Last winter was a tough one in our house for colds and the flu. I had heard about how effective elderberry syrup was for battling infections. So, I tried it, and I now swear by it. I’ve played around with different recipes, and came up with a strong syrup that tastes so good that my kids gladly take their medicine!
According to the information found at Mountain Rose Herbs, elderberry has been clinically proven to be effective at fighting 8 different strains of the flu, has the ability to prevent the flu virus from spreading through the respiratory tract, and 90% of test subjects received relief from the infection in 3 days as opposed to 6 days with placebo. For more information, click here for Mountain Rose Herb’s full elderberry profile (you might want to buy some dried elderberries while your there).
You can buy elderberry syrup pre-made, or you can make it at home. It’s much less expensive and very simple to make. The most basic way to make it would be to boil the berries, strain the liquid, and add it to honey. However, I have added a number of other ingredients to my syrup because when it comes to respiratory infections, I can’t afford to play around. They always hit me hard, so I fight back even harder.
- 1/2 cup dried elderberry
- 3 cinnamon sticks
- 5-6 cloves (like you stick in a ham, not garlic cloves- those are listed below)
- 2 tablespoons anise seed
- 3-4 sliced garlic cloves
- Sliced ginger root (about the size of your thumb)
- 3 tablespoons spearmint or peppermint
- 1 Tbs thyme
- 1 Tbs rosemary
- 1 Tbs mullein
- 1 Tbs marshmallow leaf.
- 1 cup raw honey (or 1/2 honey and 1/2 maple syrup, or all maple syrup if for a child under 1 year)
Put the elderberry, cinnamon sticks, cloves, ginger, and garlic into a pot with 2 cups cold water and bring to a boil for 10 minutes. This is called a decoction, which is necessary in preparations using roots and barks. Lower heat to a simmer, and add the spearmint, thyme, rosemary, mullein, marshmallow. This is an infusion. An infusion is more gentle as the leafy and flowering parts of plants are more delicate and the healing properties can be destroyed by boiling.
Simmer for an additional 20 minutes with the cover on. Strain the mixture through a sieve, mesh strainer, or a cloth and catch the liquid into a bowl. Make sure to squeeze all the liquid out that you can, because you don’t want to pass up any of that cold & flu fighting goodness!
While the liquid is still warm, add in the honey and stir until it is fully blended. The liquid should have reduced by half during that 30 minutes total on the stove, and with the 1 cup of honey, the syrup should fit nicely in a pint canning jar. My son prefers a 50/50 mix of honey and maple syrup, which results in a thinner syrup. Babies (under 1 year old) shouldn’t have honey, so use all maple syrup or agave syrup.
When I’m sick, I take 1 tablespoon every hour for the first day, then back it off to 1 tablespoon every 3 hours, until I feel better. Taken this way, a pint of syrup should last about a week before it is used up, stored in the refrigerator. It is also useful as a preventative by taking 1 tablespoon daily throughout cold and flu season. I really don’t know if it spoils, because it never lasts long enough for me to find out.