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Purple Powerhouse: The Elderberry Effect

At the very first inkling of a cold or flu making its presence known in my household, my immediate instinct is to reach for my trusty bottle of homemade elderberry syrup, the timeless tonic of health. It's not just any remedy; it's a labor of love, brewed with care from hand-picked elderberries, (as I grow my own) infused with nature's goodness like our own honey and cinnamon!  Over the years, this luscious purple elixir has become our family's frontline defense. It's a comforting ritual, a spoonful (or three!) of this syrup, acting as a blanket of protection. It's heartwarming to know that nature has provided such potent remedies, and there's an undeniable pride in having harnessed its power in my very own kitchen. Each dose is not just about fighting off illness, but also about embracing traditions, cherishing family health, and trusting in the time-tested benefits of elderberries.

They are extremely easy to grow, I have more info about growing them at the end of the article.

Elderberry and Immunity

Elderberries are perhaps most famously known for their potential to boost the immune system. Rich in vitamin C, dietary fiber, and antioxidants like flavonoids, they have been traditionally used to prevent and alleviate cold and flu symptoms. Scientific studies have shown that elderberry extracts can reduce the severity and duration of influenza by inhibiting the virus's replication. Additionally, its anti-inflammatory properties can help reduce the swelling of mucous membranes, thus clearing nasal passages and providing relief from sinusitis.

Rich in Antioxidants

Elderberries are loaded with antioxidants, compounds that protect our cells from damage by free radicals. Free radicals are unstable molecules that can harm cellular structures, potentially leading to chronic diseases and aging. The anthocyanins found in elderberries, which give the fruit its deep purple color, have antioxidant properties that are several times stronger than vitamin E. This means that elderberries can play a role in fighting oxidative stress in the body.

Heart and Skin Health

Regular consumption of elderberries or their extract may offer cardiovascular benefits. They can help reduce the level of cholesterol, improve blood sugar, and boost overall heart health. Additionally, the high levels of essential nutrients can support skin health. The vitamin A content in elderberries, for example, can help reduce the appearance of age spots and wrinkles, as it plays a crucial role in collagen production, a major plus, right?

Digestive Aid

Elderberries are also a source of dietary fiber, aiding in digestion by promoting regular bowel movements. This can help reduce constipation, bloating, and gastrointestinal issues. Furthermore, the dietary fiber can also assist in weight management by inducing a feeling of fullness.

While elderberries are indeed beneficial, it's essential to note that they should be fully ripe and cooked before consumption. Raw elderberries contain a toxin that can cause nausea, vomiting, and other symptoms, so it's crucial to prepare them properly or source them from trusted suppliers. As with any supplement or natural remedy, you can always consult with a healthcare professional before incorporating it into your routine.

Below are the recipes for the elderberry syrup and an extract (I make both, but my daughter prefers a syrup, since it is an alcohol-free formula LOL)

Elderberry Syrup Recipe


  • 1 cup fresh elderberries (or 1/2 cup dried elderberries)
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 cup raw honey (or to taste, I use more than 1 cup)
  • Optional for added flavor and benefits:
    • 1 cinnamon stick
    • 3-4 whole cloves
    • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated


  1. Preparation: If you're using fresh elderberries, ensure they are fully ripe. Remove the berries from the stems (the stems are not safe to consume), and rinse them well.
  2. Simmer: Place the elderberries, water, and optional ingredients (if using) into a saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for about 45 minutes to an hour, or until the liquid has reduced by half.
  3. Mash and Strain: After simmering, use a spoon or potato masher to mash the elderberries. Then, strain the mixture through a fine mesh strainer or cheesecloth into a bowl or large measuring cup, making sure to press out as much liquid as possible.
  4. Add Honey: Allow the liquid to cool to lukewarm, then add the honey and stir until well combined. The honey not only sweetens the syrup but also acts as a preservative.
  5. Store: Pour the syrup into a clean glass bottle or jar and store it in the refrigerator.

Usage: Adults can take 1 tablespoon daily for immune support, while children over one year old can take 1 teaspoon daily. (Note: Avoid giving raw honey to infants under 12 months.) If sick, the dosage can be increased to 4 times daily (I personally take a lot if with cold/flu symptoms, we never had any adverse reactions from high doses of it). You can always consult with a holistic healthcare professional before starting any new supplement or remedy, especially for children.

Storage: Since this recipe does not contain alcohol, which acts as a preservative, it's essential to store the syrup in the refrigerator. It should last for about 2-3 weeks. It does lasts much longer, but I’m being conservative here.

Note: It's crucial to ensure you are using the variety known as Sambucus nigra (European elderberry) and not other potentially unsafe varieties. Always source your elderberries from a reputable supplier, and never consume raw or unripe elderberries as they can be toxic.

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Homemade Elderberry Extract


  • 1 cup fresh elderberries (or 1/2 cup dried elderberries)
  • 2 cups vodka or high-proof alcohol, we use and organic vodka, Purity Vodka 51, connoisseur 51 reserve  (you can also use food-grade vegetable glycerin for an alcohol-free version)
  • 1 clean glass jar with a tight-fitting lid (pint-size works well)

Optional (for added benefits and flavor):

  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 3-4 whole cloves
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated (you can also add honey!)


  1. Preparation: If you're using fresh elderberries, ensure they are fully ripe. Remove the berries from the stems (the stems can be toxic), and rinse them well.
  2. Jar Filling: Place the elderberries (and optional ingredients, if using) in the clean glass jar.
  3. Add Alcohol: Pour the vodka or alcohol over the elderberries, ensuring they are completely submerged. If you're using vegetable glycerin, mix it in a 1:1 ratio with water to make 2 cups of liquid, and then pour it over the elderberries.
  4. Seal and Store: Close the jar tightly and give it a gentle shake. Store the jar in a cool, dark place (like a pantry or cupboard).
  5. Shake and Wait: For the next 4-6 weeks, shake the jar once a day. This will help extract the beneficial compounds from the elderberries.
  6. Straining: After 4-6 weeks, strain out the elderberries and any optional ingredients using a fine mesh strainer or cheesecloth. Compress or squeeze the berries to get as much liquid out as possible.
  7. Bottle: Transfer the strained liquid into a clean glass bottle or dropper bottles for easy use. Store in a cool, dark place.

Usage: Depending on its concentration and your preferences, you can take a teaspoon of this extract daily, especially during cold and flu season, or as needed. You can always consult with a holistic healthcare professional before starting any new supplement or remedy.

Note: same thing, make sure that you are using Sambucus nigra (European elderberry) and not other potentially toxic varieties. Always be cautious and certain of your elderberry source, and never consume raw or unripe elderberries as they can be toxic.

Growing elderberries are extremely easy, they are not picky at all, and if you have little bit of land, you can do it as well! I grow Sambucus nigra (European elderberry) is native to Europe but has been widely cultivated in various parts of the world. It is hardy in USDA zones 5 to 8. It tends to prefer well-drained soil and can tolerate slightly drier conditions than its American counterpart.

When choosing the right elderberry variety for your location, consider the specific needs of the plant in terms of sunlight, soil quality, and moisture level. Most elderberries prefer full sun to partial shade. They also favor soil that is moderately fertile and well-draining, but they're tolerant of a variety of soil conditions. Mine grow in Georgia clay in the part shady location and is doing great!

Happy growing and stay healthy!

Sandra Charbonneau
Sandra Charbonneau


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