The Ultimate Immune Boosting Elderberry Syrup

The Ultimate Immune Boosting Elderberry Syrup | GrowingUpHerbal.com | Boost your child's immune system before cold & flu season with this 3-in-1 elderberry syrup!

Elderberry syrup is a staple in most natural homes as fall approaches. This is because elderberries are known to stimulate the immune system and help the body better defend itself against germs it comes into contact with. It’s great for all ages, and it’s definitely not one of those preparations you have to force your child to take!

Elderberry syrup is a traditional herbal preparation that has been around a long time, and there are many different versions of it. Today, I’d like to share my version with you. I call it “The ULTIMATE Immune Boosting Elderberry Syrup” because it’s much more than the standard syrup you’ll find in many books.

Below, I’ll tell you how this recipe came to be as well as give you the recipe and some brief info on why this syrup is so great for cold and flu season!

How “The Ultimate Immune Boosting Elderberry Syrup” Came To Be

As cold and flu season come around, it seems there are always a bunch of different herbal preparations you’re supposed to stock up on and take each day to stimulate the immune system. It can sometimes feel a bit overwhelming when you think about all you need to do. So instead, I like to keep things simple. I don’t like having ten different supplements to take every day because I know I’ll never remember them all.

When I think of getting ready for the upcoming cold and flu season, my first thought goes to my family’s diet. I think about foods that need cut out and supplements that need to be added in. My goal here is to use nourishing foods that build our bodies up so they are functioning properly and are not bogged down and susceptible to germs.

Next, I look towards herbs and the nutrition and beneficial properties I can get from them. Several preparations immediately come to mind, such as elderberry syrup, echinacea root tincture, and vitamin C supplements for their immune-supportive properties. I also tend to make more herb balls or herbal electuaries using my adaptogenic herb blend as it works well to benefit the endocrine and immune systems as well. We also try to incorporate drinking more nourishing herbal teas which are full of vitamins and minerals as well.

Unfortunately, when it comes to herbal preparations, that’s a lot of things to make and have on hand, so I decided to combine the first three preparations together to make a super syrup that would give me and my family the joint benefits of each remedy all in one. This combo not only gives us all the immune-stimulating benefits we need, but it also saves time and effort. I’ll be talking more about the specific health benefits of the herbs used in this syrup at the end of the post, but first, the recipe!

The Ultimate Immune Boosting Elderberry Syrup

The Ultimate Immune Boosting Elderberry Syrup | GrowingUpHerbal.com | Boost your child's immune system before cold & flu season with this 3-in-1 elderberry syrup!



  1. Pour water in a saucepan and heat on high until water comes to a full boil.
  2. When water comes to a boil, turn the heat down until the water is simmering (steaming, not boiling) and add elderberries, ginger, echinacea, cinnamon, and cloves to the water. Mix well and allow the mixture to simmer for 30-45 minutes or until water is reduced in half (2 cups).
  3. Remove from heat and allow to cool for 15-20 minutes before adding bilberries, rosehips, and hibiscus. Steep, covered, for 15-20 additional minutes (the longer, the better).
  4. Strain herbs using a mesh strainer. Press the herb mixture into the strainer using a wooden spoon to extract as much juice from the herbs as possible. Allow the liquid to cool to room temperature.
  5. Measure honey and add it to your liquid. Mix well.
  6. Bottle, label, and store in the refrigerator.

The Ultimate Immune Boosting Elderberry Syrup | GrowingUpHerbal.com | Boost your child's immune system before cold & flu season with this 3-in-1 elderberry syrup!

The Ultimate Immune Boosting Elderberry Syrup | GrowingUpHerbal.com | Boost your child's immune system before cold & flu season with this 3-in-1 elderberry syrup!

The Ultimate Immune Boosting Elderberry Syrup | GrowingUpHerbal.com | Boost your child's immune system before cold & flu season with this 3-in-1 elderberry syrup!


High chance of being exposed to a viral illness? Adults can take 1 tablespoon daily, and children take 1-2 teaspoons daily.

Have a viral illness? Adults take 1 teaspoon every 2 hours while children take 1/2 teaspoon every 2 hours for the duration of illness.

Shelf Life:

I have personally found this syrup to last around 4-6 weeks refrigerated when 1 cup of honey is used, giving the syrup a 33% sugar content. If you want your syrup to last longer (closer to 3-4 months), 2 cups of honey, giving the syrup a 50% sugar content, will be a better option for you. You can also add in a bit of elderberry, echinacea, or ginger tincture to this as well as the alcohol will help to further preserve the syrup. Herbalist James Green recomments adding 1 part alcohol to 3 parts syrup for effective preservation.

I’ve also learned that, when it comes to using elderberry syrup, I rarely have to worry about the syrup going bad as we use it up quickly in our home, but this is good info to know if you wanna keep a batch in the fridge in case you need it during warmer months.

What’s So Great About This Syrup?

Like I said earlier, elderberry syrup has been a cold and flu remedy for ages, but did you know that there’s actually scientific research out there to back up those claims?

Elderberries contain phytochemicals that give them the ability to bind to viruses in order to prevent them from invading cells and replicating, and they have an affinity for respiratory viruses like influenza. Plus, they taste great, especially when added to flavorful herbs like clove, cinnamon, and ginger. These herbs have their own antimicrobial properties due to their high volatile oil content and are warming herbs that work to stimulate digestion and circulation. This helps them act as catalysts to the immune-stimulating herbs in this preparation.

Another great thing about elderberry is that it’s especially effective when used in combination with echinacea. Echinacea is one of the most researched plant in the modern world, and it has been shown in many studies to stimulate the immune system and to fight viruses and bacteria. Doctor James Duke’s The Green Pharmacy Herbal Handbook (2000) states that echinacea contains inulin which improves white blood cell speed so it can get to invaders and destroy them before they spread further. It also signals the body to release interferon, and it contains chemicals (caffeic acid, cichoric acid, and echinacin) that have been shown to kill viruses as interferon does. It also increases the number of white blood cells in the body.

