Elderberry syrups are everywhere these days.
I love the fact that these products are available but I often wince at the price tag. It is like anything though, you are paying for the convenience and the availability… and maybe a touch of hype? I know how to make elderberry syrup, and I can tell you that it is not very expensive to make. It’s no wonder that this syrup is in demand: elderberries are anti-inflammatory, relaxingly diaphoretic, antiviral against many viruses and a wee bit laxative in regular doses. These little berries are helpful in cases of colds, sore throats and flus.
I like to keep elderberries on-hand. One of the advantages in doing so is that I do not have always make a syrup. I can make a decoction of the berries, and then add little honey. Sometimes I forego the honey, since it’s important to avoid sugar; too much sugar gives my immune system a lot to deal with. This will ultimately set me back. On the other hand, there is a disadvantage to avoiding sugars in herbal preparations. In this case, an elderberry decoction has a much shorter shelf life – like between 24 and 72 hours – if kept in the fridge. I add honey and make an elder berry syrup in cases where I want a longer shelf life, if I am dealing with people who are new to herbal remedies, or who have sensitive palates.
The most basic syrup is elderberries simmered for a long while in water, then squished, strained and composted. Add honey to the final decoction. As always, I can add all sorts of tasty and useful ingredients to make it my own lil’ creation.
1/2 cup dried elderberries (50 grams)
3 cups of water
In a sauce pan, bring cold water and berries to a boil, then slowly simmer until it is reduced to 1/2 the amount, between one cup and one and a half cups.
Second Step: Squish the berries to release the juice, Strain with a strainer lined with cheese cloth. Compost the berries.
Third Step: Mix 1 cup of raw honey into the hot decoction. Sometimes I add tinctures, like 50 ml of echinacea.
Fourth Step: Put the syrup into a suitable container with a tight fitting lid, making sure that there is not a lot of head space. Label clearly, note ingredients, suggested uses and the date it was made. Use within 2-3 months (before the end of the winter).
How I use the syrup: I take a teaspoon of the syrup several times a day if I am fighting a cold or flu because it will generally decrease the severity and duration of the illness. It is nice to stir it into a tea… perhaps the elderflower, mint and yarrow tea?
The decoction: Take 1 tablespoon of the berries and put in a sauce pan with 2 cups of cold water. Add fresh ginger or cinnamon if you would like. Slowly simmer this until it is reduced by half or for a half an hour. Remove from the heat. If you want, add a teaspoon or two of dried leaves and flowers to this (yarrow, mint, elderflower) and steep for 10 minutes before straining everything. This might seem like a strong brew, so I take a 1/4 cup every couple hours. I drink other tea and water in addition to this because I know that I want to get a lot of fluids into my system when I am fighting something.
THE DIY elderberry syrup kit!
Take the ingredients of your choosing and put them in a little muslin bag. Or put them in a cute jar that could hold the syrup after it is ready made. Attach clear instructions on how to make, use and store this syrup. Add a little container of ye olde traditional blend of peppermint, elderflower and yarrow. Decorate as desired. The ready made syrup is a nice gift too. I like the dried berries and such because it is easier to transport and people have the choice of making a decoction without sweetener or a syrup.
1 stick of cinnamon , 5 cloves, 3 crushed cardamom pods, 1 tablespoon echinacea root, 1/4 tsp ginger powder, a few slices of raw ginger
*glycerites of elderberry are also wonderful.
** the elderberries I am referring to are Sambucus nigra and Sambucus canadensis. Be sure to know what berries you are working with. The red berry elders are toxic.
Tammy Schmidt, Montreal