Elderberry syrup is rich in vitamins and antioxidants

Elderberry Syrup: 5 Ways to Use It

By: Megan Ratigan

Scientifically Reviewed By: Holli Ryan, RD, LD/N

Elderberry pie, elderberry syrup, elderberry jam—the sweet taste and even sweeter health benefits of this tiny fruit come in many forms. The most popular way to use fresh elderberries is to cook them into a syrup or extract used to support your immune system.

With this step-by-step homemade elderberry syrup recipe, you can make your own tincture whenever you want to give your immune system a little extra TLC.

What are elderberries?

The elderberry is the fruit from a variety of trees called Sambucus. The black elderberries of the European tree Sambucus nigra are most closely associated with immune system and respiratory health support. Although both the small, dark purple berries and the flowers of the trees are edible, only the berries are used in most elderberry syrups.

Fresh elderberries are packed with antioxidant compounds like quercetins, flavanols and anthocyanins (the pigments responsible for their color), and can help support a healthy inflammatory response. Fresh elderberries are also rich in vitamin C, vitamin A, potassium and fiber.

(Please note, this doesn't mean they are safe to eat raw. Always be sure to cook elderberries to make them safe for consumption!) 

Is elderberry syrup healthy for you?

Elderberry syrup has all the health benefits of the fresh berries, and elderberry has been shown in clinical trials to encourage a healthy immune system response compared with placebo.

This elderberry syrup recipe includes the added nutritional support of raw honey, fresh ginger, cinnamon and cloves, which support everything from heart health to digestive health and already-healthy blood sugar levels.

What is the best way to take elderberry syrup?

You can get the most out of your elderberry syrup by taking it with vitamin C and zinc. Clinical research has shown these nutrients promote immune system health and help shorten the duration of immune health challenges. Together they may help maximize the benefits of elderberry. (Vitamin D also offers powerful immune function support.)

Can you drink elderberry syrup straight?

You can definitely drink elderberry syrup straight! The raw honey in this dairy-free recipe not only sweetens this tincture, but it soothes and comforts as it goes down. Many elderberry syrups are made commercially for consumption as a type of immune health shot. Making your own elderberry syrup, however, allows you to get the perfect blend of sweetness and spices to suit your taste.

Easy Elderberry Syrup Recipe

This homemade elderberry syrup can be cooked on a stovetop or in an Instant Pot in a total time of less than one hour. Then the mixture is strained, and you can mix in the raw honey once the elderberry juice has cooled.


  • ⅔ cup dried elderberries
  • 3 cups water
  • ½ tbsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp ground cloves
  • 1 ½ tbsp diced fresh ginger diced
  • ½ cup honey


  • Combine the elderberries, water, cinnamon, ground cloves and ginger in a medium pot or Instant Pot and bring to a boil. 
  • Once boiling, uncover and reduce to a simmer for 45 minutes.
  • Pour the mixture through a mesh strainer into a mason jar or other glass container.
  • Once the liquid is room temperature, mix in the honey and stir until combined.
  • Store in the fridge in an airtight container.

Nutritional values per serving

Recipe makes 20 servings of 1 tbsp each (1¼ cup total)
Calories: 24
Fat: 0 g
Carb: 7 g
Protein: 0 g
Sugars: 7 g

All nutritional information is based on third-party calculations and is only an estimate. Each recipe and nutritional value will vary depending on the brands you use, measuring methods and portion sizes.

Tips for success

  • This homemade elderberry syrup will be more liquid-like than a store-bought syrup. Don't be alarmed by this; it is because this recipe doesn't include a lot of sugar.
  • Fresh elderberries are hard to find in stores, but you can find dried elderberries online.
  • Cinnamon sticks can be used in place of cinnamon. For this recipe, use 3 cinnamon sticks.
  • Whole cloves can be used in place of the ground cloves, just use slightly more than ½ teaspoon.
  • This elderberry syrup recipe is not designed to be frozen. You can reduce the ingredients by half to make a smaller batch if you don't think you will go through the entire amount.
  • You can add as much or as little honey as you would like; it will not affect the recipe's quality, just the sweetness. We recommend using local raw honey when you can.
  • You can flavor your syrup by adding ingredients, such as vanilla bean, to your pot or InstaPot during cooking, or add essential oils after cooling and mixing with honey.
  • If you are looking for a vegan alternative to this elderberry syrup, you can omit the honey and try a plant-based sugar alternative, such as maple syrup, agave or stevia.

