Elderberry is a natural plant that contains many antioxidants and vitamins. People have been using it since ancient times for medicinal and other purposes. In today’s society, elderberry is most commonly found in the form of gummies, syrup, and herbal supplements.
For those tired of searching for the right natural ingredient to aid them with immunity, weight loss, overall health and other common health issues – elderberry syrup is the ideal choice; and with so many recipes available, you can safely prepare this solution at home, or purchase from one of many respected brands.
Not sure whether you should buy a premade syrup or make your own? This article will shed light on the benefits of elderberry syrup, present you with the best syrups, and provide some DIY recipes to try at home.
Table of Contents
What is Elderberry Syrup?
Elderberries originated in Europe but are now cultivated all around the world. This dark purple fruit is often used to strengthen the immune system and treat a variety of illnesses. The fruit is compressed into a syrup which is especially beneficial during cold and flu season.
Because elderberries are high in nutrients and antioxidants, elderberry syrup can help improve many issues such as constipation and oxidative damage. Elderberries are low in calories and are often a vital ingredient in weight-loss products, they can even be used for treating toothaches and burns.
Elderberry syrup is high in vitamin C which makes it an effective supplement for prevention and treatment of colds. Taking the syrup daily offers a substantial amount of vitamin C, and can significantly reduce the duration of illnesses.
Health Benefits of Elderberry Syrup
There are many benefits of elderberries and since the fruit is low in calories and high in dietary fiber, it’s not surprising that it’s beneficial for many medical conditions. It can aid digestion and strengthen the immune system, and the plethora of vitamins and antioxidants it contains further contribute to its marvelous health effects.
Here are some of the most prominent and important benefits that elderberry syrup provides that have been confirmed by modern science:
Rich in Anthocyanins
Anthocyanins are flavonoids with antioxidant characteristics that play a very important role in maintaining overall health. As a powerful antioxidant, this compound can further advance the efficacy of the immune system by targeting and eliminating free radicals from the body. Anthocyanins give the berries their iconic dark purple hue and deep fruit pigment. The more anthocyanins the elderberry contains, the darker its color will be.
Anthocyanins found in elderberries also possess antiviral qualities that may help prevent and reduce the severity of common illnesses, such as the flu. Additionally, their anti-inflammatory properties have the ability to modulate the body’s immunological response and improve it.
In a recent 2020 study, researchers found that wild-grown elderberries contained far more anthocyanins than elderberries grown in an orchard. The study also showed that naturally grown elderberries were richer in antioxidants, and healthier overall than their orchard-grown counterparts.. This is why most elderberry syrups are made from wild elderberries, fresh or dried.
Reduces Cold and Flu Symptoms and Duration
Ancient Greek and Egyptian doctors used elderberries to reduce temperature and coughing symptoms. However, medical evidence for this wasn’t confirmed until 2016. This particular study shows that elderberry syrup indeed shortens the duration of a cold or the flu. For the study, researchers tested two groups of air travelers, since air travel is a known risk factor for spreading illness.
The passengers from the first group were given elderberry syrup before and after the flight, and the second group received a placebo product. After a few days, the placebo group reported more cold episodes, and the participants experienced considerably longer flus. In comparison, some of the passengers from the first group experienced almost insignificant symptoms of any illness or health issues and some reported a considerable decrease in the length and severity of colds.
Treats Upper Respiratory Symptoms
A 2019 study, which included 180 participants that suffered from upper respiratory symptoms, showed that drinking elderberry syrup daily improved the symptoms of all participants.
These findings show that elderberry syrup is an outstanding addition to over-the-counter meds and prescribed medication.
Antimicrobial Effects Against Harmful Bacteria
Elderberries are widely known for their antiviral and anti-inflammatory compounds, but did you know they can also inhibit the growth of harmful bacteria as well?
