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Elderberry Syrup (and what to do if you get the flu!)

In late September, I woke up one Sunday morning feeling a little tickle in my throat. By late afternoon I was fading fast, feeling downright sick, and too uncomfortable to make it through church. My husband took over for the rest of the day and I crashed. Hard.

All day Monday I felt terrible. I hadn’t been sick in over two years, and I had forgotten how miserable it really is.  I had a fever, achiness from head to toe, a throbbing headache, and a throat so sore I couldn’t stand it. Considering how fast I came down, and my fever, I self-diagnosed myself with influenza, and not just a cold.

We were heading out to California on a long-anticipated trip in two days. I didn’t have time to be sick!

I researched what to do to really heal from the flu.  I don’t like remedies that simply alleviate symptoms, I want to be truly healed, so Dayquil was not going to cut it. On top of that, I’m nursing a baby so there aren’t many medications I could take, even if I was open to them.

Joel Fuhrman is a doctor I really trust. Based on his findings, he created this list when it comes to recovering from the cold and flu (found in his book Super Immunity, which I recommend everyone read and keep on their shelf. No, this is not an ad).

Likely a waste of time:

Chicken soup, humidifiers, increased water intake, nasal saline rinses, vitamin C, echinacea.

Likely Helpful:

Zinc, vitamin D, Elderberry, caloric restriction, increase in greens and raw veggies.

I was serious. I drank green smoothies and little else. I took zinc. I slept as much as possible. I just needed elderberry extract….so I sent Carson to the local health food store. He came back with dried elderberries in hand and a recipe.

I had taken elderberry tablets in the past, with no noticeable difference. I wasn’t too sure if this homemade stuff would improve my condition, either.

I drank a few mugs of tea that evening, then took a swallow of elderberry extract (sans honey, which isn’t so tasty) every couple of hours throughout the night. By morning, I was a new woman. No fever, no achiness, so much more energy and just a tickle left in my throat. California trip was back on, and I was so relieved to be myself again!

I’ve since done more research on this magical little berry. Apparently, it’s one of the most ancient of medicinal foods. Recipes go back to Ancient Egypt, and even Hippocrates referred to elderberry as “nature’s medicine chest.”

Unlike the flu shot and antivirals, there are no side effects of taking elderberry extract (some people have had nausea when they eat the raw berries, so just be sure to consume them cooked). Several studies have been done about its effectiveness with influenza, and in multiple studies (not funded by elderberry companies) “on average, the patients who received the elderberry syrup saw relief of symptoms 4 days earlier than the group that received the placebo syrup.”

Elderberry acts as an antiviral, attaching itself to the tiny protein spikes on the surface of a virus, preventing it from being able to penetrate healthy cells. I love that it really fights the actual virus, it doesn’t just mask the symptoms.

You’d think such a powerful berry would be disgusting like most uber-healthy things are, but when mixed with honey, this syrup is actually delicious! I would pour it on my pancakes if it weren’t so expensive! I’m taking just a spoonful a day for prevention, and I always want to take more.

Dried elderberries can be found at most health food stores, or on Amazon (that’s an affiliate link there). Making the syrup is really very easy. A step-by-step video is on my highlighted Instagram stories in my Instagram profile.

Have you taken elderberry extract in the past? Let me know if you make this syrup, and what your results are!

5 from 1 vote
Elderberry Syrup
Prep Time
5 mins
Cook Time
45 mins
Total Time
50 mins

Elderberry has been shown to reduce the severity and length of influenza. Adults take 1/2-1 tablespoon a day during flu season to prevent, and 1/2-1 tsp for kids. For active flu symptoms, take normal dose every 2-3 hours instead of once a day, until symptoms disappear. 

Servings: 16 ounces
  • 2/3 cup dried elderberries
  • 3.5 cups water
  • 1 tbsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp whole cloves, or ground cloves
  • 1 cup raw honey
  1. Pour water into medium saucepan and add elderberries, ginger, cinnamon and cloves. Do not add honey yet. 

  2. Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce to a simmer for about 45 minutes to an hour, until the liquid has reduced by almost half. 

  3. Remove from heat and let cool. 

  4. Pour through a strainer to a glass bowl. 

  5. Save elderberries in an airtight container to be used for tea later, or discard. 

  6. When it is completely cool, stir in 1 cup of raw honey and stir well. Pour syrup into a jar or bottle. Keep in the fridge. Will last for months. 

To make elderberry tea:
  1. In a mug, place 2 tablespoons (ish) cooked elderberries leftover from making syrup. Add 1 cup water, and heat until desired warmth. Either strain berries out, or just leave them in the bottom of your mug. Sweeten with honey. 

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  1. I am so glad to now know about a cure for flu and colds! A million thanks for saving us all from those twin barbarians.

    1. It’s so nice that for once it’s not a gross-tasting solution, like chewing raw garlic for instance (which is also pretty effective).

  2. I would like to make this recipe WFPB with no added processed sugar or animal products (honey). I am thinking of using some dates to replace honey. Do you have any ideas/recommendations for the right amount? Thanks so much!

    1. This is a great question. It is almost always made with raw honey from what I can find, but I would try sweetening it with a little date syrup or date paste (dates blended with water). I would just use enough to taste. I have been drinking the extract without any honey, just to save money and added sweeteners, and although it’s pretty yucky, it works! You can also add it to hot water and sweeten with your favorite sweetener to taste for a tea.

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