by erin stewart -1

How to Make Elderberry Syrup + How to Use It

Elderberry syrup is practically a treat in our house. Fresh batches never stick around very long and I find myself making more often. I tested a lot of recipes when I first set out to develop one and finally settled on this one as my absolute favorite. Elder is one of the herbs that is associated with a rich history of folklore in seemingly every culture, perhaps because it is such a noteworthy and powerful herbal ally.

The Elderberry used for medicinal purposes comes from the Sambucus nigra tree-like shrub, which produces clusters of dark purple berries in late summer to early autumn. It can grow to be up to 20 feet high and wide, but is often found at heights as low as 3 feet. The plant has a pith-centered stem and compound leaf structure with 5-9 serrated leaves. I have come across a few people groups who still hollow out the branches and use them to make flutes like this one. The branches produce clusters of small, cream-colored, twinkle light-like flowers that are also used medicinally, in food and skin care recipes, and that turn into the well-loved clusters of fruit valued by humans and birds alike.

Elder is fairly easy to cultivate and can be propagated by seed or with cuttings. It can thrive in almost any kind of soil, but does like moisture and some good compost. I like to plant Red Clover near its base once the plant has established itself to help nourish the soil. Elderberry seeds seem to have a higher germination rate when stratified (though I know some herbalists who don’t think it’s necessary) and can be planted in the fall season when they would naturally fall to the earth. Expect fresh little Elderberry seedlings to pop through that soil sometime in early spring.

Elderberries are a powerful peoples’ medicine but they are usually best used after they have been cooked. The raw fruits can cause nausea and digestive issues when consumed because of the chemical composition of their seeds.

Elderberries are most well known for their starring role in Elderberry syrup – a traditional home remedy that is renowned for its ability to help people feel better faster during the cold and flu season. They have been studied a lot in recent years and some of the results of these scientific studies have been impressive, bolstering Elderberry’s reputation even in western circles. Elderberry is indicated for a variety of cold and flu symptoms, respiratory infections, sinusitis, fever, coughs, and more. Energetically, it’s a cooling and drying herb.



  • organic Elderberries
  • organic dried Ginger root
  • organic Lemon juice
  • filtered water
  • raw, organic Sucanat (or whatever organic, raw, unbleached sugar you prefer to use)
  • organic Lavender buds (They must be English Lavender buds from certain varieties of Lavandula angustifolia plants – look for Lavender buds labeled as culinary Lavender, like these, which come from a friend’s beautiful farm.)

Watch the video below to learn how to make it.



You can also make herbal syrups with honey instead of the sugar. For a long time, I did this because I prefer honey to sugar, but I ultimately ended up deciding that the consistency and shelf life of syrups made with sugar is so much better (in my opinion, anyway) that we now make them with raw sucanat (a type of unbleached, unprocessed sugar that is, essentially, dehydrated sugar cane juice) here in our house. Yay for nice thick herbal syrups! =)

What do you like to include in your Elderberry syrup recipe? Have you ever made any for your family?

Much love,

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Erin Stewart is an herbalist, NAHA certified aromatherapist, organic gardener and urban homesteader. She grows over 150 kinds of aromatic and medicinal plants for her own apothecary and distills essential oils and hydrosols in her PNW garden. Erin is the founder of Floranella and of AromaCulture’s herbalism + aromatherapy magazine.

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8 thoughts on “How to Make Elderberry Syrup + How to Use It”

  1. Hi Erin.

    Is it ok to steam the Elder berries instead of boiling them? Boiling can destroy the chemical composition and benefits of plants and veggies.


    1. Erin Stewart

      Hi Gary,

      You can bring the water to a boil, then add the elderberries and ginger to it if you’d rather. You’ll then reduce the heat to low and simmer for the remainder. This method yields a traditional herbal decoction, which is then preserved with a sweetener to create the syrup. Steaming the berries will not give you a decoction, which is what is needed in order to make the syrup. Hope this helps!

  2. It’s THAT time of year again!! I just finished making some elderberry syrup a couple of days ago. I decided to add some rosehips, ginger, cinnamon and a few cloves. OH MY the rosehips added this extra tart/tangy flavor burst. Think I will skip the cloves next time, not a huge fan. Will have to try with raw sugar next time. Wondering what a splash of vanilla bean paste would taste like in it. Hmmmmm. Oops have to run and have a teaspoon or two.

  3. Debbie Brazda

    I added elderberry juice to my fresh prune juice, and boy is it delicious. I use a lil shot glass

  4. I have an abundance of elderberries on my property. Do you have any suggestions for getting the stems off all those tiny berries?

    1. Erin Stewart

      Freezing the clusters on a cookie sheet before trying to remove them can make the process so much easier and faster. Just shake them off the stems once they’re frozen and most of them will come off on their own. =)

  5. Pingback: Tips for Winter Wellness - Joyful Aromatics LLC

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