Easy Elderberry Syrup to Beat Colds and Flu (or Drizzle on Pancakes!)


When my children had whooping cough 10 years ago (all at the same time, no less!), I relied heavily on elderberry syrup. Small doses throughout the day kept the mucous to a minimum which reduced the severity and frequency of coughing spells at night. Unlike some home remedies, this beneficial cold and flu supplement tastes amazing, so they always asked for it. This made my job much easier on busy days.


I never realized until that particular time that this common, nondescript little berry, particularly when concentrated into elderberry syrup, packed such a powerful punch when it comes to managing cough symptoms even for an illness as severe as pertussis.  The fact is, elderberry in many different forms has been used in folk medicine for centuries to treat flus, colds and sinusitis as well as coughs.

During my children’s bout with pertussis, I purchased elderberry syrup from our family chiropractor. It was a bit pricey, but definitely worth it especially for my youngest child, who was only 15 months at the time.

I have since learned that it is extremely easy and cost effective to make elderberry syrup yourself.

Before we launch into a recipe, let’s overview the benefits of elderberry as outlined in scientific literature.

Elderberry Syrup in Scientific Literature

Elderberry syrup is not just good for when you are sick either. It is a highly effective preventative too as it is loaded with antioxidants, Vitamin C and immune supporting minerals.

Scientific research is supporting the use of elderberries for illness.  In one study, elderberry extract inhibited several strains of influenza and reduced symptoms. In another, elderberry syrup flavonoids were found effective against the H1N1 (Swine Flu) virus.

In the most compelling study, a randomized trial of 60 patients aged 18-54 suffering from flu symptoms for 48 hours or less received 15 ml (3 teaspoons) of elderberry syrup or a placebo 4x per day for five days. Researchers observed that “Symptoms were relieved on average 4 days earlier and use of rescue medication was significantly less in those receiving elderberry extract compared with placebo”.

Besides being effective at preventing and reducing symptoms, elderberry syrup also has highly practical applications as well. It is delicious on pancakes and waffles or drizzled on homemade ice cream as a sore throat remedy when something cold is especially welcome.

In addition, elderberry syrup can help get less appealing whole food supplements like cod liver oil down the hatch for your little ones.

Tip: A teaspoon of elderberry syrup is a fantastic chaser after the daily dose of cod liver oil. If your kids dislike the taste of cod liver oil, a spoon of elderberry syrup afterward will placate them. It is a tasty treat that will quickly eliminate any aftertaste and help prevent fishy burps.

I would recommend making a batch of this elderberry syrup and having on hand in the pantry year round. It is helpful anytime colds, flu and coughs are making the rounds in your household.

Suggested Elderberry Syrup Dosage

A single teaspoon of homemade elderberry syrup once or twice a day is sufficient as a preventative measure.  If illness strikes, use more as necessary, with up to 3 teaspoons, 4x per day as used in the randomized study described above.  For young children who cannot have raw honey yet, half the maximum dosage is recommended and either dilute the syrup with hot water before serving. Another option is to heat the elderberry syrup on the stove in a small pan before administering to pasteurize the honey.

How to Make Elderberry Syrup

The simple elderberry syrup recipe below contains only 3 ingredients. A single batch is enough to take your family through an entire cold and flu season. Hint: start it up a few days before school starts!

Simple Elderberry Syrup Recipe

This 3 ingredient elderberry syrup is simple and fast to make and uses raw honey to boost healing and antibiotic properties.

 Prep Time 5 minutes

 Cook Time 30 minutes

 Total Time 1 hour

 Servings 6 bottles



  1. Place dried elderberries (or 1 cup fresh, ripe elderberries if you have them locally) and filtered water in a medium saucepan. 

  2. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer on medium-low for 30 minutes.

  3. Remove pan from heat and mash the elderberries to release any remaining juice.

  4. Strain the mixture into a glass bowl using a cheesecloth (I use these)

  5. When the liquid has come to body  temperature or lower (about 30 minutes), gently stir in the raw honey and mix thoroughly. 

  6. Store and label in small, 8 or 12 ounce glass, amber bottles (I use these).

Recipe Notes

It is very important to allow the syrup to cool before stirring in the raw honey else the heat will destroy the honey's antibiotic properties.

This mixture will last many months in a cool, dark pantry or in the refrigerator.

Please do not make this recipe with the juice of pressed, raw elderberries. Raw elderberry syrup is a big no-no for the reasons cited in the linked article. Raw is not always better!

Don’t Want to Make Elderberry Syrup?

If after reviewing the elderberry syrup recipe above, you decide that making it won’t be an option at this time, buying it is an option. Commercial brands are not as potent or effective as homemade elderberry syrup made with raw honey. However, they can definitely be used in a pinch (this brand is one of the best).

Once you have all the quality ingredients on hand, you can make a batch of syrup with fresh or dried elderberries at that time.


Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist
The Healthy Home Economist holds a Master’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania. Mother to 3 healthy children, blogger, and best-selling author, she writes about the practical application of Traditional Diet and evidence-based wellness within the modern household. Her work has been featured by USA Today, The New York Times, ABC, NBC, and many others.