Below is a recipe for making your own black elderberry syrup to use during cold and flu season.
If you want some background on how black elderberry (Sambucus nigra L.) shortens and reduces the severity of cold and flu symptoms, you can read our previous post:
Does Black Elderberry Syrup Really Fight Cold and Flu Viruses?
Homemade Black Elderberry Syrup Recipe
- 1/2 Cup Dried Black Elderberries
- 2 cups Filtered Water
- 1 cup Honey (raw honey is best, but not essential – see “How long will it last?” section below & for those allergic to honey, read the “honey substitution” section)
- Heat water to a boil.
- Add elderberries. Stir. Reduce heat to medium-low.
- Simmer for about 30–45 minutes or until liquid has been reduced by half.
- Turn off heat, let cool to room temperature or at least lukewarm (below 100°F) for safe handling.
- Drain through fine mesh sieve or cheese cloth into a glass jar. I like to squeeze or press the elderberries to get the most amount of extract out of them.
- Add honey & stir to dissolve. Note: If using raw honey, make sure the temperature of the elderberry syrup is below 110°F (43°C) before adding the honey to maintain its beneficial properties. It should be if you allowed it to cool to at least lukewarm, but just giving a friendly reminder. 🙂
Dosage – How Much Elderberry Extract Do I Take?
At the first sign of having cold or flu symptoms:
Adults and children over 4 years old: Take 1 tablespoon (~15 mL) four times daily. This dosage is based on a study where patients who took this amount for five days were relieved of symptoms four days earlier (on average) than those taking the placebo. The commercially available elderberry syrups recommend 2 teaspoons (~10 mL) four times daily. Your call.
Children 1-4 years old: 1 1/2 teaspoons (~7 mL) four times daily.
Children Under 1: Products with honey should not be given to infants under 1 year old.
Can I take the syrup daily to prevent the cold or flu?
There is no scientific evidence that taking elderberry syrup will prevent you from getting the cold or flu—but that’s only because it’s a statement that hard to prove.
With that said, it wouldn’t hurt to consume elderberry syrup since it is high in antioxidants and a proven immune booster – but it is also high in sugar, so it’s something you shouldn’t consume large amounts of on a daily basis.
The general recommended daily dosage for preventative maintenance is two teaspoons for adults, one teaspoon for children.
On a side note… Have you heard of Tamiflu?
Tamiflu (oseltamivir) is a drug to be taken at the first sign of flu symptoms to reduce its duration, much like elderberry extract.
However, when the CDC tested 1,148 flu samples, 99.5% were resistant to Tamiflu. It appears that Tamiflu isn’t as effective as it once was.
I think I’d rather save the cost of the doctor visit and the prescription drug, and just take my elderberry syrup instead. 🙂
How Long Will The Elderberry Syrup Last Before Going Bad?
This seems to vary, but in general, it should last at least a month in the refrigerator. Mine usually last three months.
Some Tips To Prolong Preservation
- If you use raw honey vs heat-pasteurized honey, it may last longer because the antimicrobial and antifungal properties are higher. Raw honey also has the added benefit of its own antiviral properties. Specifically, Manuka honey has been shown to have antiviral effects against the flu virus. On a side note, Manuka honey has also been effective as a natural treatment against the H. pylori bacterium which causes stomach ulcers.
- You can add 2 ounces of brandy or similar alcohol to extend preservation.
- You can freeze some in a smaller container and use when needed. It usually won’t freeze solid because of the high sugar content, so if a dosage is immediately needed, you can scoop out a semi-soft slushy tablespoon of it.
I’m Allergic To Honey – What Can I Use As A Substitute?
You can use any sweetener you prefer such as molasses or maple syrup. I personally haven’t used anything besides honey, so I do not know how using a different sweetener will affect its longevity in the refrigerator. You may want to check for mold more often or use one of the above tips to prolong its use.
Can I Add Spices, Herbs, and Other Flavors?
I say keep it simple. Just stick to elderberries, water, and sweetener. Why?
Because all of the studies I have read that have statistically significant results only used those three ingredients in the elderberry syrup.
There is a chance that adding different spices and herbs, such as ginger, clove or cinnamon, might affect the efficacy of the syrup. There could be a positive synergistic effect with the combination, but ya never know since it hasn’t been tested.
After all, we are using this as a natural remedy. If you were making elderberry jam and wanted to add some ginger or cinnamon, I’d say go for it. But we’re trying to get rid of a virus we’re suffering from, not trying to make our toast taste better. So in this case, the K.I.S.S principle applies.
Can I Use Any Kind of Elderberries?
No. You must use European Black Elderberry (Sambucus nigra L.). You can read more about why here.
Warning! DO NOT EAT RAW ELDERBERRIES. The raw and unripe fruit (as well as other parts of the plant) contains a glycoloside that is metabolized into cyanide when digested. Berries must be cooked. This applies to all Sambucus species, although the Black Elderberry happens to be the least toxic of all.
There are several studies that have proven the efficacy of black elderberry treating the H1N1 human influenza virus. There is also evidence that it may treat the H5N1 avian influenza virus since the the flavonoids in the elderberry extract bind to the H5N1 virus just as it does to H1N1.
A study was conducted with patients infected with influenza. One group was given a placebo, the other given black elderberry extract (Sambucol). Within 2 days, 93.3% of the elderberry group had significant improvement in their symptoms, especially fever, while it took 6 days for 91.7% of the control group symptoms to improve.
And in this study (pdf), Pilot Clinical Study on a Proprietary Elderberry Extract: Efficacy in Addressing Influenza Symptoms, they found:
By 48 hours, 9 patients (28%) in the extract treated group were void of all symptoms, 19 patients (60%) showed relief from some symptoms, and had only one or two mild symptoms. In contrast, complete recovery was not achieved by a single patient in the placebo group. Only 5 patients (16%) showed improvement in one or two symptoms.
You can always buy an elderberry syrup product (I do keep one bottle on hand as an emergency backup), but making a batch of your own black elderberry syrup takes less than a hour and will save you money.
So here’s to your health and the natural immune-boosting power of elderberries!
Question: Have you ever tried Sambucol/Sambucus products or your own black elderberry syrup?