Elderberries: Natural Immune System Support!


Homemade Elderberry Syrup

Homemade Elderberry Syrup

Black elderberries grow commonly in the wild in many parts of the world, and they are inexpensive to order online as well. I got my dried elderberries from  Mountain Rose Herbs to add to our diet to boost our immune systems this winter.  I made the dried elderberries into homemade elderberry syrup, added a tablespoon of dried berries to applesauce I was making in the crockpot, and I add some to tea sometimes.



In the Gut and Psychology Syndrome book (available at the GAPS Store on my Resources Page) Dr Natasha Campbell-McBride talks about the immunity boosting properties of Elderberries:

Medicinal properties of this plant have been appreciated for centuries. Its flowers, berries, leaves, and bark were traditionally used for treating colds, pneumonia, flu, sore throat… and many other ailments. Black Elderberry has got strong immune-stimulating properties and it is one of the most powerful anti-viral remedies known to man. You do not have to be an experienced herbalist to use this plant.

Juicing Elderberries

Dr Campbell-McBride goes on to recommend juicing the berries with the daily juicing on the GAPS protocol (she recommends 1 teaspoon of fresh berries juiced per person per day), we don’t always do daily juicing so I’ve been finding other ways to get elderberries into our diets.

Elderberry Syrup

Elderberry syrup is easily poured onto pancakes, mixed with hot water as tea, or stirred into yogurt. The syrup recipe is easily added to based on flavors you prefer, and adaptable to the ingredients you have on hand. In fact, the only mandatory ingredients in the syrup are elderberries and water!  The other ingredients  serve purposes of flavoring (vanilla), antiviral (cinnamon, ginger, and cloves), vitamin C (rose hips), and sweetening (honey) so they’re helpful, but not necessary in the homemade elderberry syrup.

Homemade Elderberry Syrup Recipe

1 cup dried elderberries (or 2 cups fresh) ~ available at Mountain Rose Herbs
2 tablespoons rose hips
2 cinnamon sticks
5 cloves
1 teaspoon dried ginger or one inch peeled fresh ginger
1/4 vanilla bean

4 cups water

2 cups honey

Homemade Elderberry Syrup Directions:

Over medium-low heat simmer the elderberries, rose hips, cinnamon sticks, cloves, ginger, vanilla bean and water.  Simmer for 20-30 minutes, or until liquid is thick and syrupy and reduced by half.   While the mixture is still warm (or the elderberries will absorb all of your syrup!) strain the syrup through a sieve.  Combine with honey and store in an airtight container (I use a mason jar) in the refrigerator.

1-2 teaspoons a day is recommended to help prevent illness.  Honey is not recommended for children under 1 year of age, due to the very small risk of botulism.

Adding Dried Elderberries to Applesauce

I made my apple sauce in the crockpot, which can be further reduced to make apple butter if desired.  To make elderberry applesauce, simply core and slice 8-12 apples, place in the crockpot with 1/2 cup of water.  Add 1 tablespoon dried elderberries.  Cover, and cook on low overnight.    Add honey if needed to sweeten and blend the entire pot with an immersion blender to puree the skins and berries into the applesauce.  Enjoy warm or cool!  The berries do at a slight berry flavor to the apple sauce, and the tiny seeds are just barely noticeable.  Our family enjoys this version of apple sauce!

About Immunity Boosting Herbs

I believe herbs and other natural remedies, like cinnamon and honey for colds, can be very helpful for supporting our immune system, and promoting a healthy body. But, I don’t want to overlook the fact that in order for our body, including our immune system, to work properly we need to make sure we’re feeding it nourishing health building foods such as good quality food; egg yolks from pastured hens, cream and butter and meat from grassfed animals, wild healthy seafood, fresh vegetables and fruits, properly prepared whole grains for those who eat grains, etc.

Without these basic building blocks to work with, the resulting malnourished body will constantly be run down and difficult to keep healthy through the cold and flu season! But when that foundation is in place, herbal and other natural remedies can be a wonderful addition to our medicine cabinet.

If you’re interested in natural remedies, highly recommend picking up a copy of Herbal Nurturing, I’ve tried two remedies so far, it’s fun to put together great tasting, healthy, and nourishing remedies for your family, and the children enjoy learning about how God’s creation works for healing as well.

