Elderberry syrup is an easy, all natural, immunity boosting home remedy that studies have shown can help shorten the effects of the flu. This elderberry syrup recipe uses the Instant Pot so that your syrup is ready in under an hour!
ELDERBERRY SYRUP BENEFITS
Living in Washington State, I’ve heard quite a bit about elderberries (which are native to Washington) and what you can make with them. Elderberry syrup as an immunity booster has been the most recommended usage by far.
After three months of continual illness in our family I was ready to try almost anything, but I really prefer having science based evidence backing the claims of any treatment.
I am not a health professional, so I am NOT giving medical advice. But after talking with several doctors and naturopaths, I decided to do some research on the health benefits of elderberry syrup, and then share my finds with you.
I was surprised to learn that it wasn’t just bloggers singing the praise of elderberry syrup. It turns out there are dozens of scientific studies that have been done on Sambucus, the genus of flowering plants that elderberries belong in.
SCIENTIFIC STUDIES OF ELDERBERRY HEALTH BENEFITS
- During a flu epidemic in Norway, 60 people experiencing flu symptoms for 48 hours or less were tested in this study. “Patients received 15 ml of elderberry or placebo syrup four times a day for 5 days, and recorded their symptoms using a visual analogue scale. Symptoms were relieved on average 4 days earlier and use of rescue medication was significantly less in those receiving elderberry extract compared with placebo. Elderberry extract seems to offer an efficient, safe and cost-effective treatment for influenza. These findings need to be confirmed in a larger study.”
- This 2010 studied looked at the effects of a variety of botanicals in stimulating an immunoresponse in genes. “We conclude from this study that, in addition to its antiviral properties, Sambucol Elderberry Extract and its formulations activate the healthy immune system by increasing inflammatory cytokine production. Sambucol might therefore be beneficial to the immune system activation and in the inflammatory process in healthy individuals or in patients with various diseases.”
- The image above is from a 2017 study that looked at the viral levels of cell cultures after being treated with Elderberry. “Because influenza viruses use lipid rafts as their budding platform, dissociation of ha protein bound to the lipid rafts leads to reduction virion budding. Our study revealed that lipid rafts may play an important role during post-entry stages of influenza virus, since addition of EF [Elderberry Fruit] following adsorption inhibited virus infection. Incubation of influenza virus infected-A549 cells with higher dose of EF may increase lipid raft integrity and inhibit release of infectious progeny virion particles from infected cells. “
So what do all these studies actually mean?
Combing through study after study, there is not enough evidence of testing on humans to say definitively that elderberry syrup will cure you of the flu. But there is a lot of evidence from lab studies that elderberry will boost an immunity response in your cells, and that was enough for me to give it a try.
ARE THERE ANY ELDERBERRY SYRUP SIDE EFFECTS?
While the extract of elderberries has so far not been shown to have an side effects, eating the berries themselves has been shown to cause side effects such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Same for eating the leaves or stems.
That’s why you need to throw away or compost the berries you strain out when making your syrup.
Also, while my midwife highly recommends elderberry syrup to her clients, please check with your own health professionals on taking it if you have concerns about being pregnant or breastfeeding.
WHAT ABOUT ELDERBERRY SYRUP FOR BABIES?
***This elderberry syrup recipe is NOT SAFE FOR BABIES.***
In fact I recommend this elderberry syrup for kids 2 and up, because of the inclusion of raw honey.
If you would like to make elderberry syrup for babies, just use the berries and water. Skip the honey, instead add 1/2 cup of organic sugar (to act as a preservative, not just for flavor) and boil it down until thicker.
Keep the syrup in the fridge and give them about 2.5 mL with a medicine dropper. You can also substitute agave syrup for the honey.
HOMEMADE ELDERBERRY SYRUP SUPPLIES ONLINE
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I like using the Instant Pot to make my elderberry syrup, because I don’t have to babysit it, and it can cook a bit faster than on the stove. I also use the same mesh strainermesh strainer that I use for homemade milk kefir to strain the elderberry syrup.