Finally, elderberry, as well as bilberry, rosehips, and hibiscus, are all herbs that contain vitamin C. Rosehips are thought to contain more vitamin C than any other herb! Vitamin C is a necessary nutrient when it comes to stimulating the immune system and combating viral and bacterial illnesses.

So now, I hope you can see why I personally think this is the ULTIMATE Immune Boosting Elderberry Syrup! It’s packed full of healthy, healing herbs!

Keep track of this recipe by pinning any of these images to your Pinterest boards and sharing this post on your Facebook page!
Oh, and don’t forget to make this recipe for your family then come back here and tell me what you thought of it in the comments below. Remember, I’m here to help you learn to use herbs with your little ones!


Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health – Rosemary Gladstar

The Green Pharmacy Herbal Handbook – James A. Duke, PhD

The Herbal Medicine-Maker’s Handbook – James Green

  1. Jamie says:

    Just wondering if this recipe for elderberry syrup is safe to take while breastfeeding or pregnant? Thanks!

  2. Lisa says:

    Hey Megan, I going to try this. My question though, how does it taste? My kids already have a hard time taking oral medications, like cough syrups. I know they taste yucky, but at least as adults we can manage through it. But not my kids. They puke up more just taking the stuff.

    • Meagan says:

      It’s delicious Lisa! My kids would drink it if I didn’t keep them from it. Elderberry syrup is one of those remedies that tastes great. I think they’ll love it!

  3. Sherry Smith says:

    Where did you get the chalk lids?

  4. Alyssa says:

    Many thank to you,Meagan! You are helping my family (and so many others) more than you know. Thank you for taking the time to share with so many of us. You are amazing!

    • Meagan says:

      YOU are so welcome mama! We need more of this info and practice in the world today, and I’m here to do my part in sharing what I know!

  5. Monica says:

    Weird, just making more Vit C syrup…aha great job Meagan! I’m excited to try this syrup taste… Get back to you soon…my guy has a sore throat, he been on your Vit C syrup… He doesn’t have the soreness that bad… Keeping my finger cross…I’m doing good so far.. 🙂

  6. Monica says:

    Oh wow! I see why your kids would want to drink this syrup….So good tasting! Good job Meagan! You are a true herbalist! Making more to share..people here, getting sick…

  7. Heather says:

    I’m so excited to try this! One question. My mom freaked me out about giving echinacea to my toddlers. She said it’s only supposed to be 10 days in a row. How long can this syrup be taken? Thanks for all your research!

    • Meagan says:

      Good question Heather. First off, don’t be freaked out… it won’t hurt them. In the past, herbalists thought that if you used echinacea for too long the body would become tolerant to it and it wouldn’t be as effective for long term use, as in it only boosts the immune system initially. Thanks to more research on echinacea and scientific studies on herbs, many modern herbalists no longer believe this to be true. You’ll still find some herbalists that say to use echinacea for 2 weeks then take a 2 week break or to only use it when you’re actually sick, but I’m not sure how much of that is because it’s what they were taught from older herbalists or if it’s based on research.

      With this recipe… I’m good using it all the time. It’s decocted in water and there’s only a small amount in each batch so it doesn’t have a super strong presence as if say I were taking it as an alcohol tincture on a daily basis which would be very strong.

      You can always put it in one batch and leave it out of the next one if that makes you feel better. Definitely do whatever you see best!

  8. Aimee says:

    Is this going to be as beneficial as making a honey tincture with the same herbs (simmer processing of herbs versus tincture extraction of herbal properties)?
    Thanks for any feedback. I too am an RN, but discovering that there is so much more out there than “modern medicine” for keeping us healthy, the way God intended!

    • Meagan says:

      So when it comes to making herbal preparations that infuse herbs into something… a tincture is when you use alcohol as the menstrum, a glycerite is when you use glycerin, and an infusion/decoction is when you use water. You can also use honey, vinegar, and oils, but these go by the same name like herbal honey or an herbal oil. I’m not sure what you mean by “simmer processing of herbs verses tincture extraction of herbal properties” because this recipe is simmered (it’s a decoction that’s turned into a syrup) and there’s no tincture extraction because no alcohol is involved.

      Are you asking if making this as a tincture and sweetening it with honey (that’s called a “cordial”) will be better? If so, the answer would be no… at least not the way I intended the recipe to. Cordials are great ways to take herbs, and they’re very shelf stable however I chose to make this as a traditional syrup (water and honey) because I wanted the vitamin c out of the herbs. Water extracts vitamins from herbs where alcohol doesn’t so if you made this as a cordial you would get a good bit of the immune boosting properties, but you would leave the vitamins behind. Does that answer your question? If not, ask again, and I’ll try again! Thanks Aimee!

      • Aimee says:

        Thanks for the reply. The info I’m really looking for (since I’m relatively new into the herbal realm) is which method is going to get the most out of the herbs, for the benefit of my children’s health? At this point, I think I prefer the idea of a glycerite over a tincture for my children, however, those preparations take some extra time to complete, as opposed to this syrup. I was planning to make an herbal honey with some of the same ingredients, but am wondering if this is a better option in regards to the properties that will be present in the finished product.
        Also, any books you can recommend as reliable resources for mommy/family/individual herbal remedies would be fantastic as well.
        Thank you in advance!

  9. Marie says:

    Just wondering, if you’re using this to treat illness, do you take the 3 tbsp all at one time or space them out throughout the day? I saw another recipe for Elderberry Syrup that said the dosage during illness was 1 tbsp every waking hour.
    Thank you, for all of the wonderful information that you share!! 🙂

    • Meagan says:

      You space it out throughout the day, and you can take this as much as you want during an illness. I personally take this 3 times a day when sick and I add in echinacea tincture… sometimes extra vitamin c powder. You do whatever you want. It won’t hurt to take more. Most recipes are basic elderberry syrups so they could be taken more often. This has a lot of extra immune boosting things in it so I feel fine only taking it 3 times a day. If I really wanna stop a cold in it’s tracks, echinacea is what I reach for. Hope that helps!

