Elderberry for Prevention

and Health Support;

The Science is in!

Elderberry has been a long-time herbal support for the immune system due to its active ingredient, Sambucol. Among the many Elderberry decoctions, i.e., syrup, tincture, and extract to name a few, Elderberry Wine was traditionally used to treat influenza and the ill effects of the chills, according to Dr. Madeleine Mumcuoglu of Hadassah-Hebrew University in Israel. She observes, “...the juice of the black elderberry has historically been an invaluable remedy. The elder has often been called the “medicine chest of the country people.” * 

Elderberry has become a popular home remedy today for many reasons. For one, it really works, and making it into a delicious syrup is easy, affordable, and ready for daily consumption. Depending on how you choose to personalize the recipe, and I recommend that you do, it can be consumed on pancakes, waffles, or oatmeal, all with added health benefits, or taken as a daily support, which is the option I like. I don’t like to miss a day, especially during flu and cold seasons.

The studies show that a daily supplement has the best results for prevention. The results of many studies (see many sources below) show that it can inhibit Human Influenza A (H1N1) and B, infectious bronchitis virus (IBV) at an early point in infection it is active against human pathogenic bacteria. In one of the studies, the scientists concluded far-reaching effects, reporting that "...in addition to its antiviral properties, Sambucol Elderberry Extract and its formulations activate the healthy immune system by increasing inflammatory cytokine production. Sambucol might therefore be beneficial to the immune system activation and in the inflammatory process in healthy individuals or in patients with various diseases. Sambucol could also have an immunoprotective or immunostimulatory effect when administered to cancer or AIDS patients, in conjunction with chemotherapeutic or other treatments.”*

A short trip back to anatomy classes reminds us that cytokines are proteins that act as messengers to the immune system. When no threat is present in the body, they send signals to other cells that keep your immune system functioning optimally and help control inflammation in your body. When there is an invading threat (like a virus or bacteria) cytokines send signals to your immune system to mount and send out the first line of defense, the Natural Killer (NK) cells, that rush through the system and kill off the invaders. In fact, it’s so beneficial to the immune system that those who have an autoimmune issue or are taking immune suppressants, need to avoid Elderberry and look to other natural supports to include in their lives. 

That said, the science in support of Elderberry for immune support goes as far as to show that “These findings present an alternative to antibiotic misuse for upper respiratory symptoms due to viral infections, and a potentially safer alternative to prescription drugs for routine cases of the common cold and influenza.”*  

That’s a pretty powerful statement that encourages me to add it to my daily routine. I included this immune-boosting syrup as part of my daily prevention throughout the entire Pandemic. Elderberry makes it difficult for the virus to penetrate cells, preventing and reducing its spread, and improving recovery within a 24-hour period, as discovered by Dr. Mumcuoglu, "elderberry disarms the enzyme viruses use to penetrate healthy cells in the lining of the nose and throat. Taken before infection, it prevents infection. Taken after infection, it prevents the spread of the virus through the respiratory tract. In a clinical trial, 20% of study subjects reported significant improvement within 24 hours, 70% by 48 hours, and 90% claimed a complete cure in three days. In contrast, subjects receiving the placebo required 6 days to recover.”*

Why choose a natural support?

That’s a good question and I feel it's best answered in layers. As I grow in awareness of finding ways in this life to live happier and healthier, I find a great deal more happiness and satisfaction when I exert efforts that feed my being on multiple levels. For me, this means when I have time to “play,” I do my best to choose experiences that feed my body, mind, and spirit, all in one sitting. It's different for everyone but for me that might look like a nature walk, for one example.  When I eat, I do my best to consume foods that feed my body, mind, and spirit. When choosing foods that are enjoyable, nutritious, and offer healing and health benefits, I have a deeper level of satisfaction while making and consuming them. The satisfaction touches a deep level that might only be felt nonconsciously but it's there. That little feeling of joy while making it may seem silly or even such a subtle difference that it can be tossed aside as an afterthought, but tuning in to that purpose, finding joy and happiness, in all things and all efforts, or as many as possible, is paramount in life’s journey. All the little things add up to the quality of the journey. I digress only to say that utilizing the foods offered to us by Mother Nature, as both nutrition and preventing illness, not only brings better health but also adds to the many ways we can create a better quality of life… because deep inside, there is that little intuitive self that feels the added level of satisfaction from knowing, “this choice, this action, feeds my being at the core.” And it's those feelings, those experiences that I choose to linger in as long as the moments allow.

