By Mary McCashin
Reatas & Recipes

Are you one of those people who can’t seem to go the winter without developing a nasty cough? Cold? Or (gasp) the flu?

Perhaps you need to add elderberry into your diet!

Elderberries have been known for centuries for their immune boosting abilities, and have been shown in studies to enhance immune system function for defending and fighting against disease. Elderberries boost the production of cytokines, which are the body’s “messengers” for immune system defense. They are also filled with antioxidants for reducing inflammation in the body from being sick or under attack.

Health benefits of the elder plant include naturally improving colds, the flu, sinus issues, nerve pain, inflammation, chronic fatigue, allergies, constipation and even cancer.

When used within the first 48 hours of onset of symptoms, the extract has actually been found to reduce the duration of the flu with symptoms being relieved on an average of four days earlier. In fact, during the 1995 Panama flu epidemic, the government actually employed the use of the elderberry to fight the flu.

It gets better. When it comes antioxidant power, elderberry is higher in flavonoids than blueberries, cranberries, goji berries and blackberries. I’m sure you’re getting the picture that this medicinal berry is a real powerhouse for good health.

Below you’ll find a recipe for both homemade elderberry cough drops (so easy!) and elderberry syrup (which you can also buy on Amazon,, etc.) A teaspoon a day of the syrup will keep your immune system happy all winter long!

Homemade Elderberry Cough DropsMain

Cough Drops:

  • ½ cup local raw honey
  • 2 tablespoons Elderberry Extract or syrup
  • 1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger
  • powdered sugar, cornstarch, or arrowroot powder for coating drops
  • Mix honey, elderberry extract, and fresh ginger together in a medium sized, deep saucepan. Heat to boiling over medium-low heat, stirring often to prevent burning. Mixture will foam up the sides of pan, so take pan off heat briefly to allow foam to subside, then place pan back on heat to continue cooking. May have to turn heat down to low to prevent honey from burning.
  • Use candy thermometer and once mixture heats to 300F degrees, remove from heat and allow to cool for a couple for minutes until thickens slightly. Pour mixture into small candy molds or drop by teaspoons onto parchment paper or a silicon mat. Allow to cool until drops are hard and firm.
  • Once drops are fully cooled, dust with powdered sugar, cornstarch, or arrowroot powder to prevent drops from sticking together. Store in a covered container at room temperature or in the refrigerator.

Homemade Elderberry Syrup Natural Remedy for Colds and Flu

Elderberry Syrup:

  1. Pour water into medium saucepan and add elderberries, ginger, cinnamon and cloves (do not add honey!)
  2. Bring to a boil and then cover and reduce to a simmer for about 45 minutes to an hour until the liquid has reduced by almost half. At that point, remove from heat and let cool enough to be handled. Mash the berries carefully using a spoon or other flat utensil. Pour through a strainer into a glass jar or bowl.
  3. Discard the elderberries (or compost them!) and let the liquid cool to lukewarm. When it is no longer hot, add 1 cup of honey and stir well.
  4. When honey is well mixed into the elderberry mixture, pour the syrup into a quart sized mason jar or 16 ounce glass bottle of some kind.
  5. Ta Da! You just made homemade elderberry syrup! Store in the fridge and take daily for its immune boosting properties. Some sources recommend taking only during the week and not on the weekends to boost immunity.
  6. Standard dose is ½ tsp to 1 tsp for kids and ½ Tbsp to 1 Tbsp for adults. If the flu does strike, take the normal dose every 2-3 hours instead of once a day until symptoms disappear.