Is it just me, or is EVERYBODY sick? I swear our house is a petri dish with the combination of germ sources that are dragged through our house. As soon as one child gets over the sniffles and a cough, the next one comes home with it. And the baby? Oh, the poor baby! I’m pretty sure there has only been one week of her entire 15 week life that she hasn’t been sick! Fortunately, she is always in good spirits as long as there is a lot of noise and commotion around her. Basically, as long as we are loud and living life to its fullest! And that we definitely do — good or bad!
So back to being sick, do you know how powerful the elderberry is? It is poisonous if it’s eaten raw, but if you boil it in water and reduce the volume down, it is both preventative and can reduce the severity of colds or the flu. It is so easy to make, the biggest challenge is only finding the highest quality ingredients, then waiting for them to arrive. While the syrup is a super simple recipe to follow, there is a lot of background regarding the ingredients. If you want to know the details about each one, skip the bottom of this post.
Why make your own elderberry syrup when you can buy it at the store? Because it’s so expensive! Our family of six will go through one bottle in a day, and each bottle is close to $20, OR you can buy your own ingredients and make an endless supply of homemade syrup. Each 8 oz package of elderberries costs less than $10, makes eight batches of syrup, and each batch produces 14 oz of syrup. When you add the cost of honey, and glycerin/molasses, it works out to less than $1 per equivalent store-purchased bottle — a $19 savings per bottle! Plus, you have the extra immunity-building bonus of using the most local honey you can get. Score!
Homemade Elderberry Syrup
- 1 oz elderberries, dried (weighed with a scale)
- 16 oz filtered water
- 4 oz honey
- 2 oz vegetable glycerin (food grade!!) or molasses*
*Vegetable glycerin is more kid-friendly and tastes more similar to store-bought elderberry syrup, but it is soy-based, so buy organic and beware in case you have a soy allergy. Molasses is more natural and wholesome and what I prefer for my family, although it is an acquired taste.
- Cheesecloth, coffee filter, or flour sack towel
- Glass storage container with lid such as a mason jar, old Kombucha bottle, or cute amber or cobalt blue jars
1. Place the elderberries and water in a pot.
2. Bring to a boil, and reduce heat to slightly above a simmer, keeping the mixture at a gentle boil, uncovered.
3. Reduce the mixture until it is approximately half of what you started with, which takes about 35-45 minutes.
4. Strain the herbs with a cheesecloth, coffee filter, or flour sack towel, and pour the liquid into a glass measuring bowl or mason jar with cup measurements on it.
5. Add the honey and vegetable glycerin or molasses to the elderberry reduction, and slowly stir. Helpful Hint: don’t pre-measure your liquid ingredients; if you added the elderberry liquid to a glass jar with measurements, slowly add the honey until it is 4 oz higher, and slowly add the vegetable glycerin or molasses until it is 2 oz higher! Boom. Just saved you a couple of dishes.
6. Transfer to storage container with tight fitting lid (I love old glass Kombucha bottles), label, and store in refrigerator for 3-6 months.
Preventative: To prevent the flu and colds, take this once a day for 3-4 consecutive days. To avoid building up a tolerance, you want to take it for three days, then do not take it for four days, then repeat the cycle each week. Also referred to as “three days on, four days off.” If your child is resistant to taking it, “hide” it in smoothies, juice, oatmeal, or combine with pancake syrup!
- Children: 1/2 to 1-1/2 tsp, 1x a day (do not ever give honey to a child under 12 months)
- Adults: 1 T, 1x a day
Medicinal: The moment you are starting to feel “off,” as in, sort of achy, maybe a headache, nose is starting to sniffle, etc., take your first dose, up to 4 times a day. If symptoms go away, then stop taking it. If your symptoms continue, or if you are already sick, taking elderberry syrup can help reduce the seriousness of your symptoms when taken in conjunction with your other medicines.
- Children: 1/2 to 1-1/2 tsp, 4x a day
- Adults: 1 T, 4x a day
How to choose the best ingredients for herbal syrups
Why does the quality of ingredients matter? If we are spending our time making homemade herbal syrup, we want to make sure we are extracting the most potent medicine we can get! Here is how to choose the best ingredients;
- ELDERBERRIES, dried – Look for either wild crafted or organic. Wild crafted is preferred because it means they were harvested from their natural habitat, which also was not disrupted when the berries were picked. If you can find wild crafted, definitely pick them up even if they are more expensive. The second best option is organic, which means that no pesticides were used when growing them. Also note that medicinal herbs only keep their potency for up to six months, so do not try to store them for years! Make as much as you can and plan to buy more halfway through the year.
- Recommended brands: Pacific Botanicals, Mountain Rose Herbs, or Frontier Co-Op
- HONEY. raw and local – This is used as a sweetener for the syrup, but get more bank for your buck by finding the most local beekeeper who lives near your house that you can! Find your local beekeeper online, and buy from him. Or, go to your local farmers’ market and buy from the person selling honey. If neither of those are options, buy a jar of honey from your local natural foods store, and make sure it is raw and local. Determine which is the most local to you by reading the label to see which city the bees produced in. The closer to your city, the better. Why? That’s another post entirely!
- WATER, filtered – Hopefully you have a filtered water dispenser in your house that you use for drinking water. If not, buy it bottled. Try not to use your tap water because it has a lot of chemicals of its own to contend with. Want to know how safe your drinking water is? Check it out here.
- VEGETABLE GLYCERIN or MOLASSES, organic – This is used as a stabilizer to give your syrup shelf life. Vegetable glycerine is more kid-friendly and tastes more similar to store-bought elderberry syrup, but it is soy-based, so buy organic and beware in case you have a soy allergy. Molasses is more natural and wholesome and what I prefer for my family, although it is an acquired taste. My kids prefer the molasses version, but most others prefer the glycerin version