  10. Doreen Shababy says:

    Hey Lady, this recipe is great, I am getting ready to make it right now!
    Doreen Shababy

  11. Stephanie says:

    Hi Meagan,
    Could I replace the dried elderberries with fresh or frozen ones? I have some frozen in the freezer, so I’d hate to buy the dried. How would the measurements and instructions change?
    Thank you so much,

    • Meagan says:

      Sorry I’m just now getting to this Stephanie! Yes you can use fresh or frozen in this recipe. All you need to do is double the elderberry measurement. Hope that helps!

  12. Angela says:

    Would this be alright to put in my morning smoothie?

  13. Melissa says:

    Hi Meagan,
    Does it matter what type of Echinacea Root is used? Rose mountain has a few varieties and I know different herbs even of the same variety bring different properties.

    • Meagan says:

      Echinacea Angustifolia is supposed to be a bit better than the Echinacea Purpurea, but the difference is only slight. I think it may be that it does a better job at boosting the immune system.

  14. Renee says:

    Hi Meagan

    Does this syrup have to be refrigerated? Obviously it would last longer. But I made this syrup last week and my family loves it, however I only saw the comment at the end of the recipe to bottle and store. I didn’t read on about putting it in the fridge. Would it still be ok to take if it’s been in my cupboard for this time? And i’m going away on a trip soon and really want to take this with me so i’m not sure about putting it in the fridge now and then taking it out again for the 10hr trip.

    • Meagan says:

      I’m so sorry Renee! I made mention of the “fridge” in the section on shelf-life, but it was totally not obvious. I’ll fix that in the post. Yes it needs to be refrigerated because of the water content. The sugar in the honey will help preserve it as a tea will go bad, even in the fridge, in 1-2 weeks, but this will last longer thanks to the sugar.

      As far as using what you made… taste it and see what you think. You’ll know if it’s bad because it will taste sour and off. I’m not sure exactly when you made it, but if it’s still good I’d put it in the fridge right away. If you wanna take it with you on your trip, I’d keep it in a cooler or somewhere with an ice pack or too to keep it cool. However, an echinacea tincture would probably be a better option since it’s less work! HTH!

      • Bahareh Moshtagh says:

        If it is a little sour and there was fungus growing on it… If i take the fungus out and boil it and its still a lil sour… should I throw it away?

        • Meagan says:

          Um, yeah. I’d throw it out and start over. How old is it? Did you refrigerate it? I definitely would not use it Bahareh.

  15. Sarah Baum says:

    Hi Meagan,
    Is it possible to substitute ground cloves for whole cloves here? I wouldn’t want it to be too strong! I can’t wait to start making this!!!

    • Meagan says:

      You definitely can Sarah. Just strain your decoction through a cotton t-shirt or a muslin cloth to filter out the ground cloves.

  16. Heather says:

    Hi meagan,
    Was wondering if i can leave out the bilberries? Don’t have them.
    Also we have been fighting a nasty virus that put my husband in the hospital and we are pretty darn healthy as well. My baby just came down with it, it looks like. Well i was wondering is this good for after catching the illness or just prevention. It seems in the past when i have made a plain elderberry syrup it was really great at preventing but not sure if it helped much after the fact. Hope this was clear as mud. Ha ha
    Thank you,

    • Meagan says:

      Yes Heather, you could leave the bilberries out. The reason they’re in the recipe is for added vitamin c. And yes, once you have something, elderberry syrup is taken in small frequent doses… around the clock while awake to help the body fight the virus. Elderberry has been shown in studies to bind to viruses and prevent them from replicating so it can help shorten the duration and severity of a virus. 1 TBSP hourly works well for adults and children if you have something active in your family. This is a food like supplement and it’s not toxic at all. Best of luck and if it were me, I’d get to drinking lots of this right away!

  17. Heather says:

    Another thought- i do have bilberry leaf could that replace it?
    Thanks again

  18. Erin says:

    Would this be ok to give to a 7 month old if I omit the honey?

  19. jesse says:

    Where did you buy you herbs to make this?

  20. Sherry Hawk says:

    Hi Meagan,

    I love this recipe! I have been giving it to my family since you first posted it. I doubled it last time and it lasted a month. I decided to quadruple it when I made it this time, but it doesn’t seem as thick. I am thinking that I didn’t boil it down enough. I added a little extra honey, but should I add more or is there something else I can do. It is still warm. So far it is keeping us all pretty healthy!!! Thanks in advance for any advice you can give.

    • Meagan says:

      Sorry I’m just now getting to this Sherry. I’m so glad you like it, and hopefully everyone you’re giving it to is liking it as well. Anyway, yes, you can stick it back in a saucepan and slowly simmer it some more until more of the water evaporates off. Usually 20-30 minutes is enough. That will make it thicken up more, but it will kill the live enzymes if you’re using raw honey. No matter, it will still be good herb wise. Let me know how it goes for you!

  21. Brittney says:

    I was wondering about all the sugar in the recipe. I was thinking sugar made it so Vitamin C was less absorbed. Is that not the case with honey? Thanks!

    • Meagan says:

      You’re right Brittney… that is also the case with honey, but when it comes to getting kids to take herbs sometimes you have to use sugar. Now, what I personally do is give elderberry syrup when trying to keep the immune system boosted so it’s less likely to get something or so it deals with whatever it gets quickly. My hope is that this along with the vitamin c we get from foods is more than the sugar we’re consuming so the vitamin c is being used in the body. Also, if we do come down with something, I switch over to an echinacea, yarrow, licorice tincture for the first day and start giving vitamin c powder like this one in larger doses. This helps to cut out the sugar from the syrup when we’re actually sick. Does that make sense?

  22. Jane says:

    Hi Meagen
    I was wondering if this syrup is fine to give a 2 year old as when I bought my herbs they warned against giving echinacea to anyone under 12 years of age. Great recipe!

