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How to Make Elderberry Syrup

Wondering how to make elderberry syrup? It is one of the most powerful natural remedies for common illnesses like colds and flu. And it is easy to make either in your Instant Pot or on the stovetop!

elderberry syrup in a jar sitting on an flowered napkin with an spoon and fresh elderberries shot from a low angle

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Time of year, boosting your immune system is a great idea.

Colds, flu, and other nasty viruses pop up every year as the weather turns chilly. Take precautions to protect yourself, like getting a flu vaccine, washing hands thoroughly and often, and avoiding contact with people who are sick.

But even when you do everything right, though, you’re often felled by a nasty cold or flu.

People have been using elderberries and elderberry syrup for thousands of years to help boost the immune system and shorten the duration of common ailments. Enter homemade elderberry syrup.

Does homemade elderberry syrup really work?

In a word, yes. Numerous studies, like this one, have shown that supplementing with elderberry preparations can significantly reduce the severity of symptoms and the duration of illness.

This isn’t just your hippie mom saying this either. Numerous scientific studies have found that if elderberry can lower your risk of becoming sick. If you take it soon after the onset of symptoms, you’ll recover more quickly.  Some studies, like this one, have shown that consuming elderberry syrup after the onset of symptoms can reduce time to recovery by half.

And there are scientific studies that back up these claims.  One study conducted by virologist Dr. Madeleine Mumcuoglu is particularly famous.

She found that more than 93 percent of subjects with the flu who took elderberry experienced significant improvement in their symptoms within 2 days. Those taking a placebo didn’t experience relief from their symptoms for 6 days.

Another study, this one in Norway, found basically the same thing—that people with the flu taking elderberry syrup experienced relief from their symptoms 4 days sooner than those who took a placebo syrup.

Being sick is miserable, and watching your kids suffer with stuffy noses, coughs, and fevers is even worse. While nothing cures the common cold or the flu, homemade elderberry syrup can help reduce the symptoms, make people more comfortable, and speed recovery.

Where can you get elderberries

Fresh elderberries can be hard to find if they don’t grow in your area, but dried ones can be purchased at health food stores or you can order them online.

How do you make elderberry syrup?

This elderberry syrup recipe is easy! You can use dried berries or fresh berries. I like to make it in the Instant Pot or electric pressure cooker, but you can also make it on the stovetop. Here’s how:

  1. Put dried or fresh elderberries in a pot or in your Instant Pot.
  2. Add water and any flavoring ingredients you like such as cinnamon sticks, cloves, orange zest, orange or lemon juice, vanilla paste or vanilla bean, cardamom pods, or star anise pods.
  3. Cover your Instant Pot, turn the valve to the sealing position, cook on high pressure for 10 minutes, and then quick release the pressure. On the stovetop, bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat to low, and simmer for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Strain the solids out of the liquid and discard the solids.
  5. While the liquid is still hot, stir in sweetener—either sugar or honey.
  6. Store in jars or bottles in the refrigerator for up to a month.
elderberry syrup in a jar with an antique spoon, fresh elderberries, and a flowered napkin

Tips for making it

  1. If you like, you can simmer the liquid after straining it, either in the Instant Pot using the saute function or over low heat on the stovetop, to reduce it to a more syrupy consistency.
  2. Add the sugar or honey to the syrup while the liquid is still hot. This will help it dissolve and become incorporated into the liquid rather than sinking to the bottom.
  3. If you are using raw honey, make sure you add it after the liquid has been taken off the heat. If you cook it, it will no longer have the benefits of raw honey.

What kind of sweetener do you add?

Elderberry syrup on its own is surprisingly bitter, but you can add sweetener to tone the bitterness down.

I like to use honey, especially raw honey, as a sweetener in my elderberry syrup because it has healing properties of its own. It is full of antioxidants, has been shown to have both cough suppressing qualities and antioxidant, antimicrobial, and anti-inflammatory properties.

If you like, you can use regular granulated sugar instead.

How long will it keep?

You can store elderberry syrup in the refrigerator for up to a month.

You can also freeze your homemade elderberry syrup. I like to freeze it in half-full ice cube trays so that one (small) cube is 1 “dose.”