With that said, of the many, many natural offerings available to us, Elderberry can be one of those ways to improve daily experiences.  My recipe can be the base recipe that supplies the most important therapeutic qualities just as it is, that you can then personalized per your own tastes and likes. As with any of your core meals, it can be adjusted for the tastes or needs of the day and you can make almost any adjustment you feel drawn to. I encourage you to play with the options. Have fun trying something new. There are a few things that need to be followed, some more strictly than others.

Pro tips:

  • Cook fully- Elderberries need to be cooked down rather well to draw out as much of the properties as possible. My cooking time runs a couple of hours, most of it simmering and steeping. Elderberries do need to be cooked thoroughly to eliminate any toxic effects.

  • The Elderberry to water ratio for this strong therapeutic decoction is 1:2. That’s 1 cup of elderberries to 2 cups of water The usual recommendation for herbal decoctions is 1:4, so this is a stronger decoction formulated to be consumed in small amounts.

  • Adding other healing herbs-The properties offered by other herbs leaves, stems and petals will be burned away if you cook them longer than 15-20 minutes and some even less than that so pay attention to the herb and steeping times before you add ingredients while personalizing. (see a list of suggestions below)

  • Honey is my go-to for adding sweetness to any syrup (and to tone down the natural flavor of Elderberry) because it has the added benefit of anti-bacterial and short-term preservative properties. (about 2-3 weeks in the fridge) However, all those good benefits of honey are burned away if it reaches 104 degrees so this must be added once the decoction has cooled to about 95 degrees. This temperature allows for the honey to mix well while maintaining its benefits.

  • How much Honey to use? This recipe calls for equal amounts of honey to rendered liquid. So once you have allowed the decoction to cool until it no longer burns to the touch but is still rather warm-you strain and squeeze out the liquid, measure it, and add that same amount of honey to the rendered liquid.

  • Substituting sweetener- If you are someone who does not use honey (see precautions below) you can substitute maple syrup, sugar, or stevia, though either will result in a thinner consistency and will need to be frozen to preserve.

  • Staining- I found that Elderberries stain after the fact. I now keep the drips wiped up and wear gloves when straining out the berries.

  • Cheesecloth or a large muslin bag is needed to strain the berries to ensure you keep the seeds out of the syrup.

  • Rendering more liquid- I want as much of the liquid as possible. I strain and squeeze out as much as I can and then divide the pulp into smaller sections to squeeze separately, which allows for greater rendering.


  • Results vary- Remember, each time you make it, will result in subtle differences in taste and the amount of liquid rendered. Especially from one season to the other or how much evaporation took place in the cooking process.

  • Freeze the syrup ice cube trays, small mason jars, or any small mold. Thaw only enough to last for the shelf life of the preservative used.

 Shelf life

  • If no honey, alcohol, or other preservative is used, freeze and thaw only enough for 3 days at a time.
  • Honey as a preservative allows for the thawed syrup to last in the refrigerator for about 3 weeks.  
  • Alcohol as a preservative lengthens the shelf life to 3 months in the refrigerator or 3 weeks on the counter.
  • If using alcohol to make the shelf life longer, you will want to use a mid-grade vodka, not the cheapest, or you will find the taste rather unappealing. You would then add this to the decoction after it's cooled.


Recipe and additions

1c                    Dried Elderberries
2c                    Water-spring or distilled is best
2                      Cinnamon sticks
1t                     Cloves- up to 1T for stronger flavor
1/4t                   Ginger-of dried root
                     Honey-equal amounts of honey per the rendered liquid.
                        So strain the liquid out after crushing the berries and then measure.
                        Add equal amounts of honey once the liquid has cooled 10-15 minutes
½c                   Middle grade vodka, optional to increase shelf life

 You will need:

  • Cheesecloth or a large muslin bag
  • Gloves (vinyl, rubber, or latex)
  • A kitchen thermometer is helpful but not necessary.  
  • Easy pourable bottle or small mason jar.


  1. Add the cool water, elderberries, cloves, and ginger to a glass or stainless steel pot and bring to a boil.  
  2. Reduce heat and allow a low simmer for 30-40 minutes, uncovered, stirring occasionally.
  3. Remove from heat and let steep for another hour
  4. Once it’s no longer scolding, using a strainer lined with cheesecloth or an unbleached muslin bag, strain and squeeze the juice out. This step requires a bit of effort. see pro tips above.
  5. Measure the liquid and match that measurement to determine the amount of honey needed. Only add the honey after the liquid has cooled to 100 to 104 degrees or less.
  6. Optional vodka can be added now and adds to the shelf life. see the pro tips above


Additional options

  • Any herbal roots can be and need to be cooked as long as the berries, so add them with the berries in step 1.

  • Other herbs, leaves, and petals, can be added after removing from the heat, in step 3, to reduce the cooking time and avoid burning up all the good healing properties. 

