Contributed to by Kate Tietje, Roxanne, Sarena-Rae Santos, and Rustina.
The most important way to avoid getting sick is to eat a healthy diet and support your immune system during the winter months by getting enough rest. Most people don’t eat a 100% perfect diet all the time (us included), and we all allow ourselves to get run down from time to time. Colds and viruses are bound to happen to us and our children once in a while. The treatment we chose is important.
Why You Shouldn’t Use Over the Counter Medicine
The conventional answer to colds and viruses is to treat it with an over the counter medication like a decongestant or antihistamine. This may provide temporary relief which also comes with drowsiness and dizziness. Although one might find some relief, these over the counter options are not supporting the body in its natural process of fighting the infection – only masking the issues and suppressing the body’s actions to protect itself by coughing. Using herbs and foods (like elderberry) to support the immune system during a cold can help shorten the length and severity (1).
Elderberry and Other Natural Remedies for Colds
There are many herbs that can help fight off a cold and make cold symptoms more bearable. Elderberries have been used for centuries as a preventative treatment of colds and the flu. There is a long list of benefits to taking this herb that include reducing congestion and shortening the length of the cold or flu symptoms. Echinacea is also a popular herb to use in fighting off a cold and it is best taken at the first sign of symptoms. Another great herb to add to this list is rose hips. Rose hips are very high in vitamin C which has been known as an important vitamin to help fight off illness.
If you haven’t read Is Elderberry Really The Best Flu Remedy? or our Elderberry Herbal Profile, I highly recommend doing so. These two posts are great starter points to understanding this remarkable yet often misunderstood herb. From not using elderberry if you have an autoimmune disease to taking elderberry will cause a cytokine storm and kill you; the misconstrued claims can be overwhelming.
A quick review of some elderberry benefits include:
- May support the immune system
- Rich in antioxidants
- May improve cold and flu symptoms
- Supports heart health
- May help fight cancer
- May lower blood sugar levels and reduce insulin dependence
- Supports skin health
- May improve allergy symptoms
The bottom line is that elderberry has many exceptional properties and appears safe in all studied populations.
- Taking elderberry syrup or tincture daily, in small amounts, unless you have a negative reaction to it (not all herbs are for all people!)
- Using from at least August – March, during the majority of flu season, especially if symptoms develop or if you have been exposed. During the other months if sinus or allergies are an issue for you.
- Caution is warranted in individuals with autoimmune conditions. Generally, we recommend trying elderberry for immune support when not sick to see how you’ll react to it. It is better to start it when you don’t feel under the weather. If you find you respond negatively to elderberries, astragalus root may be a better option.
As we know, elderberries are really potent medicine, and they can have a strong effect on several conditions–flu, cold, strep throat, and other bacterial infections! If someone in your house comes down with one of these, shows potential symptoms, or is exposed to these, begin dosing with this DIY syrup as quickly as possible.
Continue doing so for 2 – 5 days until symptoms abate, and follow up with lots of probiotics (especially those that contain lactobacillus plantarum or s. boulardii) and cod liver oil. Fresh pineapple juice (including the core) may also prove beneficial during the illness.
There are many other herbs and treatments that are beneficial as well, of course. Many swear by oregano oil, olive leaf extract, colloidal silver, garlic, various essential oils, and other herbs. These can all have their place..
Elderberry syrup is the best general remedy we have found–the one with the most evidence for in larger populations. The other remedies are not all as well studied. Feel free to use or include whatever else you have personally researched or have found works for you.
We recommend freezing this syrup if you make it in large batches. It should last 1 – 2 months in the fridge, though.
As always, if an infection is not responding to home care and symptoms are worrying, call a health practitioner. This is not medical advice, and in a medical emergency – such as if a child is truly lethargic, having difficulty breathing, etc. – you should seek medical help.
Making homemade herbal cold syrups is a simple process and can be done with little experience or equipment. This herbal cold syrup is helpful in fighting off a cold, shortening the length of the cold, and reducing the severity of symptoms. This one has been a regular remedy in my household during cold and flu season.
The Ultimate Elderberry Syrup
- 1 cup dried elderberries
- 4 cups filtered water
- 4-1/4″ slices fresh ginger
- 1 lemon juiced
- 1/2 cup raw honey or grade B maple syrup
Step 1: Mix the dried elderberries, water, and fresh ginger in a medium saucepan, turn the pan on low-medium, and heat until it begins to simmer.
Step 2: Simmer this for 20 – 30 minutes, checking carefully to ensure it doesn’t boil too hard or the water doesn’t boil away. Add a bit of extra water if you need to.
Step 3: When the syrup is cooked, allow it to cool for a while. Then, strain the syrup through a sieve. You should end up with around 2 cups of juice.
Step 4: Discard the berries and ginger. Allow the mixture to cool to lukewarm. Add the honey.
Step 5: Add the lemon juice before stirring to combine completely. Pour it into a glass jar for storage and put it in the fridge. Your elderberry syrup is finished!
