Elderberries (Sambucus canadensis) grow wild all over the eastern half of the US. When we first started homesteading, I had no idea they grew wild in my area. I ordered two varieties from an online nursery, which quickly grew into lovely small trees. Now that I know what the plant, the flowers, and the fruits look like in their various stages of growth, I notice elderberries along highways, at the edges of overgrown fields, and in roadside ditches… they’re everywhere!
The small purple-black fruits of the elderberry plant are an amazing source of Vitamin C, Vitamin A, and anti-oxidants. They have very strong immune boosting properties, and have proven to be effective at reducing the length and severity of colds and flu.
Every July I harvest several pounds of elderberries for making jelly and an immune boosting syrup. If I can’t cook them right away, I stick them straight into a freezer bag to store until I have time to process the berries. Elderberries also make great juice, wine, vinegar, dressings, and shrubs (the drink, not the plant). I also dehydrate them to add to muffins, pancakes, granola, and oatmeal.
Mid-September, when the air begins to get crisper, is usually when I start making batches of immune boosting elderberry syrup. The syrup is basically an infusion of berries and strong medicinal herbs, sweetened with honey. My kids love the taste, and happily take their daily dose.
Here’s how I make elderberry syrup:
Immune Boosting Elderberry Syrup
*Yields approx. 1 quart
- 1 cup elderberries (fresh, frozen, or dried)
- 8 Tbsp dried rose hips (If you want to grow your own plant the Rosa Rugosa variety)
- 8 Tbsp dried Echinacea root
- 3 tsp dried ginger root
- 4 whole cinnamon sticks
- 4 cups filtered water (not treated/city water)
- 1 1/2-2 cups honey (raw, local if possible)
Pour the elderberries, rose hips, echinacea, ginger root, and cinnamon sticks into a medium stainless steel pot. Cover with water. Bring almost to a boil, then turn the heat to med-low and simmer uncovered for about 30 min, or until the liquid is reduced by half.
Once the mixture has cooked down, strain the herbs from the liquid using a mesh sieve or cheesecloth. Since organic cinnamon sticks aren’t too cheap, I reuse them several times. Rinse and air dry the cinnamon sticks thoroughly, then store in a glass jar or ziploc bag.
Allow the strained liquid to cool until warm enough to handle. Stir in honey, tasting until you’ve added the right amount to suit your preference. Echinacea adds a little bitterness to the syrup, so I always go heavy on the honey. Plus, honey is good for sore throats, coughs, and colds.
We take 1 teaspoon a day (adults and children over a year old) as a preventative measure. When we’re sick I usually double or triple that, taking a tsp at mealtime throughout the day. I would not recommend giving this syrup to babies under a year old.
Store in an airtight jar in the fridge for up to 2 months.
Making your own elderberry syrup is so much cheaper than buying bottles of Sambucus at the health food store. Especially when you grow or forage the ingredients!
I think I’ll sit down and have a few swigs of this stuff. I feel a cold coming on.
Do you have elderberries growing where you live?