Easy Elderberry Syrup

SOOOOO good on top of buckwheat pancakes or oatmeal!

I love #elderberry syrup, and it was much easier to make the first time than I ever expected!

Recipe adapted from Suzanna Stone's Anti-Viral Syrup

  • 1 cup dried organic elderberries 2 cups, if not using sumac

  • 1 oz. sumac berries (if using)

  • 4 cups cold water (distilled, purified, or spring water works best)

  • 2-3 tsp. organic dried ginger root -or- 1-2 tbsp. fresh

  • 2-3 organic ceylon cinnamon sticks (cassia isn't "true" cinnamon, meaning it doesn't have the same medicinal properties cinnamon is reported to have)

  • 1 cup raw, local honey (or maple syrup if vegan)

  • 1/8 cup 80 proof brandy (optional preservative)


  1. Combine berries and herbs with cold water in pot and bring to a gentle boil.

  2. Reduce heat and allow herbs to gently simmer, until volume is reduced by half. You should have about 2 cups of liquid.

  3. Remove from heat, cover and steep.

  4. Strain berries and herbs from liquid. You can use a funnel or mesh strainer covered with 2 layers of cheesecloth or natural (undyed) cotton muslin bag. Gather cheesecloth creating a "pouch" of herbs; twist and squeeze out liquid. Beware! It will be hotter than you expect.

  5. Discard used herbs, composting if possible.

  6. Stir in honey until dissolved, after liquid has cooled a bit.

  7. If using brandy, add here and stir until well combined.

  8. Bottle in sterilized glass.

  9. Keep in fridge!

Tips from the field

Dried or fully cooked purple elderberries are the way to go here. Eating raw, fresh berries can cause stomach upset and are considered poisonous. This is not the time to go wildcrafting in your neighbor's yard without fully identifying the variety of "Sambucus" you're working with first.

When simmering your syrup, it can be tricky to know when the liquid has been reduced by half. Suzanna shared an #herbalhints that I thought was brilliant: hold the handle end of a wooden spoon into the liquid when you first start you syrup. Make a tiny mark with a permanent marker. Then, as it cooks, redip the spoon handle into the syrup and note the new level!

Also, when working with honey, choose raw and be sure that whatever you are adding it to isn't boiling, or even gently boiling, hot. Raw honey's antibacterial properties are only potent so long as it hasn't been boiled; otherwise it becomes pasteurized. Pasteurized honey still works as a preservative, though, due to the sugar content. Raw honey is not recommended for infants.

Quality over quantity

Not sure how much to buy? Figure out what you're making first.

Dried herbs and medicinal plants lose their potency and efficacy over time. Be sure that you don't wind up with too much plant material languishing on your pantry shelves. If you're not sure how much you might use, always start with only a few ounces. It also depends upon which part of the plant is being used; large berries don't take up the same volume as leaves, so an ounce measurement may not be considered equal amounts.

Storage Matters

Keep your syrups and honeys in the 'fridge to help maintain freshness. If you're not sensitive to alcohol, it does help it remain more shelf stable...but I still stash mine in a dark place in the fridge. Same goes for your dried plant material; make sure it is in dark or opaque containers and stored in cool, dark places. Exposure to sunlight can weaken the potency of dried herbs.

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