In this 2011 study researchers conducted liquid culture growth examinations to test the antibacterial activity of elderberry syrup against Gram-positive bacteria like S. pyogenes and Streptococci, as well as Gram-negative bacteria like B. catarrhalis.
Sixteen hours after exposure they measured the amount of growth and found that adding only 10% of elderberry extract to the bacteria in a liquid culture medium reduced the growth by more than 70% compared to untreated samples.
Helps Support Healthy Blood Sugar Levels
In a 2016 study researchers assessed the effects of elderberry supplements on diabetes control.
Type-2 diabetic rats were then given elderberry and their blood sugar and insulin profiles were then re-assessed. Significant improvement was found in the rats who were given elderberry, compared to the rats which received no elderberry.
High In Nutrients
Elderberries are high in anthocyanins, nutrients, and vitamins. They are specifically known for their high vitamin C and dietary fiber content compared to other types of berries.
Elderberries are also high in vitamin B, vitamin E, and vitamin B6, vitamin A, potassium, calcium, and iron.
May Help Cholesterol Levels
Many of the nutrients seen in elderberry syrup are also known to reduce cholesterol levels.
In a 2004 research study scientists found that drinking elderberry juice on a regular basis reduced blood cholesterol levels while increasing low-density lipoprotein stability. They conducted relevant tests between two groups, one placebo and one which received elderberry powder.
As part of the research, 34 patients consumed 400mg of powdered elderberry, which contained 10% anthocyanins over a period of 2 weeks.
There was a minor improvement in the non-placebo group and it was suggested that this effect may increase with a higher dosage of elderberry.
Which Elderberry Syrup is Best?
The best elderberry syrup depends on your own preferences and what you’re looking for. Elderberry dosage for kids or for babies will be different than products for adults. Some people prefer to make their own syrup, while others enjoy the convenience of buying a pre-made product online. It also depends on what benefits you’re looking for. For example if you want to strengthen your immune system, you may want a blend with additional immune boosting herbs.
No matter what option you choose, it’s important to use organic wild elderberries. As mentioned above, wild harvested elderberries contain more nutrients and anthocyanins than farmed elderberries provide.
We cover our top 5 pre-made syrups below, and have also provided a recipe further in the article so that you can choose the option that works best for you.
Top 5 Most Effective Elderberry Syrup Products
We have taken into consideration the most important review criteria to bring you our top 5 choices. This includes effectiveness, taste, potency, manufacturer’s reputation, ingredients, and ingredient sourcing.
First founded in 1987, Gaia Herbs, is a renowned manufacturer of high-quality herbal goods, including their unique Black Elderberry Syrup. The American manufacturer has the high ratings in terms of reputation and product excellence.
Great sweet taste with a slightly bitter aftertaste which is expected from an elderberry syrup.
Contains 1,903mg of black elderberry concentrate
Excellent minimal ingredient list with no artificial preservatives: Organic sugarcane, water and lemon fruit juice, black elderberry juice concentrate, acerola fruit extract.
Sourced from Austria in Europe. They hand pick these organic elderberries and support sustainable practices.
What We Like Best
Gaia has a “Meet Your Herbs” website where you can type in the ID found on your product bottle and look up where the specific elderberries that went into your product were grown. They are extremely transparent and don’t use proprietary formulas. They offer a high potency product with almost 2 grams of elderberry per serving and have been around for a long time with a great reputation.
What We Don’t Like
This is our top choice for a reason, there’s not much to dislike! If you’re looking for something with zero sugar there are certainly other choices, however the small bit of added organic sugarcane really improves the taste.
Garden of life was founded in 2000 by Jordan Rubin who created the company while trying to recover from his own chronic illness. Since 2000 they have grown into a multi billion dollar supplement company with a great reputation.
Good taste but a bit more bitter. There’s no added sugar so there’s not as much sweetness as other brands.
Contains 1,500mg of black elderberry concentrate and extract.
Contains additional immune boosting herbs such as echinacea, rosemary, and acerola cherry. No artificial sweeteners or preservatives.