Other home remedies I use and have had success with:

Part of Fight Back Friday at Food Renegade!

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About Cara

Cara is the main author here at Health Home and Happiness. She loves the health and energy that eating well and playing well provides and has a goal to share what she's learned with as many families interested in making healthy changes as possible.

She helps other families achieve health in simple steps with the GAPS Starter Package, The Empowered Mother Pregnancy Resource, and helps them stock their freezer for busy days with Grain-Free Freezer Cooking Guide.


  1. I shared this article with my friends on Facebook. Good info for every momma to have!

  2. hope you are getting better… sore throat is not a lot of fun its just uncomfortable and difficult to swallow.

    usually, i would take the Nim Jiom Cough Syrup (www.geocities.jp/ninjiom_hong_kong/index_e.htm ) which has a thick consistency formulation. it coats the throat and includes herbs that are particularly good for that application.

    i hope it works on you as well.

  3. Charlotte says:

    Thanks for this, i will def keep and make next year. We get a few elderberries in our garden but this year they came and went just as we got back from holiday and i never did get around to harvesting :-(

    • Bummer! We have elderberries in the wild, but I ended up just ordering some because I didn’t think I’d actually get out there to get them (or want to compete with the bears!)

  4. Cara,

    What dosage (adult & child) of this syrup would you use when you are sick? Can a person overdose? Does this syrup require refrigeration? Lastly, what could be used as a honey substitute in the recipe?


    • Hi Corinne,
      I’d continue giving my kids 1 teaspoon a day, adults 2 teaspoons when they’re sick, but elderberries are also used in cooking (jam, jelly, etc) so they’re perfectly safe to eat.

      We’ve made some syrup and didn’t add honey to it, and I just stir it into apple sauce or yogurt.

  5. i think you can use maple syrup (the real stuff) in stead of honey. i used a combo (honey and maple syrup) in the last batch of elderberry syrup i made.
    i liked it. wasn’t overpowering of honey flavor.


  6. I have many overhanging into my garden and would love to use them but I’m worried because I heard they can be poisonous! Are there different types of elderberries?

    • A L Moseley says:


      Yes there are different species, but from what I know they are mostly the same. I use Sabucus Nigra which is poisonous when red so wait til the fall when it turns dark purple almost black (hence the name). Also I sell a juice that makes a wonderful syrup, jelly, wine and salad dressing – no preservatives, sugar added or colors just straight in a concentrate. It has stopped the sniffles in my family for the most part for the last 4 years and boosted our immunities as well as echinacea, but can be taken longer. It is also a fruit serving. Even diabetics can use it.

  7. Jessica B. says:

    Hello! Noob question from someone who’s never done this before: Do you add the rose hips whole or do you grind them up at all? The ones I picked up from our herb store in town are at least 1/2 inch long and 1/3 inch in diameter. (They look HUGE-at least to my untrained eyes.) :)

  8. Erica Kernan says:

    How much does this recipe make? And how long will it keep?

  9. In regards to the applesauce, I recommend researching the safety of your crockpot as most contain lead in the interior glaze that leaches in to your food, thus making one’s healthy food now toxic. Debra’s Green List is one place to start research, but you can order lead test kits to use at home. I think some of the comments share how they did this. Here’s Debra’s thread on lead in crockpots http://greenlivingqa.com/content/slow-cooker-lead-free-glaze

  10. Just made this today. Tastes yummy. Just in time because my adult son is fighting a sore throat and sniffles. I also just ordered a bottle of Flora Sambu last week and it wasn’t cheap. I think I will be making it from now on.

  11. Hello, do you have or know where I can find a recipe for elderberry jelly using the dried berry? Thanks

  12. Michelle Cousins says:

    Just wondering – are rose hips a critical piece for this recipe? Would it be as effective for flu prevention without them? I’ve read about rose hips and while they have a ton of vitamin C, the tons of interactions I found online really spooked me a bit.

  13. Hi Cara, Just made another batch of elderberry syrup and I got to wondering if you can reuse the elderberries again??? Do you have any idea if they would have any medicinal value?? I’ve heard of refrigerating them and eating them…. Thanks for any info you may have!

  14. What would be the reason for not adding the honey while it is simmering?


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