Friday, November 7, 2014

How to Make Elderberry Medicine ~ Home Apothecary Series

"Elder’s berries have immune-enhancing properties, and they’re often combined with echinacea in immune-stimulating remedies for colds. The berries also have powerful antiviral properties and so are helpful in treating viral infections including flus, herpes, and shingles. They’re also used for treating upper respiratory infections."

Plainly said, elderberries are immune building and bad-bug-busting berries! They have both antiviral properties and are anti-inflammatory which make them a natural flu and cold fighter that can relieve coughs, sore throats, (upper respiratory infections) bronchial infections and sinus conditions. They can also be used to treat herpes, shingles, while some claim it even helps with allergy relief. The berries are also high in vitamin C, flavonoids , and other polyphenols. 

"Both elderflowers and dried Elderberries contain substances which ease inflammation and pain. Dried Elderberries soothe the intestines and have been used for all inflammatory bowel diseases. They have a very gentle laxative action, which may explain their decongestant properties. They also have a mild tonic action to help arrest diarrhea. Many other herbalists besides myself have observed a strong connection between bowel problems and respiratory congestion. There also appears to be a strong connection between bowel obstructions and fevers in children."
~ The ABC Herbal by Steven H. Horne

In order to properly identify an elderberry bush, here is a video clip of herbalist Rosemary Gladstar sharing information about it, what it looks like and where it grows (I don't have one to show you pictures myself). The bush flowers in June and July (and are used medicinally as well). Harvest only the ripe elderberries (around September-ish) as consuming unripe berries may cause vomiting and diarrhea.

Note: These recipes all use dried elderberries which are more concentrated (I don't have access to fresh). In order to use fresh, simply double the amount of berries called for in these recipes. 

How to Make an Elderberry Tincture ~ 3 Ways

One of the most popular ways to preserve the elderberry for use as a medicine {with an excellent shelf life} is to prepare an elderberry tincture. You can create a medicinal tincture with either 80-100 proof vodka, gin, brandy or rum (we use vodka), apple cider vinegar or food grade glycerin. Alcohol makes the strongest extract, vinegar the second strongest and finally, glycerin is the least potent (but it's beauty is in the fact that it is sweet tasting for children, is without alcohol and boasts a longer shelf life than the vinegar option). Please visit here if you are concerned about using alcohol based medicine.

This post will teach you How to Make a Tincture with elderberries and shares about the proper dosage.

$weet $avings: If you regularly purchase Sambucol syrup for your household, you would be saving a lot of money if you made your own! Use the glycerin-based tincture recipe in order to reproduce something similar. A 7.8 ounce bottle of the syrup on Amazon runs for $19.87! To purchase a pound of organic elderberries will cost the same amount but will enable you to make many different types of elderberry medicine with a significantly larger yield! 

Elderberry Throat Spray Recipe

To make this herbal throat spray, mix together 2 tbsp. of elderberry tincture (recipe shared above), 2 tbsp. of raw honey, 1 tbsp. warm water and 1 drop of peppermint essential oil (make sure your essential oil is food-grade, if not, use 1/4 tsp. peppermint extract). Pour into a small spray bottle and use as needed (hold sprayer close to mouth, press button briskly for a full spray to the back of mouth and throat areas). {This recipe was inspired by The Nerdy Farm Wife.}

Elderberry Oxymel Recipe or Immune Boosting Herbal Soda

Visit here for our instructions to make an elderberry oxymel or an immune boosting herbal soda.

Elderberry and Nettle All-Natural Allergy Tonic

Visit here for our instructions to make this all-natural and effective allergy tonic. 

Elderberry Infused Herbal Honey Recipe

To learn how we make an Elderberry Infused Herbal Honey, visit here.

Elderberry "Scrap" Syrup Recipe

This is a handy recipe to make with all your elderberry scraps (see below for explanation of what I am calling a "scrap") or you could also make it with fresh and dried berries (amount are shared below).
  • 2 cups "used" elderberries (I gathered all the discarded berries from the projects shared here ~except~ for the alcohol based tincture since they were "spent" after that project, and I added them to a freezer container each time and froze them until I had 2 cups worth {some are coated in honey and glycerin but that is no problem). This is intended to make a frugal syrup by utilizing the last medicinal goodness of the elderberry (I wanted to stretch them because I have to purchase mine). However, if you have access to an elderberry tree, you can just use 1 cup of fresh elderberries instead or even 1/2 cup of dried elderberries. 
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 cup raw honey 

Place berries, water, and spices (if using) in a stainless steel saucepan. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to a simmer. Let this cook for 30 minutes and then smash the berries to release any remaining juice.  Strain the mixture. Once the liquid has cooled down to a warm temperature, stir in honey until it dissolves. You don't want to put the honey in while it is hot since it will kill the beneficial enzymes present in raw honey. Ladle into clean quart jar. This syrup will last for about 2 months if stored in the refrigerator.

Important Note: Infants under 1 year should not be given honey.

Elderberry Medicinal Infusion DIY

You can also use the elderberries (or even the "used" ones after a project) to make a medicinal infusion. Place about 4 tablespoons of dried elderberries in a clean quart jar or teapot. Add in some boiling water and let this steep for about 30 - 40 minutes. Strain and drink a cup three times a day (or until symptoms subside).