Full List: Organic Black Elderberry, Organic Acerola Cherry, Organic Aronia Berry, Organic Psidium Guajava, Purified Water, Organic Tapioca Fiber Syrup, Organic Vegetable Glycerin, Organic Lemon Juice Concentrate, Mandarin Peel Flavor, Organic Flavors, Organic Citrus Extract.
The manufacturer does not disclose where the ingredients are sourced from, but they do guarantee that all ingredients are organic and non-GMO.
What We Like Best
We like that this product contains other immune boosting herbs in addition to just black elderberry. This is a great product for year-round immunity boosting benefits.
What We Don’t Like
The taste is not as good as other brands due to it containing no sugar. There is also a lower dose of elderberry compared to some other brands.
Honey Gardens was founded in 1965 and started off as a premium local honey business. It grew to include other products and formulations such as its elderberry syrup. This company is not as widely known but has still been around for decades.
Very good taste, partly due to the addition of raw honey. Not as much of a bitter aftertaste.
Contains a proprietary formula so dosage of Elderberry is unknown.
Contains a 6000mg proprietary blend composed of Local Raw Honey, Organic Elderberries, Organic Apple Cider Vinegar, Propolis, and Echinacea.
Full List: Local Raw Honey, Organic Elderberries, Organic Apple Cider Vinegar, Propolis, Echinacea, Beeswax, Pure Grain Alcohol, and Water.
The manufacturer does not state where the elderberries are harvested from, but they do state that their honey is locally harvested and the company is known for excellent honey and propolis.
What We Like Best
The reviews on this product are outstanding, the taste is very good, and it is very effective at boosting the immune system. It contains additional immune boosters like Propolis and Echinacea.
What We Don’t Like
We do not like proprietary formulas. Due to the proprietary formula no one knows exactly how much elderberry is in this formula. The reason we included it in the list is due to the outstanding taste and the vast number of reviews of its effectiveness.
RD Naturals was established in 2015 by a professional nutritionist and registered dietitian from South Carolina named Sara Gail. The company hasn’t been around as long as some others but has a registered dietician who designs their ingredient profiles.
Good taste, slight cinnamon undertone - a bit higher sugar than other brands.
Contains 1,000mg of elderberry extract per serving.
Minimal ingredient list with a few immune boosters such as Rose Hips and Hibiscus. No artificial sweeteners or preservatives.
Full List: Water, Organic Elderberries, Raw Honey, Ginger, Rose Hips, Hibiscus, Cinnamon, Cloves, Organic Lemon Juice.
The manufacturer does not state where the elderberries are harvested from, but they are organic.
What We Like Best
We like that a registered dietician has formulated the ingredient profile and included a few immune support herbs like Rose Hips and Hibiscus which enhance the effects of the natural Vitamin C in the syrup. The addition of cinnamon and a bit more sugar gives this a great taste.
What We Don’t Like
Not as potent as other brands, you need to take more of the syrup to reach the same potency.
Homemade Elderberry Syrup Recipe
- 1 Pot or Instant Pot to boil ingredients
- 1 Spoon for stirring the boiling mixture
- 1 Cheesecloth or filter for straining the mixture
- 1 Glass Jar/Bottle with lid for storing the homemade syrup
- 3/4 Cup Dried elderberries
- 2 Cups Water
- 1/2-1 Teaspoon Ground cinnamon Can use cinnamon sticks instead
- 2-3 Teaspoon Fresh ginger Can use 1-2 teaspoons dried ginger instead
- 1 Cup Honey Can substitute with other sweetners like maple syrup or stevia. If using stevia it will not be as thick.
- Mix ¾ cup of dried berries with 3 cups of water in a pot.
- Add the cinnamon and ginger into the pot and bring the contents to a boil.
- Once boiled, reduce the heat to low, and stir the ingredients with a wooden spoon.
