Building Your Medicine Chest: Elderberries

Building Your Medicine Chest: Elderberries

Elderberries are held in high esteem in areas all over the world.

Known for their outstanding ability to ward off and cure the common cold and/or flu virus, elderberries make some of the most frugally sustainable remedies and should be a part of your medicine chest!

I want to touch on a couple of issues concerning elderberries prior to moving on with the recipes. There are a few different types of elderberry plants that grow wild throughout North America. It is important that you never consume the red elderberries (due to poisonous toxins) and only consume the blue ones after cooking them.

Finding Elderberries

You may be one of the lucky ones to have the ability to forage for elderberries locally.

But for those of us less fortunate, you may be happy to know that the elderberry bush is relatively easy to grow. It is my first recommendation to you, for sustainability purposes, that you plant and grow this perennial on your property. It grows well in moist soils in zones 3-9 and quality seedlings can be purchased on-line from nurseries such as this one.

The next best option is to obtain high-quality dried elderberries from a reputable source. I trust and order frequently from Mountain Rose Herbs.

I want to share with you three different ways to prepare elderberries for administration.

If you were to purchase a small, four ounce bottle of elderberry tincture, you better be ready to pay approximately $10-$15! With these recipes you’re looking at spending approximately $0.50 per ounce and even less if you have your own elderberry bush! This is a great way to provide for the health of your whole family, without spending tons of money!

Recipes for Elderberries

Unless otherwise stated, the brain behind these recipes and methods is attributed to Rosemary Gladstar and her amazing book Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health.

Building Your Medicine Chest: Elderberries

Elderberry Syrup

-1 cup of fresh or 1/2 cup of dried elderberries
-3 cups of water
-1 cup of honey
-2 tablespoons grated ginger (optional as a warming agent but not necessary for effectiveness)
-spices such as whole cloves and cinnamon are optional add-ins as well

Directions: Place berries, ginger (if using), and water in a pot. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and then simmer over low heat for 45 minutes. Smash the berries. Then strain the mixture through a cheesecloth. Add honey. Bottle syrup and store in the refrigerator for up to 3 months.

Use: Child: Administer 1 teaspoon per day for prevention or 1 teaspoon per waking hour at the onset of cold/flu-like symptoms. Adult: Administer on same schedule, however increase dosage to 1 tablespoon.

Note: Not suitable for children under one year of age.

Elderberry Glycerin Tincture

-1 cup vegetable glycerin
-1 cup water
-1/2 pound dried elderberries

Directions: In a quart jar place the dried elderberries. Pour the glycerin and water over the berries. Place the lid on the jar and keep in a cool, dark place. Shake the jar at least twice a day for 4-6 weeks (the longer the more potent the solution). Strain the mixture using a cheesecloth. Be sure to squeeze all of the liquid out of the berries. Store in an airtight container on the pantry shelf for up to 6 months.

Use: This tincture is safe for all ages. Alcohol is left out of this recipe to be safe for pregnant mamma’s and infants. For adults and children: Administer 1 teaspoon daily for prevention and up to 4 teaspoons daily at the first signs of illness.

This recipe based on this post by Nourishing Days.

Elderberry Vodka Tincture

Dried elderberries enough to fill quart-sized jar 1/3 full or fresh berries to fill jar
-100 proof vodka

Directions: Fill quart-sized jar 1/3 full with dried elderberries (or completely full for fresh). Add enough warm water just to cover dried elderberries (this step not necessary with fresh berries). Fill jar with 100 proof vodka. Place the lid on the jar, label with date, and keep in a cool, dark place. Shake the jar at least twice a day for 3 months. Strain the mixture using a cheesecloth. Be sure to squeeze all of the liquid out of the berries. Store in an airtight container on the pantry shelf for up to 2 years.

Use: For adults and older children: Administer 1-2 tablespoons daily for prevention and up to 4 times daily at the first show of cold/flu symptoms. May be administered in a cup of hot warm, sweetened to taste for a more palatable route.

Elderberries are an easy and frugal source of immunity. My hope is this information will enable you to provide for your family in a very nourishing way.


+Because they work gently and effectively.
+Because you can grow many yourselves, right outside your front door or even in your kitchen.
+Because it’s our birthright to use the gifts of nature with respect and wisdom.
+Because up until relatively recently, at least in the western world, herbs were an integral part of taking care of ourselves.

Health doesn’t come from plastic bottles. Vitality grows naturally from the way you live your life. Deep down, people already know this.

If you want to learn more about herbs as medicine and as food, and if you’re just too busy to enroll in an in-person program, join the Herbal Academy of New England for a comprehensive and convenient online herbal course you can complete anywhere and anytime!

Learn what your great ancestors knew about the natural world and begin to build your own apothecary.

Start classes anytime! Click this link to learn more and register.