I buy organic elderberries on Amazon. I’ve looked at various other websites and stores, and found this to be the best deal with quality dried elderberries.
HOW TO MAKE ELDERBERRY SYRUP
- Put dried elderberries, cinnamon sticks, fresh ginger, whole cloves and half a lemon in the Instant Pot.
- Add 4 cups filtered or bottled water.
- Close the Instant Pot with the valve in the “SEALING” position, then cook on manual pressure for 10 minutes.
- Do a quick pressure release, remove the lid, and set to “SAUTE”
- Let it boil for about 10 minutes until the liquid is reduced by half.
- Pour through a strainer, mashing on the berries with a spatula until all the liquid is released.
- Let cool to 115 degrees F or less (to keep from overheating the honey) and stir in 1 cup of raw honey.
- Keep in a jar or bottle in the fridge.
HOW TO MAKE ELDERBERRY SYRUP VIDEO TUTORIAL
For those of you who are more visual, here’s a video showing all the steps for making elderberry syrup in the Instant Pot.
TIPS FOR MAKING ELDERBERRY SYRUP
- Make sure to let your syrup cool a bit before adding honey. The reason for using raw honey in this syrup is that raw honey has its own healing properties. But the medicinal properties can be rendered ineffective at high temperatures. I try to never make our honey hotter than 115 degrees F.
- Adjust the flavors to suit your family. While there are definitely a variety of studies on health benefits of cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and lemon, I mostly include those in the syrup for flavor. We like the added tartness from the lemon, but you may want to leave it out if you prefer your elderberry syrup to just be sweet.
HOW TO MAKE ELDERBERRY SYRUP ON THE STOVE
Don’t have an Instant Pot? No problem! Just follow the recipe directions but simmer on the stove for 45 minutes to one hour until reduced by half. Then let cool and stir in your honey.
ELDERBERRY SYRUP DOSAGE GUIDE
If my kids had their way, they would drink a cup of elderberry syrup a day. Even though you could certainly drink more, or even pour it on your pancakes, I prefer to treat it like a medicine.
I looked at various brands of elderberry syrup to determine how much to take.
Here’s the elderberry syrup dosage we use:
CHILDREN AGES 2-12
1 teaspoon a day during cold and flu season
1 teaspoon every 3 hours when sick
2 teaspoons a day during cold and flu season
1 tablespoon every 3 hours when sick
As adults, we up our dose to a full tablespoon when sick because it seems like it takes longer for us bounce back than it does for the kids.
WHERE TO BUY ELDERBERRY SYRUP
If you’re in a pinch and can’t make your own elderberry syrup, you can buy it already made at most health food stores and pharmacies. You can also buy the syrup on Amazon. I like the Nature’s Way brand.
Sambucol is another great brand with a variety of products from elderberry liquid extract, to elderberry gummies, elderberry lozenges, and elderberry syrup.
PRINTABLE ELDERBERRY SYRUP RECIPE
Cook time includes getting the pot up to pressure and the manual quick release of the steam.
- 4 slices ginger root
- 1/2 lemon
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 6 cloves
- 1 cup dried elderberries
- 4 cups filtered or bottled water
- 1 cup raw honey
Put ginger, lemon, cinnamon, cloves and elderberries in the Instant Pot. Add the water.
Put the lid on and set the vent to "SEALING".
Cook on MANUAL for 10 minutes.
Do a quick pressure release, remove the lid, and set to "SAUTE". Boil the syrup for 10 minutes, until the liquid is reduced by half.
Pour through a strainer, mashing on the berries with a spatula until all the liquid is released. Make sure you throw the berries away (in the trash or in the compost) as they are not safe to eat.
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Nutritional and cost information is for estimating purposes only, and subject to variations due to region, seasonality, and product availability.