cough honey seemed to ease the cough.

Krista - It is wonderfully good and effective, @goldiegal:disqus Bear and I can’t get over how much better we feel. 🙂

Krista - I am growing my own now, @disqus_WseMqaTPwi:disqus, but I got a batch of dried elderberries online while I wait for mine to grow. 🙂

Krista - It really is amazing, @joanneeatswellwithothers:disqus Less than a day after I started taking it my sore throat is gone and I can breathe well. I’m delighted. 🙂

Nagi | RecipeTin Eats - I didn’t know!! I’m going to try it 🙂

Jackie Smith - I just have to find elderberries. Then I could try this which sounds healthy just in the making of it! Thanks for the recipe.

Joanne (eats well with others) - One of my coworkers swears by elderberry syrup!! You’ll have to let us know if it works.

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