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Instead of reaching for conventional cold and flu medicine this season, which lets face it, tastes disgusting and are full of nasty ingredients like sugar and artificial flavors, lean into something more holistic – and far more delicious. 

Elderberry syrup is a centuries-old herbal elixir that has proven antioxidant benefits and may reduce symptoms of cold and flu. Plus, it's so tasty even kids like it. Watch the video to see how easy it is to make elderberry syrup and read on to discover the health benefits of elderberries.

Watch How Easy it is To Make Elderberry Syrup

What are Elderberries?

Black elderberries, or Sambucus nigra, are small berries that come from the European elder tree, native to Europe and North America. The tart, bluish-purple berries and cream-colored flowers of the tree have been used for centuries for topical wound healing and to treat illnesses such as the cold and flu.

In fact, its potent medicinal powers gave the elder tree the nickname of the “country people’s medicine chest” for centuries.

Although black elderberries can be consumed raw, the Practical Herbalist1 notes that "they should to be processed into syrup, jam, vinegar, or tincture before use to prevent an upset stomach." The outlet also suggests avoiding dwarf elder (Sambucus ebulus), whose berries can be toxic.

Health Benefits of Elderberry Syrup

Elderberry has been widely studied due to its reported antioxidant, antiviral, antidiabetic, anti-inflammatory, immune-modulating, and antidepressant properties. As a result, we can categorically attribute many of its powerful healing benefits to its incredible antioxidant content. These include anthocyanins, which give the berries their rich blue-violet color.

One study from RSC Adv2 notes that elderberry is particularly rich in antioxidants, notably, as compared to blueberries. The study notes that elderberry juice "exhibited stronger reduction potential" as compared to blueberry juice, something a 2018 paper in Redox Biology3 explains is a "good predictor of antioxidant activity."

Homemade elderberry syrup recipe for colds and flus in a mason jar

Make this delicious homemade elderberry syrup for your next cold or flu.

Many symptoms of the cold and flu can be eased and treated with this powerful little berry. Two randomized, double blind, placebo-controlled studies4 demonstrate that elderberry extract, Sambucol, "effectively inhibits both influenza A and B strains when given orally to patients in the first 48 hours of flu-like symptoms."

Another study5 showed a beneficial effect on severity and duration of cold and flu-like symptoms when participants consumed elderberry extract lozenges.

Consuming elderberry may also shorten cold duration and symptoms in air travelers. A study6 published in the journal Nutrients showed that travelers using elderberry for ten days before travel and for five days post-arrival overseas experienced a two day shorter duration of the cold and a reduction in cold and flu-like symptoms.

Along with being antioxidant superstars, elderberries also contain a variety of nutrients including vitamins A, C, and E and trace minerals such as copper, zinc, iron, potassium, calcium, and magnesium.

Concerns have been raised about elderberries' potential to stimulate cytokine storm or cytokine release syndrome (CRS).  This is highly unlikely, as CRS is sparked in late stage infections with a large amount of tissue damage. Gaia Herbs7 has further information about this possible side effect of consuming elderberry. As with any supplement, be sure to consult your doctor to determine if taking elderberry is right for you. 

homemade elderberry syrup for cold and flus in mason jars

This homemade elderberry syrup is so delicious you can use on your next stack of pancakes. 

What is Elderberry Syrup Used For?

Elderberry syrup can be taken daily during cold and flu season to support and help modulate the immune system. According to the Practical Herbalist, "elder constituents do not cling to the tissue, which means daily treatment is not only safe but also necessary to block viruses." Consuming elderberry, the outlet continues, "doesn’t overtax the immune system or cause imbalances in the digestive tract that allow yeast infections to take hold, either, making it safe for daily consumption.”

Our Favorite Brands of Elderberry Syrup

If making elderberry syrup at home sounds like a chore, head online or to your local health food store to purchase a bottle. We prefer organic elderberry syrup that hasn’t been processed with any additives. Elderberry syrup is relatively inexpensive and one bottle should last throughout cold and flu season.

1. Nature’s Way Original Sambucus Elderberry

This elderberry syrup from Nature’s Way is made from flavonoid-rich black elderberries that have been extracted with a gentle, solvent-free process. Nature’s Way syrup is certified gluten-free, kosher, and vegetarian, plus it's a tasty way to support the immune system for both adults and children.

2. Gaia Herbs Black Elderberry Syrup

Gaia Herbs elderberry syrup has a delicious, sweet flavor and also includes natural vitamin C thanks to the addition of acerola cherries. Gaia uses certified organic European black elderberries to create a concentrate that provides the equivalent of 14,500 milligrams of fresh elderberries per serving. This syrup contains no artificial flavors or colors, no preservatives, and no high-fructose corn syrup.

3. Maine Medicinals AnthoImmune Elderberry Syrup

This organic elderberry syrup is on the pricier side, but we promise its quality and flavor is worth the splurge. Maine Medicinals notes that its “proprietary formula begins with growing exceptional, antioxidant rich elderberries and elderflowers on our certified organic farm in Dresden, Maine. Flowers and berries are harvested at their peak, and processed immediately to capture and preserve the valuable phytonutrients available in the raw fruit and flowers.”

The syrup is not only delicious (for both kids and adults!) but filled with immune-supporting powers as well.

Uses for Elderberry Syrup

Elderberry syrup is not only a medicinal powerhouse but a secret ingredient in the kitchen too. Here are just some delicious ways to enjoy this sweet syrup – and reap a dose of antioxidants and immune system support in the process!

  • On pancakes and waffles
  • On oatmeal and overnight oatmeal
  • In tea
  • On sautéed apples
  • As a cocktail or mocktail mixer
  • To sweeten homemade salad dressings
  • As part of a flavorful marinade for chicken or salmon

Elderberry Syrup Recipe

Making elderberry syrup in your own kitchen is a rewarding and simple task. All you'll need are a few ingredients and optional spices to give the syrup a hint of warming flavor. You can find dried elderberries here

To prolong the shelf life of elderberry syrup, add a splash of brandy.

  • Duration
  • Cook Time
  • Prep Time
  • 2 TeaspoonsServings


  • 1 cup dried elderberries
  • 4 cups distilled water
  • 2-3 cinnamon sticks
  • 1-inch knob fresh ginger
  • 1 teaspoon cloves
  • 1 cup raw, local honey


  1. Simmer dried berries in water with spices until liquid is reduced to two cups, which should take 30-45 minutes.
  2. Strain liquid mixture and discard or compost berries, ginger, cinnamon sticks, and cloves. Make sure to press the berries through the strainer firmly to extract any remaining liquid.
  3. Allow mixture to cool slightly before stirring in raw honey.
  4. Store in an airtight glass jar in the refrigerator for up to four months.

Please note, when making changes to your health care routine please get professional advice from your primary care physician. The above conversation is for discussion purposes only and is not medical advice. There isn’t a dietary supplement on the market that can cure, treat, or prevent COVID-19 or any disease. It is important to understand that with the ongoing pandemic, there is no one supplement, diet, or lifestyle changes, other than what’s recommended by the CDC including social distancing, hand washing, and hygiene practices, that can prevent you from being infected with the COVID-19 virus. There is no current research that supports the use of dietary supplements to protect you from the COVID-19 virus infection.

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