    • Meagan says:

      I thing the “no echinacea for kids” thing is a misunderstanding as I’ve never heard that from seasoned herbalists. Many well-known, experienced herbalists site echinacea as safe for all ages. I’m just curious… where did you get your herb, and what was their reasoning for that.

  23. Brianne says:

    Hi Meagan,

    I just got everything to make this tonight! But, I could only get echinacea powder…can I still use this and how much should I use of the powder, instead of the dried? Thanks so much!

    • Meagan says:

      You can definitely still use it Brianne. I’d start with 1 tsp of the powder if it was powdered root and 1 1/2 tsp. if it was powdered leaf. Just be sure to strain it through a cloth, coffee filter, or towel twice when you strain the herbs so you get as much of the powder out as possible.

      • Brianne says:

        Thanks so much! I just got done making it 🙂 I have one other question: can you reuse the herb/berry mixture for another batch or is done after the one simmer?

        • Meagan says:

          It’s usually done after one simmer. If you did use it to make another batch I’d use less water so it would be more concentrated. Does that make sense Brianne?

  24. Delia says:

    Hi Megan,
    Do you think I could use powdered elderberries in place of the whole and just reduce the amount a bit?

    • Meagan says:

      I’ve never tried that, but you could totally go for it. I’m sure it would be fine… maybe a little gritty from the powder, but you never know until you try it. Maybe cut the recipe in half the first time just to be sure it turns out before you make a full batch. Let me know what you think if you do try it!

  25. Erin says:

    Hi Meagan! I was wondering how many capsules it would take, if each capsule is 60mg, to equal the 1/4 cup of Bilberries in this recipe? No one near my area sells actual Bilberries? Thanks in advance!

    • Meagan says:

      Great question Erin. The great thing about this recipe is that you can’t really go overboard with the herbs… they’re all nutritious and good for you. Since powder packs down more than the berries will, I’d guess that if you cut the measurement in half when using powder, you’d come out alright. So instead of 1/4 cup of berries, use 1/8 cup of powder. That’s what I’d do anyway. Hope that helps!

  26. Annie says:

    Hi! I just made this again tonight, been doing it for a while now, thank you!!!! But I couldn’t get raw honey and just used regular organic. Is that ok? Thank you so much for taking the time to always answer mine (and lots of other peoples) questions!! I did try to look through to see if someone had already asked this but disn’t see it or missed it. Thanks!!

    • Meagan says:

      Organic honey is totally fine to sweeten it… it just doesn’t add the benefits of the raw, but the properties of the herbs are what you’re going for mostly so you should be good to go.

  27. Amy says:

    Girl, rosehips!! I make my elderberry syrup with fresh elderberries (when I can!), ginger, cloves, cinnamon, honey & apple cider vinegar. So delicious but will be so much better with rosehips in it! A hefty dose of vitamin C and they are ready to pick during the same time – sounds like a match made in heaven to me! Thanks!!

    • Meagan says:

      Apple cider vinegar eh? I suppose it turns out kinda like an oxymel, right? I like that flavor so I’ll have to try it sometime. I tried someones elderberry syrup the other day that was made with alcohol, but it wasn’t the same although it was shelf stable that way so I suppose that was a perk. Do you refrigerate yours with the ACV or leave it out?

  28. Erin says:

    Hi Meagan! I just wanted to tell you that we just got over a round of influenza (myself and all three of my kids). However, my husband never got it even though he was in the same house and in close contact with me and the kids thanks to your ultimate immune boosting elderberry syrup! I also have added vitamin d3 drops into our daily dose of elderberry syrup! I read that if you are allergic to RAGWEED, you should not take Echinacea so, I omit it as I am allergic to RAGWEED. I am going to be adding in turmeric as well as organic orange peel The next time I make a batch, which will be soon! Thank you so much for posting this recipe as well as your cough syrups! Happy mama here!

    • Meagan says:

      Go you! And yes, turmeric is amazing! It would make a good addition. Thanks for sharing your success story with me Erin!

  29. Immune Boosting Elderberry - 20+ Articles - Five Little Homesteaders says:

    […] The Ultimate Elderberry Syrup […]

  30. Sharon Herman says:

    Hi there:) i know this post is a bit old but i thought I would ask my question anyways!
    My daughter is almost 6 months old, and i was hoping to give her some to help her cough bug shes got. Do you think its safe? If so would you reccomend giving her a teaspoon at a time? I would substitute the honey of course! Thanks so much for your time.


    • Meagan says:

      It would be safe Sharon as long as you use maple syrup or glycerin instead of honey, and you can give her a 1/2 teaspoon dose instead of the full dose. Hope that helps!

  31. Peter says:

    Hi Meagan, I have never tried adding rosehips or bilberry when making elderberry syrup. I was wondering whether the heat would destroy the vitamin C in the rosehips and bilberry?

  32. Allison says:

    Wondering the same thing as Peter, does the heat destroy the Vit C, making it pointless?

  33. Candace says:

    Is there anything you can suggested to replace the dried bilberries? I am unable to obtain them locally. Thanks!

    • Meagan says:

      Bilberries are a great herb, but I chose them because of their vitamin c content. You could simply replace them with more of another herb high in vitamin c or leave them out. They only boost the vitamin c content of the preparation. Does that help?

  34. Casey says:

    Is it okay to add echinacea if you are taking this as a supplement/prophylactic ? I read that echinacea should not be taken for more than 7 days.

    Also, any difference directions for making bigger batches? Thanks!! 🙂

    • Meagan says:

      No there’s no difference in making bigger batches Casey.

      As for the echinacea issue… it used to be thought that the body would become tolerant to it if you took in on a continual basis with no breaks in between, but that’s not really the common thought anymore. I’m sure you’ll find different herbalists to say different things, but as far as the studies I’ve looked at on it, it works really well to stimulate white blood cell production which boosts the immune system so it can respond to invaders when needed. That’s why it’s a common ingredient in elderberry syrup… to give it a bit more immune boost. The elderberries do the most work in this remedy as they’re antiviral. I personally don’t think echinacea is NECESSARY in this syrup, but it is nice to have a little extra help during cold and flu season. And I don’t think the small amounts you’d get from a daily preventative dose is harmful. The best thing to do is to take this as a preventative, then if you do come down with a cold, take large doses of echinacea root tincture for the first 24 hours, then stop the echinacea and increase your elderberry syrup dose as indicated in the recipe. Hope that helps. If it’s confusing, I’ll try to clarify more.

