make: elderberry syrup

if you’re into “alternative lifestyles” or “health foods,” you’ve likely heard about elderberries and elderberry syrup. elderberry syrup is an herbal alternative to over-the-counter cold and flu syrup that plays on the immune boosting properties of elderberries. the syrup is easy to make, and it’s a great addition to your winter health arsenal. today i’m sharing my recipe.

before we begin, a word about elderberries and foraging. elderberry is a shrub native to the US (sambucus canadensis) and europe (sambucus nigra). it’s a fast growing shrub that loves wet areas, and can actually become a bit weedy. with the popularity of herbal remedies on the rise, the health benefits of elderberry are front and center. this plant has been used traditionally by native peoples and settlers for a plethora of uses, but one of the most popular is as a cold and flu remedy.

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when a plant like elderberry gains popularity rapidly, the demand becomes high. i’ve noticed that suppliers like mountain rose herbs are out of stock of elderberry regularly. they cannot meet the high demand while maintaining standards of sustainable harvesting practices. this high demand could cause elderberries to become over-harvested, much like american ginseng was in the 20th century. the good news is that unlike american ginseng, elderberry is very easy to grow!

if you are considering using elderberry as a medicine please please please make sure you are only buying from suppliers who use sustainable harvesting practices, or who grow the shrub organically. if you are foraging for elderberries, follow the 1/10th rule and consider planting some of the berries you take. better yet, if you want to use elderberry, grow it! it’s an attractive landscape shrub and a great alternative to the non-native invasives that are commonly planted around homes. elderberry can be propagated from cuttings, or you can pick up a sapling at a nursery (mail order or in person).

using plants as medicine should always be a reciprocal relationship. make sure that you are tending to the plants you use, just as they tend to you 🙂

elderberry syrup

  • 1 cup dried elderberries or 2 cups fresh
  • 1 quart filtered water
  • 1/4 cup diced fresh ginger
  • 2 TB dried spices of choice (i used cracked cardamom pods, cloves, and star anise – cinnamon would also be a good choice)
  • 1 1/2 cups raw local honey

combine elderberries, ginger, and spices in a saucepan and cover with water. simmer, stirring occasionally, for 45 minutes. strain through a metal sieve, pressing the berries and spices to get every last drop of liquid out.

while still warm, add honey to the juice and stir well to combine. bottle and store in the fridge for up to 6 months. the honey will act as a preservative to a certain extent.

i take 1 tsp per day during the season, making sure to cycle off for a week or two from time to time. take 3x per day if you are feeling sick.


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