Prepare an Elderberry Tisane (Herbal Tea Blend)

You may also like to prepare a tisane (herbal tea blend) with your elderberries. My husband drinks different combinations each night before bed to relax (and benefit from the herbal properties). For example, once we tried a bit of lavender, chamomile, a few rose hips and lemon balm. Be creative! What do you have growing right now? Prepare your blends according to the seasons! Citrus peels are fun to use and very wintery while the florals are easy to find in the spring and summer.

Elderberry Link Up

Do you have any recipes or information on elderberry usage? We would love for you to share with us! Please join our all about elderberry link up! It will be open until the end of this month (December 2014) in order to give you the opportunity to share all you have on this magnificent fruit (and the medicinal elderflower as well)!

Printable Information Sheets for Your Herbal {Printable Herbal Here}:

Elder (sambucus nigra) Monograph Sheet (usage, properties, etc.) by The Mind to Homestead
Elder (Herbal Information Sheet) by Annie's Place to Learn
Elderberry Fact Sheet from the USDA

Further Reading and Recipes:

How to Make Elderberry Cough Drops by The Mind to Homestead
How to Make Elderberry Vinegar by Mary Jane Butters

Don't know where to find elderberries, etc? I purchase my supplies here {affiliate links}:


This article is a part of our Create Your Own Home Pharmacy Series.

Disclaimer: I am not a certified herbalist but a homemaker interested in the arts of natural healing. The information I have learned has been gleaned through study of some of the following favorite books; Rosemary Gladstar's Medicinal Herbs: A Beginner's GuideGrow Your Own Drugs by James Wong, and The Complete Illustrated Book of Herbs by Reader's Digest and websites of herbalists (such as the Bulk Herb Store Blog).

I am not a doctor. While I do seek scientific confirmation of the safety and effectiveness of the herbs and remedies I use, remember that using remedies is a personal decision. Nothing I say on this blog is approved by the FDA or intended to diagnose, treat or prevent disease. All things on this blog are my opinion or the opinion of others. Also, if you have a medical condition, are taking pharmaceutical drugs, or are pregnant, please consult your physician prior to taking herbs.


  1. thank you so much for all this information

    1. You are welcome Kathy, nice to hear from you again :)

  2. I, like you am in elderberry mode. It's just part of fall time, to get the elderberry medicines ready for the winter ahead. I love this post of everything elder and I am excited for the link up to learn from other like minded souls. Thanks!

    1. Perfecto! Thank you Annie and I look forward to learning what you have to share when we do our elderberry link up soon :) And it is fun making different kinds!

  3. thank you for the recipes. I am just starting to make my Herbal notebook and was wondering if Is there a way I can print them out so I can put them in it.
    Susan from Michigan

    1. Hi Susan, I didn't have a chance to prepare a printable (perhaps in the future)... In the meantime you can copy and paste the recipes into Microsoft Word and print them out. I hope you are enjoying the herbal project! Have a lovely weekend!

  4. Great post, JES. The information is thorough, and the photos are really helpful. I'm going to have to make that throat spray. I have less than a quarter inch left of an herbal throat spray that I've had for a few years so it's time to either make or buy. I'm glad to be able to make and save some $$. Love the Elderberry Tisane, too. Have a great week!

    1. Aw, the joy of saving money and easy recipes! :)

  5. What an informative and also beautiful post! you are an artist as you present such helpful information for homemakers! Mine is made for the year, and I got 2 quarts! :)
    Sending love!

    1. Yay, two quarts!!! I linked up your informative posts here too! I learned about elderberries from you :)

  6. That's quite a list! I've known that they are a great anti-viral but wash;t aware of the digestive benefits. Homemade Elderberry Syrup is a staple at our house in the winter. We're looking forward to growing our own elderberry bushes.

    1. I have purchased some seeds and was going to try my hand at growing some too... We shall see! :)

  7. Wow this is great and so informative, you are amazing with what you do. Thank you for linking up at Good Morning Mondays and sharing this with us. Blessings

  8. Wow this is so informative, you are amazing with what you do. Thank you for sharing this at Good Morning Mondays. Blessings

  9. Great Elderberry overview. I will have to bookmark this page and come back to it when I am ready to make elderberry syrup.

  10. Great post. I just made my annual batch of elderberry syrup this past weekend - it's a necessity in my home. I will have to try some of these other recipes now as well. Congrats on being chosen as a featured post on this week’s Wildcrafting Wednesdays! I hope you'll join us again and share more of your awesome posts.

  11. Great information and recipes. I know that Eldenberry is extremely good for the respiratory system and so soothing to the throat. Pinned & twitted. Visiting from Wildcrafting Wednesdays. Have a healthy happy week..

  12. We have large, old elderberry so you have given me plenty of ideas of how to use the big crop it has each year. Thank you for sharing.

  13. Jes I have a gallon of fresh elderberries in the freezer just waiting for me to put to good use!
    Thanks for sharing on this week's OSH Blog Hop!

  14. What a great resource for elderberries. They are one of my favorites for the winter. Thanks for linking up at Simply Natural Saturdays!

  15. Every year I tell myself I'm going to plant elderberries and I keep putting it off for the next year. This post is such a good reminder of why I want to plant elder.Thank you for sharing these great recipes!

  16. I was just reading this post a week or two ago. I was picking out which ingredients I needed to get a hold of, and now I have some dried elderberries to try using. I'll let you know when I finally get my elderberry syrup mixed up! (Thanks for sharing on the Homestead Blog Hop!)