- Remove the pot from the heat and steep the mixture for 45 minutes
- Carefully (HOT!) strain the mixture with a 2 ply or double layer cheesecloth, you can throw away the leftover herbs, all we care about is the strained mixture.
- Let the strained mixture cool to room temperature and then add your honey or stevia and stir.
- Pour the syrup into a glass bottle with a lid/cork and store it in the fridge.
Why Make Your Own Homemade Elderberry Syrup?
There are many reasons to make your own elderberry syrup instead of purchasing a finished product. Typically with store-bought products you always need to make sure that the ingredients are 100% organic and contain no artificial sweeteners or preservatives.
When following a recipe and preparing your own elderberry syrup, you are the one who chooses which ingredients and sweeteners to use. Additionally, when making your own recipe, you can experiment with the recipe and add unique ingredients and immune boosting herbs that will boost the syrup potency..
Where Can I Order Dried Elderberries?
The best organic dried elderberries we’ve tried are Birds and Bees brand, and Purify Life brand. We really like that these are organic and non-irradiated options. It feels great making your own syrup and knowing exactly what elderberries were used to do it.
They can also be found at specific health food stores occasionally. We’ve put together a list of where you can find elderberry online and in person here.
What is the Difference Between Elderberry Syrup and Elderberry Juice?
Elderberry juice is generally made from water and elderberries. It does not have the added ingredients that elderberry syrup does such as Honey, cinnamon, and other immune boosting herbs. It is also a more watery consistency and does not keep as long. If you’re interested in finding the best elderberry supplements you can check out our recent guide.
What is Elderberry Cough Syrup?
Elderberry cough syrup is the same as elderberry syrup but it has the addition of herbs such as peppermint and ginger which are good at helping to stop a cough.
Should I Use Dried Elderberries For My Homemade Elderberry Syrup Recipe?
Yes, dried elderberries are the best way to make elderberry syrup. Fresh elderberries are toxic and contain cyanide. The berries must always be heated in order to destroy this compound.
What is the Correct Elderberry to Water Ratio?
The correct elderberry to water ratio is 1 cup of water for every ¼ cup of dried elderberries.
Can I Make Elderberry Syrup without Honey or Sugar?
Yes you can, although it might taste bitter and be of a thinner consistency.
Can I Freeze Elderberry Syrup?
You can easily freeze the syrup and defrost it when needed. If kept in a glass jar, elderberry syrup can last for a maximum of 3 months in the fridge and 6+ months in the freezer.
How Much Elderberry Syrup Can I Take?
Researchers have found that taking 1 tablespoon, 1-2 times a day is the effective studied dosage (1200+ mg).
Can You Overdose On Elderberry Syrup?
Even though overdosing on elderberry syrup is not fatal, it can produce some nasty side effects. An upset stomach is one of the drawbacks of taking too much elderberry syrup. It can also cause stomach pain, cramps, vomiting, nausea, and diarrhea. Always stick to the recommended dosage to avoid any of these side effects.
Is Elderberry Syrup Poisonous?
No, elderberry syrup is not poisonous if made correctly. Dried elderberries should be used. Never use uncooked elderberries for your recipe since they are poisonous until heated.
Does Elderberry Syrup Need to be Refrigerated?
If you want the elderberry syrup to last for more than a couple of months then it’s best to store it in the fridge. This is especially true for syrups that include no preservatives.
How Long Does Elderberry Syrup Stay in Your System?
After you consume elderberry syrup, it usually takes about 1-2 days before it leaves your digestive tract and system.
Can I Use Powdered or Dried Elderberries to Make the Elderberry Syrup Recipe?
Yes, both options work. We recommend using dried elderberries as it’s easier to calculate the correct water ratio when making a homemade syrup.
Adam Shimit is the main author of Chromatin Health Network. Adam is a medical research professional who has published case studies and reviews across many professional journals and websites. In his spare time he enjoys hiking, nature, and anything fitness related. Read more about him here.