Cold season is upon us, and the kids are back in in-person learning (woohoo). But that means there are a lot more opportunities for germs to be spread and with all the social distancing over the last 18 -months our immune systems likely need a boost. I like to make a batch of this elderberry syrup every fall provide our bodies with immune boosting compounds. It’s so good the kids ask for it! Be carful though as it will stain clothes so administer it to the kids yourself.

My family rarely gets sick, and we don’t take antibiotics (at least we haven’t had a reason to yet). We keep our immune systems up by eating a variety of colorful whole foods, limit added sugar intake, get adequate sleep, and exercise every day. These are all things that boost the immune system. However, when one of those pesky bugs get in our bodies, we turn to natural herbal remedies before pharmaceuticals.

Elderberries, also known at Sambucus nigra are well known to lessen the length of a cold or mild flu by several days. You can purchase elderberry syrup at most stores but it’s so easy to make, more affordable, and tastes better, so I like to make my own. Plus, I get to choose some other immune boosting herbs and use local raw honey.

I use all organic ingredients. You can find the ingredients at herb and health food stores like PCC (in the greater Seattle area) Whole Foods and various herb shops. You can find them online too if you don’t have a health food store near you.


  • 3 ½ cups spring or filtered water
  • 2/3 cup dried elderberries (or 1 1/3 cup fresh or frozen)
  • 2-3 inches of fresh ginger, diced or grated
  • 2-3 cinnamon sticks
  • 5-7 whole cloves
  • 1 cup raw local honey


  1. Pour the water into a medium saucepan and add the elderberries, ginger, cinnamon, and cloves.
  2. Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce to a simmer for about 45 minutes to 1 hour. You want the liquid to reduce by almost half.
  3. Remove from heat and let cool enough to handled.
  4. Mash the berries carefully using a spoon or other flat utensil like a potato masher.
  5. Pour through a strainer or cheese cloth into a glass jar or bowl.
  6. Discard the elderberries and let the liquid cool to lukewarm.
  7. When it is no longer hot, add the honey and stir well.
  8. When the honey is well mixed into the elderberry mixture, pour the syrup into a mason jar or glass bottle.
  9. Store in the fridge in glass airtight container for up to one month. Or freeze in airtight container (mason jars filled ¾ full work well for this too) for up to one year.


Standard dose is ½ tsp – 1 tsp for kids and ½ – 1 tablespoon for adults. If you start feeling sick, take the normal does every 2-3 hours instead of once a day until symptoms disappear. Always use a clean utensil to dispense to avoid getting bacteria in the syrup.