  35. Colleen says:

    Sorry for this dumb question, but when you say pure water do you mean distilled or purified water, like you get from bottled water? Thank you for this wonderful recipe! I ordered everything and can’t wait to get it all so I can make it.

    • Meagan says:

      Yes you can use distilled or bottled water. I prefer to use the water from my reverse osmosis system (we have city water – yuck!), but you can use spring or well water as well. Just know that they may contain some bacteria which would make your syrup go bad faster than if you use distilled or some other form of purified water.

  36. Heather says:

    Made this tonight. Love it. Appreciate your recipe. I doubled the elderberry in place of the bilberries I didn’t have, and I added a TBSP of ashwaganda to boost the adaptogen properties (I sneak adaptogens into everything I can, frankly, for myself and my preschooler as we’ve had a lot of life transition lately). I’m really happy to have your blog as a resource and have a lot of gratitude for how much information you share with us, and how responsive you are to comments. Thanks!!

    • Meagan says:

      Glad you all liked it Heather. I hope it serves you well. And just for the record, you don’t HAVE to use the bilberry at all. I just put it in to increase the vitamin c content of the formula. You can use other herbs to do that as well and save your elderberries!

  37. Charissa says:

    So this may be a strange question, but my sister was saying that Elderberries increase the number of cytokines in your bodies which is why elderberries are effective. But with the flu strains the past few years inducing cytokine cascades, would you still recommend using the syrup this year?

    • Meagan says:

      What a great question Charissa! This is something I was JUST reading about… cytokine storms that is… specifically those that occur in severe influenza infections. Herbalist Stephen Buhner, who wrote the book Herbal Antivirals (a must-have if you’re interested in using herbs for viral infections), does say that elder works well as it inhibits viruses from getting inside healthy cells, but he suggests using other herbs to decrease the cytokine storms that follow these infections. It’s actually a series of herbal tinctures in varying amounts that are used. He gets really specific in the book on amounts and dosages. It’s really fascinating stuff, and I’ve learned that elder alone isn’t likely to be all you need to manage the flu with herbs alone! As far as elderberries increasing cytokines goes… I’ve never heard that, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t true. In the book, Herbal Antivirals, elder is one herb that is specific to influenza, and no where does he mention anything about it increasing cytokines. I’m sorry I don’t have a better answer for you on this. I’m learning about this right now too. Hope this helps some though!

      • Charissa says:


        Here’s a link to the PubMed article. It’s referring to Sambucol, which is an elderberry based product. Anyway, we made a batch of the syrup and my mom and I love it! My kids don’t, and I feel pretty devastated about it!

        • Meagan says:

          Okay, yes… I just looked into this too. So a lot of herbs that have immune stimulating properties increase cytokines in the body. Most times, this is a good thing when it happens like it should. A cytokine storm happens, not because the herb causes it, but because the illness is so bad it causes it. Herbs like elderberry should be used hard and heavy when those first signs of illness are present so that they can stimulate the immune system quickly and work to minimize the infection. They’re known to help decrease the severity and duration of an illness so I definitely recommend using them as I think there’s a very good chance one can avoid a serious infection, and therefore, a cytokine storm when used correctly. Besides, there are plenty of studies and years of clinical experience that show they work. I hope this answers your question.

  38. Jessica alvarez says:

    Quick question, my daughter just turned a year old the 17th of this month would it be safe to give it to her now?
    I read that any child under the age of 12m to do maple syrup. But, the whole family drinks this. Would hate to have to make another entire batch seperately.

    She’ has a cold right now, would it be okay to give her 3x a day?

    • Meagan says:

      From my understanding Jessica, it’s fine to give it to her at this point. The honey issue is because of the bacteria “Clostridium botulinum.” Once it’s consumed by infants, it releases a toxin and basically poisons them. This doesn’t happen in older children or adults because the beneficial bacteria in the gut keep it under control. Doctors have learned that by the time a child is one-year-old, they have enough healthy gut bacteria to keep the bacteria from releasing their toxins. And, even in cases of poisoning, the child is usually fine with medical help. I think I read that it’s fatal in less than 1% of infants who get it and are treated properly. So, you may want to get an okay from your doctor, but my guess is he or she will say your little one is old enough. Hope this answers your question.

  39. Georgeann says:

    I have been reading that elderberry syrup can grow mold in as little as two weeks. I read here that it will keep up to a year. Can you help me clarify this? I don’t want to make a giant batch if it’s going to go bad. Thanks!

    • Meagan says:

      The sugar content of your syrup is what preserves it and prevents mold from growing quickly. I add 1 cup of honey to 2 cups of elderberry decoction, but we use ours up fairly quickly. If you want it to last longer, you can use 2 cups of honey to 2 cups decoction. The best way to know what works for you is to make a small batch to try out. Hope that helps.

  40. Courtney says:

    Thank you so much for this post! I’m so glad I came across your website. I am currently breastfeeding a 10 month old baby. I don’t want to give her honey yet so I’m wondering if I take this (or just plain elderberry syrup) preventatively and when sick if she will reap the benefits, or if I should find a recipe without honey to give to her. Thank you!

    • Meagan says:

      You can definitely do that Courtney and it will benefit baby some, but I feel like your body will reap the majority of the benefit. Personally, when taking precautions against viral illnesses, I’d give baby the herbs directly. Either small amounts of elderberry with maple syrup or glycerin instead of honey. Hope that helps. BTW, you can use this recipe, just replace the honey with another sweetener (maple syrup, glycerine, or organic sugar).