You can also freeze it right in the jar, just be sure to leave extra room for it to expand as it freezes.

How do you take elderberry syrup?

You can make your elderberry syrup into lozenges or gummies, but I like to add mine to a glass of bubbly water. It makes a delicious, refreshing drink.

My husband likes it straight, by the spoonful, which is another option.

What are the benefits of elderberries?

Elderberries are full of antioxidants, vitamins, and other compounds that are known to boost the immune system, reduce inflammation, lower stress, and even protect the heart. Hemagglutinin protein in the elderberry has been shown to stop a virus’ ability to replicate itself. This keeps the virus from penetrating cell walls, which in turn prevents infection from the virus.

Taken after infection, elderberry preparations can also keep the virus from spreading throughout the body, reducing the duration of influenza symptoms.

Elderberry has been used to treat a host of ailments including:

  • Colds
  • Flu
  • Constipation
  • Muscle and joint pain
  • Respiratory infections
  • Headaches
  • Fevers
  • Kidney problems
  • Epilepsy
  • Stress

Does elderberry syrup prevent viruses?

Elderberries are loaded with immune-boosting compounds like vitamins A, B, and C. And studies have shown that people who take elderberry preparations may have higher than normal levels of the antibodies that protect them against contracting influenza.

How much elderberry syrup should you take?

To boost your immune system, take about 1 tablespoon per day (half that for children). If you are sick with a cold or the flu, you can take 1 tablespoon every 4 hours.

Is elderberry syrup safe to use?

Cooked fresh elderberries and syrup made from ripe or dried elderberries is generally considered safe for most people. Eating too many raw or unripe berries may cause nausea or vomiting.

Further, some parts of the elderberry tree contain toxic compounds. This includes the twigs and branches, leaves, roots, and seeds. These parts should never be consumed.

People with autoimmune disorders, pregnant women, diabetics, and others shouldn’t use elderberry syrup without first checking with their doctors.

Among natural healers, elderberries are considered one of the best natural remedies you can find. They are a great option for treating colds and flu at home and can lessen your reliance on over-the-counter medications that can have unwanted side effects.

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elderberry syrup in a jar sitting on an flowered napkin with an spoon and fresh elderberries
Yield: 1 quart

Elderberry Syrup

Elderberry Syrup

Elderberry Syrup is one of the most powerful natural remedies for common illnesses like colds and flu. And it is easy to make either in your Instant Pot or on the stovetop!

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes


  • 2 cups dried elderberries
  • 1 cinnamon stick (optional)
  • 2 to 3 star anise pods (optionals)
  • 3 strips orange zest (optional)
  • 5 cups water
  • 1/3 to 2/3 cups honey or sugar (to taste)


  1. Put the dried berries, water, and any flavoring ingredients you are using (cinnamon stick, cloves, star anise, orange zest, etc.) in the Instant Pot or in a stockpot. Add the water.
  2. For Instant Pot, cover and seal the pot and cook on high pressure for 10 minutes. Release quick release the pressure.
  3. If cooking on the stovetop, bring the liquid to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Strain the solids out of the liquid using a fine-meshed sieve, pressing down on them to release as much liquid as possible.
  5. Return the liquid to the Instant Pot or stockpot and simmer on low heat for another 5 to 10 minutes to reduce the liquid slightly.
  6. Remove form the heat and stir in the honey or sugar.
  7. Pour into glass jars or bottles and store let cool to room temperature.
  8. Store in the refrigerator for up to a month.


If you are using fresh elderberries, use 4 cups of berries.


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pinterest pin for elderberry syrup
By on March 10th, 2020

About Robin Donovan

Hi, I’m Robin! I am a full-time food blogger, recipe developer, and cookbook author. I spend my days cooking, writing about, and photographing food.

I’m the author of more than 40 cookbooks, including Ramen for Beginners, 5 Ingredient Cooking for Two, Sushi at Home, The Baking Cookbook for Teens, and the bestselling Campfire Cuisine.

My food writing has also been featured in major print and online pubications including Cooking Light, Fitness, San Jose Mercury News, San Francisco Chronicle, and other popular publications.

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