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How to make elderberry cough syrup

Learn how to make elderberry cough syrup that supports the total body when you’re feeling under the weather. This powerhouse from nature not only tastes delicious once it’s made, you’ll be tapping into its versatility time and time again.

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a jar of elderberry syrup on a table

You’ll find elderberry products all over the market these days but which ones are right to use? What’s safest and what will support your body when you need it most?

It can be a lot to figure out so take caution and read through this information then talk with your healthcare provider if you have additional questions.

We’ve got a lot of elderberry content to cover here so feel free to jump to one of these topics:

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    What are elderberries?

    Elderberries are the fruit of an elder plant known for having a wide variety of benefits.

    There are many different kinds of elder plants (and thus elderberries) but the one that produces fruits tied to the greatest number of supportive properties is the Sambucus nigra.

    The tree is a “medicine chest” in the words of Hippocrates, an ancient Greek physician.

    How does elderberry stop coughs?

    Elderberry cough syrup actually does not stop coughs.

    Instead, it works by supporting the body through the virus causing the cough and you may also get some cough relief from the honey that’s mixed in to the elderberry syrup.

    You might notice that the symptoms related to your cough (such as a scratchy throat and the severity of the cough itself) lessen upon taking it but elderberry itself is not a cough surpressant.  

    Health benefits of taking elderberry syrup

    Where do I even start? This magical fruit is chock-full of antioxidants and vitamins that have been shown to support stress reduction and tamp down inflammation (the mother of so many illnesses).

    Its medicinal properties have been shown to decrease the severity of cold and flu symptoms but that’s not all. It has been used in the treatment of headaches, heart disease, constipation, joint and muscle pain, stress, and even HIV.

    What does elderberry cough syrup taste like?

    Naturally, elderberry syrup has a mildly fruity taste and is actually a bit bitter and less than pleasant to drink.

    To make it appeal a bit more to your taste buds, makers of elderberry cough syrup often add raw honey and spices such as cinnamon, clove, or ginger during the cooking process.

    The finished product is still a bit bitter and earthy but it is much more palatable and even enjoyable. 

    When to use caution with elderberry: Who should avoid it?

    This medicinal concoction is pretty safe to use as needed but it should be noted that those with autoimmune diseases and women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should steer clear.

    It is also unclear whether it is safe for use by children under the age of 5. So proceed with caution. 

    Negative side effects of elderberry

    So the syrup is good for you, so the berries must be too. Right? Wrong.

    In their raw form, elderberries (as well as their leaves and stems) can actually cause some pretty unpleasant side effects such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

    Remove the seeds and stems, cook the berries, and strain the liquid before reducing to a syrup. 

    How to choose a quality store-bought elderberry syrup

    As with many store-bought products, it’s important to be choosey.

    Elderberry syrup is meant to be a healing concoction, so steer clear of products that might have harmful ingredients. In particular, stay away from those that contain added sugars, synthetic colors, or any additional medications that have been mixed in to create a cocktail.

    Aim for organic products and those that list elderberries first on their ingredients list. 
    Before I started making my own, I liked The Elderberry Co.

    Why you shouldn’t take elderberry cough syrup every day

    I recommend taking this homemade elderberry syrup only as needed. It can cause a bit of an upset stomach when taken daily for an extended period of time. So reserve it for peak cold and flu months, winter time, or for when you pick up a bug. 

    How to find good quality elderberries online

    You can find elderberries online.

    They will come dried. I recommend selecting an organic product and doing some digging on whether or not the seller is reputable.

    Companies that specialize in herbs are a particularly good way to go. I really like products from iHerb and Mountain Rose Herbs. 

    If you’re adding honey, go raw

    Raw honey is pretty magical on its own. It is a good source of antioxidants and a variety of overall health-boosting vitamins and minerals.

    It has antibacterial and antifungal properties and a knack for soothing digestive issues, sore throats, and coughs. Scientists continue to study the health benefits of raw honey and the list just keeps on growing. 

    One thing to note when using raw honey in homemade elderberry syrup is that the honey will lose its healing properties if it is heated to too high. So allow the hot, boiled berries to cool to lukewarm before adding. 

    Also remember that raw honey is not recommended for children 12 months and younger.

    Research around the benefits of elderberries.