  41. Janell says:

    Would there be a benefit to putting ACV in this recipe? I have seen some that include that item.


    • Meagan says:

      Sure Janell. The benefit is that it extracts more minerals and preserves it more than water alone. Keep in mind, it will also change the flavor a bit.

  42. 14 Tricks to Naturally Boost Your Child's Immune System | How Does She says:

    […] Try elderberry syrup. Have you heard about elderberry syrup?  It has been a remedy for a long time and has great […]

  43. Kate says:

    Is there anything that can be used in place of the bilberry? It’s a little pricy. Perhaps more elderberry?

    • Meagan says:

      Sure thing, Kate. It’s only in there to boost the vitamin c content a bit so it could be replaced with any other herb that has a good bot of vitamin c in it. Hope that helps!

  44. Annie says:

    Hi!! Two questions, first one is why is the echinacea root crossed out in the recipe?? I’ve been making this for years now and I just now saw that!! Lol. The second question is have you ever tried to can this so it didn’t need to be refrigerated until you opened it??Is that even possible?? TIA!

    • Meagan says:

      The echinacea is crossed out because I need to update the links. BHS (where I get many of my herbs) just redesigned their entire site, and many of the links are now broken. I’ll get those fixed ASAP. As far as canning goes, I think you can do it, but I’m not sure if the heat is too much and would destroy the constituents. I don’t know a ton about canning. Maybe you could heat your elderberry juice, add your honey, and then seal the jars by turning them upside down like you do with jelly instead of water-bathing or pressure canning them. Humm. Let me know if you try it. I may try that out this fall as well and see how it goes.

  45. Diana says:

    Hi Meagan,

    I have a 4 month old son who is constantly getting sick from his older sister being at childcare. I give my daughter your immunity syrup which works a treat for her, however his colds stick around for much longer. Am I able to give it to him (made with maple syrup of course) or is he too young?
    Thanks in advance Diana

  46. Bethany says:

    Would it be OK to use the same basic formula in a tincture, similar to the echinacea one? I was thinking I’d put together all the herbs, weigh them, then figure out how much vodka and water to use based on the proportions from the echinacea tincture. I know the live enzymes in the honey add something to the formula, but we’re trying to cut out all sources of sugar and things that don’t have to be refrigerated tend to work better.

    • Meagan says:

      You can definitely make an elderberry tincture with these herbs, Bethany. You can even use glycerin instead of alcohol (or together with it) to make it taste sweet! Here’s the basic folk method for making a glycerite, but you can definitely follow the tincture recipe from the echinacea post. Let me know if you have questions. I’m happy to help!

  47. Sally says:

    Hi meagan, do you have any advice to make this elderberry syrup without refrigeration?

    • Meagan says:

      It is possible to make a syrup that doesn’t need refrigeration, but it’s a bit tricky as you never really know if bacteria is growing in it unless you test it periodically (which most people making homemade herbal preparations don’t do). However, to make a syrup more shelf stable, James Green in his book The Herbal Medicine Maker’s Handbook, recommends using pure white sugar rather than honey as it contains no water and will preserve better. Next, he says you can add 6-8 tablespoons of brandy to each pint of syrup you have to further preserve it. Now, I don’t know how long that will last you out of the fridge. I keep all my syrups refrigerated because I use honey, and I rarely put brandy in them (unless it’s a cough syrup). Anyway, I hope this helps some, Sally.

  48. Jeannine says:

    Hi Megan! I’m making my second batch of this syrup this morning, and must thank you for helping me incorporate another natural wellness protocol into my families life. We have had a pretty healthy winter so far and I wanted to let you know I appreciate you sharing your experience and expertise with us. Have a great day!

  49. Tori says:

    If I’m doubling this batch should I simmer it for longer??

    • Meagan says:

      You’ll want to simmer it as long as it takes to reduce the liquid by half in order to concentrate it enough. Hope that answers your question!

  50. nicole says:

    Can I use just elderberries and echinacea?? I don’t have any of the other herbs on hand.

    • Meagan says:

      Yep… anything is better than nothing. And, if you have cinnamon powder and clove powder in your kitchen spices, you can use those instead of the whole versions. Hope that helps!

      • Nicole says:

        Great thank you!! I’ve made elderberry syrup before and by adding that extra herb this time really seemed to help my son’s cold overnight.

  51. Laura says:

    I read the comment from 2014 that it is safe for 7mo, but want to be sure the dosage and information hasn’t changed. We also use essential oils for immune boosting. Is it safe to use on a 10mo in conjunction with those? Thanks!

    • Meagan says:

      Yes, Laura. Everything is all correct in the post. And yes, you can use elderberry syrup in conjunction with essential oils.

  52. Janine says:

    Hi Megan
    Can you tell me if i can use unripened Elderberries. I currently have green berries on my tree, but if i leave them to turn red, the birds get them.

    • Meagan says:

      I’m sorry, Janine. They do need to be ripe, but you can put bird netting over your bushes to keep the birds away from them. I run into the same problem when I collect from wild elderberry bushes which is why I usually purchase mine from Mountain Rose Herbs. Hope this helps some!

  53. Corina says:

    Meagan – this is such a fantastic recipe and your knowledge is priceless. Thanks so much for sharing with us all! I have been canning this recipe with good success, but wanted to know your thoughts on that? Am I negating any of the health benefits when canning, and though I have yet to notice the recipe spoiled, should I worry about shelf life?

    • Meagan says:

      Canning it will definitely keep it from going bad. As far as negating health benefits… I’m not sure. I think that would depend on how high the temperature got during the canning process. Waterbath canning would be better than pressure canning, but I’m not sure if that’s possible. I would think so, but I know there are different ways of canning for different foods. Sorry I’m not much help here. I’ll ask some of my herbalist friends to see if anyone knows more about canning elderberry syrup and get back to you.

  54. Connie says:

    Question on the suggested fosage? For adult daily use it is suggested one tablespoon daily. When ill only 1-2 ” teaspoons” every 2 hours. Is that teaspoons or tablespoons every 2 hours? Thank you.