This should be used at the first sign of illness or concern that you may have an illness coming. The dose is about 1 tsp. every 2 – 3 hours for a child, and 1 tbsp. every 2 – 3 hours for older children (6+) and adults. Continue to dose this way during an illness for 2 – 5 days until symptoms abate. You may combine this with warm baths in Epsom salts, crushed ginger swallowed or rubbed on the feet, and other natural remedies if desired. Rest or allow the child to rest as much as possible too.
Make sure you continue cod liver oil daily.
The vitamin A and D can boost the immune system and help fight off infection too. Probiotics are also important — offer fermented milk (yogurt, kefir) with live active cultures or other probiotic sources that contain l. Plantarum. Learn more about cod liver oil at Everything You Need To Know About Cod Liver Oil.
Cold Fixer Syrup
- 1 cup elderberries, dried
- 1/2 cup mullein leaves
- 1 tbsp fenugreek seeds
- 3 tbsp yarrow leaf
- 2 cup filtered water
- 3/4 cup raw honey
- 1/4 cup acerola powder
Step 1: Combine elderberries, mullein, fenugreek, yarrow, and water in a saucepan. Stir until the herbs are all moistened. Place the pan on the stove and turn on high, until it boils.
Step 2: Boil the herbs for about 10 minutes, then remove from the heat and allow to sit and steep for 10 – 15 minutes longer.
Step 3: Pour the herbs through a strainer or cheesecloth into a glass cup, jar, or bowl (I used a mason jar, but a measuring cup or something with a wider mouth would have been easier). Step 4: Squeeze the herbs to get as much of the liquid out as possible.
Step 5: You want about 1 c. of liquid left once you’re done. Add the acerola powder and raw honey and stir until dissolved.
Step 6: Refrigerate and take up to 1 tbsp. every hour (adults) or 1 tsp. every 2 – 3 hours (children). Continue to take, less and less frequently (down to 1 – 2x a day) until symptoms are gone or nearly gone.
Herbal Cold Syrup
- 2 cups filtered water
- 1/4 cup elderberries
- 1/8 cup dried echinacea
- 1/8 cup dried rose hips
- 1/2 cup raw honey
Step 1: Pour the water and herbs into a sauce pan and bring to a boil for 3 minutes.
Step 2: Turn off the heat and let it steep for 30 minutes.
Step 3: Pour the herbal infused water into a mason jar. Let it cool in the jar.
Step 4: Once it has cooled add the honey into the jar and shake until blended.
How to Use: Take small doses of this every 1-2 hours while you are sick.
Cough n Cold Syrup
The reason that this works so well is because elderberry is known to have cold fighting properties, slippery elm soothes sore throats and coats mucous membranes (and aids digestive issues), fenugreek increases perspiration and helps the body clear mucus more effectively (and also aids digestive issues), and rosehips are very high in natural vitamin C. Combine it all and you’ve got major cold-fighting power!
- 1/2 cup dried elderberries
- 2 tbsp rosehips
- 2 tbsp slippery elm bark
- 1 tbsp fenugreek powder
- 3 cups filtered water
- 1 cup raw honey*
Step 1: Put all the ingredients except honey into a saucepan.
Step 2: Turn it on and simmer on low until thick and syrupy, 20 – 30 minutes.
Step 3: Remove from heat and allow to cool for about an hour. Then, strain the mixture.
Step 4: Add the raw honey to the cooled mixture and stir together. Now you have a homemade, safe syrup!
*Note: Keep in mind honey is not recommended for children under 1 year of age. However, some feel that Babies Can Eat Honey (Sometimes).* You may choose to use sucanat instead, in which case you need to dissolve it in the still-hot herbal mixture, if you are planning to give this to a baby.
***Does this sound great, but you don’t have the time or ingredients right now? Try our Elderberry Elixir or DIY Elderberry Syrup Kits.***
Disclaimer: This post is not intended as medical advice. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA, and nothing in this post is intended to diagnose, treat, or cure anything. If you have questions, please do your own research or seek advice from a health professional.
We’ve been very healthy so far this winter. We have gone through a quart of elderberry syrup between the 6 of us. Making more today. We don’t have any autoimmune issues nor have I ever heard of anyone having any issues with elderberry so we take it daily with some breaks. That, some herbs and homeopathy, probiotics, and FCLO has kept the viruses at bay(:
If I choose to take daily from summer to spring, how much do you recommend for adult?
I’d recommend a teaspoon a day, if you feel you need more, you can always increase the dosage.
Can this be made with frozen elderberries?
Please tell me why the ginger must be fresh? Have you tried it with dried ginger bits and found it did not work as well?
I am making elderberry syrup for the first time tonight! I am using your recipe (I love that you have included the lemon juice in it, this is the only recipe I’ve seen that has the addition of lemon juice) I have bought pre-made elderberry syrup in the past, but this is so easy! I will never buy it from someone else again. Thanks!
On med-low it does not come close to boiling or a simmer. So I am curious if it breaking down the toxicity. Do you know what temp it should get to? And for how long?
On other websites it says to bring to boil, then simmer for 45 min-ish.
In your other elderberry recipe (/2012/10/03/the-many-uses-of-elder/#.UR0IgqVwfgh) you cook the berries for 2 hours; in this one, you cook them for 20-30 minutes. Why the difference in time? Is the shorter time better?
In advance, thank you for your time and help.
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