  • Turmeric-for this recipe, you can start with ¼ t of the dried root. It has a strong flavor. Use ground pieces, not powder, and add with step 1.

  • If you do use powdered turmeric, it will settle and create an odd consistency in which case the syrup has to be mixed with each use. It is an option, you would just need to mix well before each use. It has a strong flavor AND fantastic benefits.* 

  • Echinacea- Echinacea purpurea (Asteraceae) is a perennial medicinal herb with important immunostimulatory and anti-inflammatory properties, especially the alleviation of cold symptoms. Add just after turning off the heat in step 3. (See benefits         and         )


  • All Elderberry seeds, stems, leaves, and roots, are toxic. Cooking the berries removes the toxicity. Only use Black Elderberry and Do Not pop the berries into your mouth prior to cooking, keep them off the floor. If you are not already a wildcrafter or well versed in foraging I would recommend that you purchase your Elderberries from a trusted source rather than picking them in the wild. Buying from a trusted source ensures safety.
  • I keep my little ones, pets included, away from the kitchen while making the syrup and sweep the floor before giving them access to the kitchen again.
  • Honey contains a high amount of Fructose which can trigger IBS. If you have IBS see this *
  • Babies younger than 1 year old should not be given honey. There is a type of bacteria (called Clostridium) that causes infant botulism that can be found in honey. Infant botulism can cause muscle weakness, with signs like poor sucking, a weak cry, constipation, and decreased muscle tone (floppiness).* 

Daily practices

  • This recipe is used as a prevention and allows for daily use. I take

           1 to 1 ½ teaspoons a day, first thing in the morning. Some of the

           recipes found will be greatly diluted and then it’s suggested to use

           it as a pancake syrup. This is a perfectly good way to utilize the

           syrup if that is your preference, though daily is needed for ongoing


Rebecca May, L.M.T., C.A.,

Certified Aromatherapist Since 2003

Neuromuscular Therapist Since 2002,

Practitioner of Usui Reiki Energy and

Pranic Energy since 1999

Practitioner of Sound Therapy

A profound and far-reaching Therapy

Dr. Mumcuoglu

Conclusions: These results demonstrate that S. nigra extract can inhibit IBV at an early point in infection, probably by rendering the virus non-infectious.

They also suggest that future studies using S. nigra extract to treat or prevent IBV or other coronaviruses are warranted.

“The elderberry extract inhibited Human Influenza A (H1N1) infection in vitro…” Similar to the results of Tamaflu against influenza

Inhibition of several strains of influenza virus in vitro and reduction of symptoms by an elderberry extract (Sambucus nigra L.) during an outbreak of influenza B Panama

Symptoms were relieved on average 4 days earlier and use of rescue medication was significantly less in those receiving elderberry extract compared with placebo. Elderberry extract seems to offer an efficient, safe and cost-effective treatment for influenza.

The most striking increase was noted in TNF-alpha production (44.9 fold). We conclude from this study that, in addition to its antiviral properties, Sambucol Elderberry Extract and its formulations activate the healthy immune system by increasing inflammatory cytokine production. Sambucol might therefore be beneficial to the immune system activation and in the inflammatory process in healthy individuals or in patients with various diseases.

“Supplementation with elderberry was found to substantially reduce upper respiratory symptoms. The quantitative synthesis of the effects yielded a large mean effect size. These findings present an alternative to antibiotic misuse for upper respiratory symptoms due to viral infections, and a potentially safer alternative to prescription drugs for routine cases of the common cold and influenza.”

Elderberry Supplementation Reduces Cold Duration and Symptoms in Air-Travellers

Conclusion: Rubini elderberry liquid extract is active against human pathogenic bacteria as well as influenza viruses. The activities shown suggest that additional and alternative approaches to combat infections might be provided by this natural product.

The high quality and stability of elderberries make it great for food and medicinal use.

Elderberry demonstrates In vivo inhibition of viral replication and increased immune response.

In conclusion, the current in vitro study confirmed that the fruits of S. nigra are capable of protecting colonic cells against the detrimental effects of oxidative stress.

Considering the efficacy of the extract in vitro on all strains of influenza virus tested, the clinical results, its low cost, and absence of side-effects, this preparation could offer a possibility for safe treatment for influenza A and B.




Cytokines are proteins that function as chemical messengers in your immune system.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4505636/#:~:text=Cytokine%2Dmediated%20activation%20of%20NK%20cells%20before%20and%20after%20acute,the%20production%20of%20IFN%2D%CE%B3 Natural Killer cells (NK)

Infinite Evolution
Holistic Therapies

Florissant, MO

(636) 228-3343