    • Meagan says:

      It’s 1 tablespoon daily for prevention, and then, if you come down with something, you take 1-2 teaspoons every two hours. Ultimately, you want to spread the amount out over the day which is why you take a smaller amount more frequently when you’re ill. Hope that answers your question!

  55. sam says:

    Can it b taken daily by kids like 1 tsp during winter.also can it b taken by people with hypothyroid.thx fr help

    • Meagan says:

      It can be taken daily by kids, Sam, but I’m not sure about the hypothyroid question. I’ve never heard that it’s an issue, but you may want to check with a clinical herbalist or an endocrinologist just to be sure.

  56. Grace says:

    Hi Meagan!
    As far as quality goes, how do you think Mountain Rose Herbs compares to the Bulk Herb Store? I want to make this recipe, it looks great!

    • Meagan Visser says:

      In my opinion, they’re both great and offer high-quality products. However, MRH performs a thorough in-house quality control on all their products, and I’m not sure if BHS offers that. You’d have to call or email to find out. Also, MRH offers a larger selection so it’s easier to find more of what you need there as well as more variety in product sizes (when it comes to herbs), and their prices tend to be a bit cheaper than BHS. I shop between the two… it really just depends on what I’m ordering. Again, as far as quality goes, I feel that they’re both very similar. Hope that helps!

  57. Lina says:

    I’m not able to find any dried Rosehips in my Country and if I were to order it from the US it would take about a month to get here and we have the flu now….I have organic Rosehip powder, would I be able to use that and if so how much?

    • Meagan Visser says:

      You could totally use powdered rosehips. I’d probably use 2 tablespoons if using powdered. You could also mix the powder at then end, when adding the honey, as it would be good to eat. You don’t have to strain it if you don’t want. Best of luck, and I hope you all feel better soon!

      • Lina says:

        Thank you so much!

      • Cindy Morrow says:

        Meagan, great recipe! I didn’t read ALLLL the comments, but have you ever frozen the syrup in ice cube trays? I started doing this when I did have some getting close to date; now I do it with the majority of the syrup-my 8 grands actually like it better this way. I’m in Georgia-north of Atlanta, where abouts are you?
        Cindy Morrow, CPM
        Woodstock, GA

        • Meagan Visser says:

          I’ve never tried to freeze it as I’ve heard that honey doesn’t freeze well, but I may give it a try to prolong the shelf-life. Thanks for the recommendation. I’m in upper east TN… about 5 or so hours from Atlanta. Nice to meet you!

  58. Jamie says:

    I just added the honey when still hot is it ruined now ☹☹☹

    • Meagan Visser says:

      It’s not ruined, but some of the vitamins and enzymes may be diminished. You can certainly still use it and get all the benefits of the herbs.

  59. TOm hayden says:

    I take 2 teaspoons sambucus elderberry syrup daily and heard it could make my immune system go bonkers. Any info you have please pass it on because I am trying not to get the flu. Thank you for any help you can give.

    • Meagan Visser says:

      For most people, elderberry syrup doesn’t make their immune system become overactive. There are some people who are more sensitive to herbs, and it may cause some issues for them. However, that is not the norm. Elderberry syrup is a great remedy for flu prevention as is Fire Cider. Hope this answers your question.

  60. Dena says:

    Oh no left syrup out overnight. Is it still okay to refrigerate and use. Or should I toss. Thank you.

    • Meagan Visser says:

      The sugar content will help extend it’s shelf-life so that one night out of the fridge should not be a problem. Hope that helps!

  61. Eva Toews says:

    Will this become fermented if left in the fridge long enough? Also how do you know if it’s gone bad? (I’m sorry if you answered that in one of the previous questions!).
    Thanks for your answer!

    • Meagan Visser says:

      I’ve never had mine ferment in the fridge, but I have had it mold. Fermentation is more likely to happen when left at room temperature than the fridge. If your syrup smells bad, tastes bad, or has mold particles on it or the jar, it’s best to toss it and make a new batch. I have had success in extending the shelf-life of my syrup by adding elderberry tincture to it, though. Hope that helps!

  62. Anonymous says:


  63. Marisa Frost says:

    HI there, I made this yesterday and waited overnight to check ont hem. But they don’t seem firm enough- is there anything I can do to salvage this. Thanks, Marisa

    • Meagan Visser says:

      Hey, Marisa. I’m not quite sure what you mean by “it wasn’t firm enough.” Can you share some more details? I’m assuming you’re making elderberry syrup which isn’t firm. It’s liquidy. Let me know… I’d love to be able to help you!

  64. Ingrid says:

    I love this stuff. I have a fabulous way to get more bang for your buck… I took all the the “leftovers” & added it to a crockpot. I covered that with water, put on high for about 4 hours, then 8 hours on keep warm, & let it cool to room temperature. The resulting liquid is as strong as the first batch (flavor wise). Sunce nothing evaporates, I added half the amount of honey, but I use twice as much when adding to hot water.

    I feel a lot better about getting a second use from everything. Then, I put the remains in my compost.

  65. Brittany says:

    I’m making elderberry syrup and I’m wondering about preserving it through “canning.” The recipe I follow calls for the tea to be cooled before adding the honey. Obviously the jars won’t seal if I don’t put the lids and rings on before it cools. So, I made some elderberry tonic and sealed them without the honey and figured I could just add the honey to each jar when I open them. Does this sound appropriate? Or should I open them up and add honey to them now? If yes, should I add the honey to the hot mixture next time before sealing? Also, if they are sealed, do I still need to refrigerate them immediately or once I open them?

    Thank you

    • Meagan Visser says:

      Yes, Brittany. You can totally make a batch of elderberry juice, can it, and then add honey to each jar as you open them. Here’s a great blog post that details how she does it. Feel free to follow your own recipe. And yes, I believe you can leave these out at room temperature once they seal, but you’ll want to refrigerate them once they’re opened. Best of luck!!

