When seasons change is the time we are most likely to start getting sniffles and colds. There is a range of herbal medicines that stimulate, regulate or help the immune system adapt during these times, but one of my all-time favorites for coughs and colds is Elderberry.

Elderberry is a beautiful herbal medicine that has been used for centuries by Native people and medical herbalists to assist with colds, coughs and upper respiratory ailments. When I compare cough syrups in the pharmacy I am stunned at how many unnecessary ingredients they have and many of which I can’t identify. Making your own ‘seasonal’ syrups is easy, many are preserved using ethanol (vodka). However, the recipes below use vegetable glycerin which is vegan, infant and kid-friendly and preserves for shelf-stability. Other sites may suggest raw honey, whatever you decide to use, alcohol, glycerine or honey, any of these can be effective to avoid the development of bacteria and mold.

The ratio I give below makes approximate 2oz/60mls and will preserve in the fridge for months. You can add ginger for a warm cough syrup, or cinnamon stick for sweetness. However, I like the Elderberry all by itself, it has a deep fruity herbal flavor. This year I also made a Vitamin C syrup using Hibiscus flowers and Rosehips! Both incredibly rich in vitamin C antioxidants and combined are a great tonic when given as a tablespoon each morning.

I prefer using dried herbs when making syrups, and always use organic or wildcrafted at least. Dried herbs are also easier to source in bulk and are incredibly inexpensive. If using fresh herbs, which you can, you just need to double the amount of herb used (from dried herb portion).

The dose for mild to moderate colds and coughs I suggest:
6yrs and older – 1 TBS of Elderberry syrup 3-4 times daily.
For infants and toddlers – 1 tsp 3xday.

For Vitamin C Hibiscus/Rosehip antioxidant immune support I suggest:
6yrs and older – 1 TBS daily
For infants and toddlers 1 tsp daily.

There is no contraindication for these 2 syrups and can be taken with Immune stimulating herbs such as Echinacea Angustifolia, Andrographis, Olive leaf and White horehound for heavy colds and coughs. These syrups can also be used in conjunction with conventional medicine without interruption.

Supplies needed:
1) You can easily find dried organic herbs online. If you are lucky you may live near an apothecary or co-op that has good quality bulk herbs to buy.
2) Vegetable glycerin – the amount used depends on the yield from simmering and steeping. Initially, I would buy around 4oz/120ml which should make 2 batches of syrups.
3) You’ll need to use sterilized glass jars or dropper bottles. Elderberry has a deep rich red flavor which can stain, I prefer using a dropper top bottle for easy dispensing.
4) Cheesecloth. You can find these at just about any fabric or craft store, you can buy them online, or find them at culinary stores.

Dried Elderberries

For a 2oz/60ml Elderberry syrup I use:
1/2 cup of organic dried Elderberries (2oz)
1 1/ cup water (distilled/purified or spring water) So 1:3 ratio
In a glass or stainless steel saucepan add Elderberries and water on high heat until starts to boil, then turn it to a low simmer, put a lid on the saucepan and simmer for 1 hour. Remove from heat and let steep in the saucepan for another hour.

Put berries and all liquid into a cheesecloth OVER a small bowl, Squeeze any liquid from the berries through the cheesecloth. The liquid/juice should be a glorious dark red/purple color.

Elderberry Juice

Measure the liquid – you will then add 1/2 of that amount in vegetable glycerin. So, if you yield 2oz/60ml of liquid, you will add 1oz/35ml of vegetable glycerin. Pour the glycerin and Elderberry juice into a glass jar, seal, label, and store in the fridge for up to 6 months.

For a 4oz/60ml Hibiscus and Rosehips Vitamin C syrup I use:
1/2 cup Hisbiscus flowers (1oz)
1/4 cup Rosehips (1oz)
2 1/4 cups of water (distilled/purified or spring water) again 1:3 ratio
Using the same cheesecloth method- the juice should be rich vibrant red color (that’s the proanthocyanidin antioxidants right there!!!

Hibiscus and Rosehips Juice


Pour into 4oz/120ml glass jar, seal, label and store in the fridge for up to 6 months. Dosage is 1 TBS daily for Vitamin C immune support.

Hibiscus and Rosehips Vitamin C syrup

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