Elderberry Syrup for Antiviral and Immunity Benefits

Elderberry Syrup for Antiviral and Immunity Benefits

It's never fun getting the flu and other nasty viruses. This Elderberry syrup recipe is super easy to make and packs a punch! Studies have shown that elderberries are effective at helping our bodies fight the cold and flu virus. Our family and community of herb lovers have been using elderberries for years, with fantastic results.

What is Elderberry?

Elderberries come from the Elderflower bush, Sambucus nigra and its variations. The elder plant flowers in summer, with its dainty creamy white umbels of flowers, followed by the black berries in late summer and autumn. Both the flowers and berries are popular herbal remedies. The berries can be made into decoctions, tinctures, gummies and syrups.

elderflower tree in garden  

Benefits of Elderberry

Elderberries pack a punch when it comes to the cold and flu virus. There are a few different ways they work to help fight the cold and flu and bring relief to some of the unpleasant side effects.

Antiviral Properties

Elderberries have been found to block the virus from entering our cells, where they would normally replicate themselves. If a virus has already infected the cells, elderberries are still useful, inhibiting the release of the replicated viruses out of the infected cells, which helps to stop the virus from spreading to other cells.

Boosting Immunity

The flavonoids in elderberries stimulate the immune system to help our bodies fight the cold and flu virus.

Calm Inflammation

Elderberries relieve inflammation and can ease sore throats and joint pain.  

influenza virus

Using Elderberries Safely And Effectively

Can You Eat Raw Elderberries?

Raw elderberries contain hydrocyanic acid (HCN), a toxin that can cause nausea and vomiting if the berries are consumed raw. While I have eaten raw elderberries in small amounts with no ill effects, some people are more sensitive, so it is safer to cook them. Cooking the berries in water for at least 30 minutes deactivates the toxins. Therefore syrups and decoctions are the best way to get the benefits safely from the berries.

How Effective Are Elderberries?

The effectiveness of elderberries may only work for around 2 - 3 hours, so dosing regularly is important if you are infected with the cold or flu virus. If you follow the recipe below exactly and end up with 700ml of finished syrup your dosage would be 10ml. This means during infection you would need to take 10ml every 2-3 hours during your waking hours to get the benefit from the elderberries.

How To Make Elderberry Syrup

Elderberry syrup is a great way to get the benefits of elderberries in a delicious way. It is simple to make and you only really need three ingredients; elderberries, water and sugar (or honey).  

elderberry syrup

How Do We Decide Whether To Use Sugar Or Honey?

I make both! I prefer to use honey for the flavour, enzymes and nutrients. Although, I always have a batch made with sugar for the longer shelf life, which is great for emergencies.

Using Honey

When the cold and flu season starts I make my syrup with honey. It will keep in the fridge for 1 - 2 months, if I have sterilised the bottles. It is usually used in a couple of weeks anyway, so sometimes I don’t bother sterilising if we are around people who have come down with the flu. Honey itself has many useful properties, but these are lost if the honey has been heated (most commercial honey have been heated). When making your syrup with honey make sure you buy raw honey and let the cooked elderberry liquid cool to 35°C before adding the honey. Children under 1 years old should not consume honey because of the chance of it containing spores of Clostridium botulinum, which can cause infantile botulism.

Using Sugar

I always have a sugar-based elderberry syrup on the shelf. Sugar is a fantastic preservative. A sugar-based syrup will sit on the shelf for at least one year, if the bottles have been sterilised and the recipe has been followed.

Should I Add Other Herbs?

I love the basic syrup, as I like to just use one herb in the preparation. You can always add other herbs to the syrup when you are dosing. I sometimes mix my elderberry syrup with echinacea tincture or olive leaf extract when I am taking a dose. However, there are other culinary herbs and medicinal herbs that are commonly added for the taste and health benefits.

  • Ginger: helps to fight the cold virus, warm up the body and dispel nausea. Add 1 tbsp at the start with the elderberries.
  • Cinnamon: adds a wonderful warm spicy flavour, has antiviral and antioxidant properties. Add 2 crushed cinnamon sticks at the start with the elderberries.
  • Rosehip: high in Vitamin C. Add 50g when you have finished simmering and turned off the heat. Put the lid on the pot and sit for 10 minutes before straining.   

Can I Use Fresh Elderberries In My Syrup?

Fresh elderberries contain around 80% moisture by weight so 1000g would be equal to 200g of dried elderberries. You would also need to adjust the water amount in your recipe adding 200ml instead of 900ml.

How Long Does Elderberry Syrup Last?

  • Made with honey the syrup will last between one to two months in the fridge if you have sterilised the bottles.
  • Syrup made with sugar in sterilised bottles will keep for at least one year in a cool spot. Once you have opened the syrup, store it in the fridge.

How Much To Take?

Adults: If you follow the recipe exactly and end up with 700ml of finished syrup your dosage would be 10ml. During infection take 10ml every 2-3 hours If you have been exposed to someone with a cold or flu take a couple of 10ml doses 2 hours apart.

Can Kids Take Elderberry Syrup?

Elderberry syrup is safe for children to take and they usually love it. If you have made your syrup with Honey, do not give it to children under 1 year old.

Children's dose:

  • under 3 yrs old 1ml
  • 3 - 6years ¼ of Adult dose (2.5ml)
  • 7 - 12years ½ of Adult Dose (5ml)

Sugar Free Alternative To Elderberry Syrup

Just making a decoction may suit you better, as you might prefer to avoid sweeteners. The method starts the same as the syrup.

How To Make An Elderberry Decoction


  • 200g of dried elderberries
  • 900ml of water


  1. Place the berries and water in a saucepan and bring to the boil.
  2. Simmer gently for 30 - 40 minutes.
  3. Mash the berries a little with the back of a spoon.
  4. Strain through a sieve lined with muslin or cheesecloth.
  5. Lift the edges of the muslin up and squeeze out as much of the juice as possible.
  6. Measure the juice and add boiled water to make 700ml.
Your dosage will be 10ml every 2-3 hours. Keep in the fridge and use it within 2 days. Freeze some in ice cube trays for later use, or mix some with fruit juice or water to make ice blocks. You could half the recipe if you wish. Keep in mind when halving the amount of elderberries that the water amount is more than half. This is because during simmering smaller amounts of liquid evaporate more quickly than larger amounts.
  • 100g of dried elderberries
  • 600ml of water

Follow the directions above at step 6. you want to end up with 350ml of juice. Your dosage will be 10ml every 2-3 hours.

Can I Use Elderberry Syrup In Food?

Elderberry syrup can be added to so many different foods, I like to incorporate it into my immune stimulant bliss balls
  • Use it as a cordial or add hot water to make an enjoyable hot drink.
  • Pour some over your oatmeal.
  • Flavour natural yoghurt or pour some on pancakes or ice cream.
  • Make ice blocks with the syrup mixed with fruit juice or pureed fruits.
There are so many different ways you can consume your elderberry syrup. Have fun experimenting and let me know your favourite way to use it. Send me an email with any tips, thoughts or success stories! sandra@herbcottage.com.au