  66. Sara piotter says:

    Thank you for this recipe! I just finished making this and I’m blow away by how yummy it is! I was not expecting to actual WANT to consume this – as I was expecting it to taste like cold medicine. Could NOT have been more wrong. This is delicious even without sweetener, though, I added it for the extra immune boost of raw honey. I made a double batch and used cheesecloth to squeeze every last drop of goodness from the berries and herbs. Turns out I made about 32 oz I believe. Giving some away for Valentines Day to keep my ?ed ones healthy! Sooooo happy and grateful for this recipe! ☺️?

  67. Anonymous says:


  68. AriEl says:

    I made this recipe last winter ( or the one from your children’s email?) and loved it! I am wanting to make another batch and am currently pregnant. I was curious what your thoughts were on raw honey and pregnancy? I was always under the assumption that you weren’t supposed to consume raw honey while pregnant? I haven’t tried making it with maple syrup.

    • Meagan Visser says:

      Hmm, I’m not sure. I’ve only ever heard that you needed to avoid it with children under one year of age, but it’s definitely something I’d research more or ask your obstetrician or midwife about before using it.

  69. LK says:

    Hi. I’m wanting to make your elderberry syrup recipe. Can you explain the difference between echinacea purpurea and astragalus. Which one should I purchase? Also, I’d like to understand the difference between purchasing the roots or the leaves. By the way, the links to Bulk Herb Store no longer work. Just letting you know. 🙂

    • Meagan Visser says:

      They work in two totally different ways in the body, but both support the immune system. I talk a bit about each of them in this blog post. For elderberry syrup, I like using echinacea in it. Also, roots tend to have stronger properties which are why they are most often used. However, if you don’t have roots (or can’t get them), echinacea tops (leaves/stem/flower) are better than nothing. And thanks for letting me know about the links. I’ll get around to updating them soon. For now, I just order herbs from Mountain Rose Herbs.

  70. Brooke Decker says:

    I am very excited to try this.
    I have a question, I saw the post about the ACV ( just wondering how much to use?)
    Also, I am trying to cut back on my kids sugar intake, is there a way to make it with less honey or something besides honey…Also how long will it stay good with something other than honey or less honey?
    Thank so much….
    Not about this post but I saw the recepie for Fire Cider, would that be something you can take with this, and can kids take it?
    Thanks so much

    • Meagan Visser says:

      Hey there, Brooke. If you’re wanting to avoid honey, you can replace it with vegetable glycerin, as it doesn’t affect blood sugar levels. While I’m a big fan of reducing sugar consumption in one’s diet, I’m not all that worried about it when it comes to herbal preparations since the doses are so small, especially a child’s dose. You can read a post I wrote about it here if you’re interested. If you use glycerine, your shelf-life will be the same as if you used honey due to the water amount. The only thing that will preserve it longer is adding an alcohol tincture to it, which I mention towards the end of the recipe. Fire Cider is a great preparation to make and use. Many people do use it alongside elderberry syrup. I’ve found that it’s usually a bit too hot or vinegary tasting for children. At least, that’s been the case with my own kids. I personally use Fire Cider only to keep my immune system supported during cold and flu season until people around me start coming down with colds. At that point, I add in elderberry syrup. My kids, use elderberry syrup only every day during cold and flu season. As for making elderberry syrup with vinegar, you can totally do that, but again, I’m not sure kids will enjoy it as much as syrup because it will have a sour flavor. I hope that answered your questions, and best of luck!

  71. Melinda says:

    Hi, I don’t know if I am reading this incorrectly or if it has a typo regarding the shelf life. First it says “I have personally found this syrup to last around 4-6 months” add 1 cup honey… then it says “If you want your syrup to last longer (closer to 3-4 months)” , 2 cups of honey…
    So my question is, did you mean to say 4-6 WEEKS rather than MONTHS with 1 cup honey? Thanks, Melinda

  72. Jennifer B says:

    Just brewed this up today and it is delicious! Made it with local maple syrup since we have a baby in the house and YUMMMM!!!

  73. Kelly says:

    Hello! I combined two recipes. Yours and another with lemon slices and 1/2 cup of apple cider vinegar. I hope the concoction is all safe together?! But my question is- can I just add all the dried ingredients to a tea bag and then follow the boiling directions. Or does the second set of ingredients need to only steep? Trying to make bags for my family and make it as easy as possible for them to do. As some are elderly. Thanks

    • Meagan Visser says:

      Yes! Adding lemon slices is totally fine! And if you want to add your ingredients to a tea bag, that’s fine, but you’ll want to leave out the second set of ingredients as they’re mainly to boost the vitamin C content of the syrup. If you heat those herbs by boiling/simmering them, it will destroy the vitamin c. Hope that helps!

      • Kelly says:

        Can the second set of ingredients go in a tea bag while steeping or would it not really soak thru since the waters not boiling?

        • Meagan Visser says:

          Yes! You could have a part 1 mix followed by a part 2 mix. I personally feel that the mixture will be stronger when the contents of the bags are emptied into the water as this would expose more of the herb’s surface area to the water rather than heating the herbs in their bags.

  74. Sara says:

    I reduced my liquid too much, can I add water back in after boiling and steeping?

  75. Lisa Volkmann says:

    Good Day –
    Have you ever made this recipe with Aronia Berries instead of Elderberries?

    • Meagan Visser says:

      Hey, Lisa. Great question. I’m not super familiar with Aronia berries (aka, chokeberries). I do know, like many edible berries, they’re very high in antioxidants and they’re great for cardiovascular and immune support as well as supporting the mucous membrane lining of our organs due to their astringent (tissue toning) properties. I quickly researched to see if they had any antimicrobial benefits, and it’s believed they have an antibacterial component by reducing the biofilm on bacteria so our immune system can be more effective against the bacteria. I found in one place that they were said to have some antiviral benefits, but it didn’t go into the specifics of HOW they are effective against viruses. So, yes, perhaps you could use them in place of elderberries, but I’m not certain it will give you the same antiviral effect that elderberries will. Hope that helps you out a bit.

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