Note: Although this salve is nontoxic, it may cause some skin irritation. It is always the best practice to test all topical applications before use as they may cause allergic reactions. Consult with a medical professional prior to the use of this or any herbal preparation.


  1. juliecache says:

    Will have to make this next year. Thanks for linking up to the Frugal Tuesday Tip!

  2. Anonymous says:

    I'm so excited to try this recipe ! My elderberries arrived from Mtn. Rose Herbs last week. Do you have an elderberry bush ?


  3. @RealGranola I had two bushes I planted to late this past spring. They were growing quickly but the AZ heat got them! I am not giving up though:) Planning to plant a few more in cooler areas of the yard this fall. Hopefully they'll be better established prior to next summer.

  4. Anonymous says:

    May I ask where you got your elderberry bushes ?
    Thanks !

  5. I really love Gurney's I've ordered several things from them and I have loved them all! Very good quality.

  6. Another plant to add to the list! I love finding new plants that do more than just look pretty! (although I do love flowers)
    Thanks 🙂


  7. A Heritage From The Lord says:

    I just put about 56 cups of wild elderberries in my freezer, and was hoping to find a new recipe to try with them:) Thank you for posting this:)

  8. Wendy (The Local Cook) says:

    I have a local herbalist who just gave me some elderberry in her "kick the ick" mix this week when I came down with a sore throat/cold. I think it's also in her cough elixer. I posted about her approach to being a "locavore" herbalist just yesterday.

    I'm glad to see you are advocating for sustainable wildcrafting.

  9. Katherine Atkinson says:

    This is so great! I really hope you'll share it with Wildcrafting Wednesday! I'm sure my readers woudl love it too! 🙂

    ~ Kathy

  10. Debra Herbert says:

    Here's something I'm curious about… Would Elderberry Jam like the type you get at a store or make for yourself have any of the same properties? Or is it just basically flavored? (I started to feel somewhat silly asking this till I remembered, the dumb questions are the ones you don't ask!)

    • There are numerous stories from long ago about specific low quality wines and ports developing a reputation for being able to treat a whole host of conditions from flu to gout, when their higher quality counterparts did nothing. In each case it later came out that unscrupulous vinters were cutting their products with cheap local elderberry wine. So I’m guessing that as long as it contains elderberry juice, even the modern storebought jams would likely have some level of curative powers.

  11. Wow thanks! always wondered what else to do with the elder berries growing here. Cheers, Rachael

  12. I make elderberry syrup every season for my family, same recipe as suggested with the ginger, cloves and cinnamon, AND rose hips for a Vitamin C dose!

  13. Also when I lived in Italy they made elderberry fritters with the flowers… simply cut off the whole flower bracket, batter light, fry and sprinkle with powdered sugar….. yumm….

  14. Should I be concerned about giving the vodka infused juice to children????

  15. We have elderberry bushes everywhere in south Mississippi. I have some in the field next to my house and behind my house. I have looked everywhere for a tincture recipe and couldn’t find one, until now!! I am so excited and will be sitting on ready when the elderberries are ready to pick. Thank you so much!!!

  16. Bosnian girl says:

    Hi there.. I am reading your posts previous ones and current for a while.. great info and inspiration…
    I have two elderberry bushes that I adore.. making a lots of elixirs and tinctures as well as drying the flowers for tea purpose.. I even made syrup out of fresh flowers.. it tastes and smells amazing.
    However , this year one of my bushes got some black bugs that i can not get rid of, naturally. I am using berry’s in my syrups and dont want to use anything with chemicals to get rid of them. Do you know ANYTHING thats might get rid of those black bugs naturally. I already tried soap and water.. unsuccessfully.. ..
    tanks for your great posts… God bless….

    • I’m not sure exactly what kind of bugs you might have, but neem is a wonderful natural way to deal with bugs in your garden so that you don’t have to worry about tainting the berries and flowers with gross chemicals!

  17. How do you process the syrup to keep it on the shelf for long periods of time instead of in the fridge?

  18. Just ordered some glass bottles to make some tinctures ..can’t wait to try out some elderberry recipes.

  19. Any idea if there’s a way to do the first recipe in a crock pot? I’ve got a wee one around and finding time in the kitchen uninterrupted is difficult. Thanks.

  20. For bushes, just dig the wild ones, free, the best kind. I made the vodka one last fall and I’m glad I did as this year due to the drought there weren’t any available and I don’t have money to buy. No one needed it thankfully but I had it just in case ready. Great posting. The lady with 56 cups for the frezer, I can’t imagine finding that many at all. Glad for her. Takes a LOT to get 56 cups. One thing if you use them in recipes be careful, we found out we needed the restroom more aften after I used it in a quick bread and we ate a lot at once. Just FYI.