    You’ve heard it from me–elderberries are pretty darn good for you. But what are the experts saying? If you’re curious to learn more about this healing fruit, take a look at one (or all) of these articles from top researchers in the field. 

    ingredients for elderberry syrup on a table
    a pot of water with ginger and cinnamon sticks
    a pot with dried elderberries ready to be cooked
    a spatula pressing cooked berries through a sieve
    a cup of raw honey being held over a bowl of elderberry syrup

    Can I grow my own elderberries? 

    Yes! I always feel a greater sense of satisfaction when I grow the goodies I put in my body. Try growing your own elderberry seeds (you can get them on Amazon here) or plants (try one of these) with the intention of harvesting the fruits and making your own syrup. 

    Keep in mind that these plants need full sun, a good mix of manure and compost, and plenty of room to breathe in order to thrive. They also need plenty of water and do not like the cold. So read up on how to care for your elderberry plant in the winter

    How to store elderberry syrup

    Elderberry cough syrup will start to ferment somewhat quickly if left at room temperature. Pop it in the fridge with a tight-fitting lid for up to 3 months. Just take a swig when you feel your immune system needs a boost. 

    How long is elderberry cough syrup good for? 

    This healing elderberry cough syrup will stay good for up to 3 months. Seal it in a jar with a tight-fitting lid. Do keep in mind that it is best to consume sooner rather than later. 

    How much syrup is a dose/how much can I take when sick?

    A typical dose for an adult who is battling a sick bug is 4 teaspoons per day. I recommend spreading them throughout the day as opposed to taking the full dose all at once. This will allow you to avail yourself of the soothing qualities of the raw honey more frequently. 

    *And as always, consult your doctor or trusted healthcare professional before changing your healthcare routine.

    a jar of elderberry syrup with a spoon pouring out

    Can children take elderberry cough syrup? 

    I would recommend talking with your healthcare provider before administering elderberry cough syrup to your child. Not enough research has been done on potential side effects in children under 5. 

    Ways to incorporate elderberry syrup into your diet 

    I actually kind of like the taste of elderberry syrup but some find themselves shying away from just taking a swig. If that is your feeling toward it, go ahead and try serving it as an accompaniment to one (or many) of these tasty treats. 

    • For breakfast. On top of pancakes or waffles or in your yogurt or oatmeal
    • In liquid form. Add this homemade elderberry syrup to a smoothie, tea, or your favorite juice. 
    • On top of ice cream. I suggest chocolate, vanilla, or strawberry. Yum!

    Recipes using elderberry syrup 

    One great thing about this elderberry syrup is that it is easily incorporated into a myriad of recipes. Have fun in the kitchen and do something good for your health with some of these fun ideas.

    a jar of elderberry syrup on a table

    How to Make Elderberry Cough Syrup

    Make the most of this natural powerhouse when your body needs support.
    Prep Time 5 minutes
    Cook Time 30 minutes
    Cooling time 1 hour
    Total Time 1 hour 35 minutes
    Servings 96 teaspoons
    Author Rachel Ballard

    Ingredients
      

    • 1 cup dried elderberries
    • 4 cups water
    • 1 cinnamon stick about 3 inches long
    • 1 inch fresh ginger root peeled if not organic and sliced
    • 1 cup raw honey

    Instructions
     

    • In a 4 quart stock pot, add the elderberries, water, cinnamon stick, and ginger and bring to a simmer.
    • Cook until the water reduces by half; about 30 minutes or so.
    • Strain the mixture through a mesh strainer, pressing to extract as much liquid as possible. Allow to cool to lukewarm; about an hour
    • Add the honey and stir to combine.
    • Store the syrup in a glass jar in the fridge for up to three months.

    Nutrition

    Calories: 12kcalCarbohydrates: 3gProtein: 0.02gFat: 0.01gSaturated Fat: 0.001gPolyunsaturated Fat: 0.004gMonounsaturated Fat: 0.001gSodium: 1mgPotassium: 7mgFiber: 0.1gSugar: 3gVitamin A: 9IUVitamin C: 1mgCalcium: 1mgIron: 0.04mg
    Tried this recipe?Tag us on Instagram @feastandfarm and hashtag it #feastandfarm
    Course easy
    Cuisine American
    Keyword elderberry, elderberry cough syrup, elderberry syrup

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    About the Author

    Rachel Ballard, RN, BSN brings more than 20 years of professional nursing expertise to Feast and Farm. With a love for nutrient dense foods that support wellness, she works to distill complex health information and current trends into recipes that fuel the best version of yourself. Read more about Rachel here.