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Should elderberry syrup be refrigerated?

This homemade elderberry syrup should be stored in the fridge in an airtight container for up to a week. Unlike some commercial syrups, this recipe does not contain preservatives to extend its shelf life.

What can you do with elderberry syrup? 5 ideas

Although elderberry syrup is popular as a straight drink, you can add it to anything you'd like. Here are some suggestions:

  1. Breakfast is served

    : Put it into your overnight oats to boost the benefits of this classic breakfast.
  2. Brunch goals

    : Pour this syrup onto pancakes or waffles instead of maple syrup to add some healthy antioxidants to your meal.
  3. Make a sundae

    : Use it as an ice cream topping along with fresh strawberries.
  4. Go Greek

    : Mix it into a Greek yogurt bowl for added benefits, sweetness and flavor.
  5. Beverage mix-ins

    : Add this syrup to your smoothie, or even your coffee, for added nutrition. You can also add it to an immune shot recipe or use it in a mocktail in place of cranberry juice.

Do I get enough elderberry benefits from my syrup?

Although studies show elderberry syrup has immune system benefits, a syrup isn't the only way to experience the benefits of elderberry. Elderberry supplements are another good way to get the nutritional benefits of this fruit, in some cases without the sugar or calories of a syrup. Some supplements even incorporate vitamin C and zinc for additional immune function support.  

Elderberry supplements are widely available as capsules and chewable tablets as well as gummies, so you can choose the elderberry form that is best for you.

What other plant-based supplements support immune health?

While elderberry is a popular immune health supplement, it isn't the only one that encourages a robust immune response. The following herbs (and fungus) also support immune function.

  • Echinacea

    : Research suggests echinacea can be an effective immunomodulator, helping your body fight off challenges. It is so powerful because it contains a lot of antioxidants that fight free radicals in your body, making it great for your immune system.
  • Mushrooms

    : Although a mushroom is technically a fungus (not a plant), studies have shown mushrooms contain compounds that support immune cell function. Beta glucans, a non-digestible fiber in mushrooms, are particularly powerful. They act as immune response activators that help the immune system to react quickly and efficiently to everyday and seasonal immune challenges.
  • Pu-erh tea

    : Pu-erh tea is made from the same plant as black and green tea and is rich in polyphenols and other bioactive molecules that support immune health.
  • Ashwagandha

    : Health practitioners have classified the powerful properties of ashwagandha as an adaptogen, which means it helps the body adapt to stressors. Its potential benefits include supporting immune system function.
  • Holy basil

    : Another adaptogen, holy basil is a nurturing herb that has been shown to support immune health and healthy stress management.
  • Asian ginseng

    : Most ginseng studies have used this variety, also called Panax ginseng. There is evidence Panax ginseng helps promote immune function.

3 other ways to encourage a healthy immune response

Want to do everything you can to stay well this season? Lifestyle choices can make a difference in your immune health.

  • Exercise regularly

    : Having a regular sweat routine helps protect your immune system against age-related decline over time.
  • Sleep well

    : Healthy sleep/wake patterns support overall immune health and encourage long-lasting immune memory—helping your built-in defenses to respond rapidly to challenges.
  • Manage stress

    : Maintaining healthy cortisol levels can affect your immune response.

About the Author: Megan Ratigan's love for cooking started at a young age baking cookies with her mother, and as she grew older she developed an interest in all things health and wellness. These two loves sparked the enjoyment in the challenge of creating delicious recipes that are made with wholesome, natural ingredients. Learn more about Megan by visiting her website, www.meganratigan.com.


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