    • Although very late to this posting, I want to advise against digging up bushes from the wild…this is very bad advice! If you are in the US, this habit is illegal in many States and it’s also illegal in other countries, so if you’re tempted to do this, make sure you are doing so legally. An alternative, if you want a freebie, is to take cuttings from the bush. Yes it will take longer to produce the fruit you can use in larger quantities, but it will get there. Humans are NOT the only ones who rely on elderberries and removing a source in the wild can actually cause harm to wildlife who depend on that bush. So please be responsible in how you procure your bushes, grow from seed, take cuttings, buy from a reputable garden centre, get from a friend’s garden, but never take from the wild!

  21. I just made my elderberry syrup but I also added an equal amount of rose hips to my elderberries. Thank you so much for posting this recipe, I’ve been battling a nasty cold the last week and this will surely kick it in the butt.

  22. I just made the syrup. No ginger only 1/4 stick of cinnamon and 1/2 tsp cloves. Took first TBP full tonight. 🙂

  23. My neighbor has a tree/bush growing in our suburb SMALL backyard. I’m tempted to put one in mine, but I am so landlocked! She thankfully supplies me with flowers and berries so I have been making elderberry jelly with them and drying the berries. I should have enough berries to make a tincture. The flowers I brew with other herbs when we are feeling poorly from cold/flu or allergies. Thanks for your post and recipes. I will be pinning! Nancy at

  24. Stephanie J says:

    At first I thought this was a syrup to just pour on food. My mother makes elderberry jam and I thought wow a syrup would be good on pancakes. Could you use this recipe on pancakes? I may not be reading it correctly. I never knew they had health benefits other than being yummy.

  25. Thanks for your informative blog post, I just made this and it tastes wonderful! We’re ready for the cold and flu season now.

  26. Kimberly Weninger MH says:

    I love the article and recipes but have one little disagreement with this. Ginger has many healing properties; unlike what you said about it. Just a note to those that might be inclined to think so.
    Because of it’s anti-inflammatory properties a great addition to the mix!

  27. DixieChick says:

    Lordy, my sister and I used to pick those berries and mush them up for paint when we were kids growing up in MS. My mom told us they were poisonious. I always wondered why we never got sick when playing with them. 🙂

  28. My mother made elderberry jam and syrup in the 50`s.I`ve been makeing tinctures ,etc. with many herbs since 1970. elderberry and myrrh tinctures are the two i make the most .They both are super, natural God ,made herbs…Also black walnut tincture will clean you out !

  29. If I my brother froze a bunch for me could I then may a tincture when I get to his house? Also wondering can you use the frozen ones in muffins like blueberries.

  30. I was originally looking for a jam recipe for SLOE berries and by accident found your elderberry info.

    When living in the UK I made Elderberry wine which was far too drinkable. Now I live in Bulgaria and I am astounded by how much wild fruit goes to waste. The Sloes are prolific this year but manybe abit late for Elder, certainly from the trees. I am not certain about Ground Elder though and I am struggling to find info on it. Last year I saw lots of wild birds feeding on Ground Elder but not this year and my poultry have turned up their beaks and bills whilst loving tree elder. To tell the difference tree leldeberries hand whilst ground elder stands up from the ground! Think stalagmites and stalactites!!

    Been making lots of chutneys from foraged fruits but not tried rosehip yet. When I was a boy kids used the hairy seeds from inside hips as if they were itching powder, yuk, bad memories.

    Any recipes for hips would be useful.

  31. Have you ever used apple cider vinegar with a honey blend for an elixir? I am considering making one that is alcohol free with acv for those that cannot use alcohol.

  32. Isara Serene says:

    Andrea, do you reuse/resoak the dried berries after you strain them from the Vodka tincture? They still have so much color and it seems like you could refill the bottle with Vodka (like you do w/ vanilla beans?). I am ordering bushes this spring, but ’til then, am buying dried berries – hate to waste them … not successful in finding uses for them on the internet. Even a jelly might be good? I am now forced to mask at work (d/t rejecting the flu shot) … but I do not reject it passively. Exercise, diet, sunlight, water, air, and rest … and elderberries!

  33. Hello, I’m new around here and to herbal remedies, could someone please elaborate the advantages of each of these methods and when one would be preferable over another? Is the syrup more for kids/palatability? Is the tincture stronger? Thanks!

  34. I faithfully drank elderberry several times a day while going through chemo. Didnt catch any cold our the fly that year. If I do get ill, elderberry shortens the length of illness.i believe in this stuff.

  35. Sharon, regarding elderberry during chemo, I’ve been wondering if a friend going thru chemo should use elderberry. Isn’t the chemo meant to kill the immune system because the immune system is what causes the cancer to spread? And if elderberry boosts the immune system it might cause the chemo to be less effective? I’m no doctor and really swear by elderberry so would love for him to continue its use. Just wondering what your doctor said about this.

Speak Your Mind