Make Homemade Elderberry Syrup

Edited by Melissa Rae

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Elderberry syrup is great to keep around in the kitchen. You can take spoonfuls of it when you feel a cold or flu coming on, and you can drizzle it on your pancakes, waffles or French toast for a sweet, tasty treat with added health benefits. You can serve it with savory foods to cut the richness. It's also great when drizzled on ice cream or yogurt. The small, black berries are a great source of B vitamins, as well as vitamins A and C. Elderberries boast anti-inflammatory and antiviral benefits, which help boost the immune system and reduce the symptoms of viral illnesses when taken within 24 to 48 hours of the first sign of symptoms. Elderberry syrup is quite expensive when purchased, but you can save some money by making your own at home. This is a great idea if you need a large quantity for your whole family without breaking the bank.

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How to Make Homemade Elderberry Syrup

You will need to obtain ripe black elderberries for this recipe. The unripe and raw berries are inedible and astringent, and they must be cooked before consuming. If you are lucky enough to find ripe black elderberries from the European elderberry tree, you can use them in place of dried berries in this recipe. They're harvested from late August through early September, and the berries are extremely perishable. They should be used or refrigerated immediately after harvesting. You can purchase dried black elderberries online. This recipe makes around 4 cups of elderberry syrup. You can place it into clean glass jars and store it in the refrigerator or another cool, dry place for a few months.

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  1. 1
    Place 1/2 cup of dried elderberries or 1 cup of fresh elderberries into a large, non-reactive saucepan.
    Add 3 cups of water. If you use fresh elderberries, make sure there are no stems, leaves or other parts of the plant among the berries.
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  2. 2
    Add spices or other flavorings if you want.
    You can add a couple cloves, a cinnamon stick or 1 teaspoon of fresh, grated ginger or ginger powder. Elderberry syrup is also tasty on its own.
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  3. 3
    Bring the berries to a boil over high heat, then turn it down to maintain a low boil.
    Cook for 15 minutes.
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  4. 4
    Remove the elderberry juice from the stove, and let it cool a bit.
    Strain the juice through a strainer or cheesecloth, and press down on the berries with a spoon to extract all of the juice. Alternatively, you can run it through a food mill to get rid of the solids.
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  5. 5
    Return the elderberry juice to the saucepan, and add 1 to 1 1/2 cups of sugar or honey, depending on how sweet you want it to be.
    If you're using it purely for medicinal purposes, you may want to use only 1 cup. If you have raw, local honey, you can skip this step and add it after cooking to obtain its maximum health benefits.
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  6. 6
    Bring the mixture to a boil once again, and turn it down to a maintain a low boil.
    Cook the syrup for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally until it thickens. If you didn't add any sweetener, it will not thicken at this point and you can stop cooking it.
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  7. 7
    Remove the elderberry syrup from the stove.
    If you're using raw honey to sweeten the syrup, stir 1 to 1 1/2 cups of honey into the berries. Allow it to cool, and transfer the syrup to clean, dry jars. Store them in the refrigerator for a few months.
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Using Elderberry Syrup for Health

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The flavonoids in elderberries are powerful antioxidants, and they help to protect cells from damage. Elderberry syrup can boost the immune system and may help prevent colds or the flu. For immune support during cold or flu season, adults should take a tablespoon of elderberry syrup a day, and children should take a teaspoon. If you happen to get sick, adults should take 1 tablespoon up to four times a day, and children should take 1/2 tablespoon up to four times a day, starting at the onset of symptoms. According to studies, these doses appeared to shorten the duration of influenza compared to placebo. One study reported that it shortened the duration of influenza by more than 50%. Elderberry syrup may also reduce the symptoms of colds and the flu, such as fever, headaches, cough, body aches and fatigue.

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Important Notes

  • Red elderberries are poisonous. Only black elderberries are safe to eat. If you're not 100% sure if the elderberries that you harvested are safe to eat, contact your local cooperative extension for help. You might need to take samples or photos to show them.
  • Never eat raw or unripe elderberries. Many parts of the elderberry tree are poisonous, including the stems, leaves, seeds and bark, so avoid consuming them at all costs. They can cause extreme digestive upset, profuse sweating and other unpleasant symptoms if consumed.
  • People with overactive immune systems such as those with lupus or other autoimmune disorders should consult their doctor before taking medicinal doses of elderberry syrup.
  • If you have problems with any of these steps, ask a question for more help, or post in the comments section below.
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