Have you even heard of elderberry syrup? I hadn’t until 2 years ago when I saw an American friend post a recipe for how to make elderberry syrup. She was raving about how it had helped her family stay well all winter. So, I thought it was worth giving it a try. I’ve tweaked the recipe a bit to convert the measurements to metric and also to use the culinary essential oils we have here in Australia, but the original recipe was for the Homemade Mommy.
*Interested in discovering more about cooking with essential oils? You can grab a free copy of my cookbook – Cooking With Oils Makes Good Scents – here.
Oh, and when you’ve finished making your syrup, you can turn the rest of the elderberries into a delicious no-flour bread. So, I’ve given you the recipe below.
Interestingly, the two most common questions I get asked about elderberries are – “Why make Elderberry Syrup” and “Aren’t elderberries poisonous?”
So, I thought I’d write a blog that I could share with people when they ask these questions. Let’s answer those questions before I share the recipe with you.
Why make elderberry syrup?
Elderberries have been both food and medicine in many cultures for centuries. I’m always on the search for things to keep my family healthy and well. So, when I saw the recipe my friend posted I started googling to make sure what she was saying was true. Turns out – it was!
What the research says
In one placebo-controlled, double-blind study conducted by Israeli virologist Dr. Madeleine Mumcuoglu, 93.3% of the people taking an elderberry preparation reported significant improvement in influenza symptoms within 2 days of starting it. This was in contrast to the 6 days it took for the placebo group to see improvement.1
Another randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study was performed in Norway. Researchers gave either a placebo syrup or elderberry syrup to patients who reported having flu-like symptoms for less than 48 hours. The results were similar to Dr. Mumcuoglu’s results. On average, the patients who received the elderberry syrup saw relief of symptoms 4 days earlier than the group that received the placebo syrup. As an added benefit, the patients in the elderberry syrup group reported taking significantly fewer over-the-counter medications in hopes of symptom relief.2
So after seeing the potential benefits I thought I would try it for myself.
Are elderberries poisonous?
Naturally, this is an important question to answer! And the short answer is ‘Yes!’ and ‘No’! Let me explain…
Firstly, the bad news is that the seeds, stems, leaves and roots of elderberry trees are all poisonous to humans. They contain a cyanide-inducing glycoside. Consequently, eating a sufficient quantity of these cyanide-inducing glycosides can cause a toxic buildup of cyanide in the body and make you quite ill. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and even coma. Most people recover quickly, although hospitalisation may be required. So, what ON EARTH are we making elderberry syrup for, I hear you cry!
The good news is that cooking the berries destroys the glycosides present in the seeds. This makes the berries with their seeds safe to eat. As such, the fruit of the elderberry should always be cooked before consumption. Significantly, research indicates that exposing elderberries to heat actually concentrates the health-giving polyphenols and anthocyanins.
Finally, a couple of final safety tips – the varieties of elderberry used for cooking and medicinal purposes all produce deep purple/black berries. So stick to these. The Red Elderberry berries may be okay to eat after cooking, but most people agree that the seeds have to be removed first.
For me, I like to play it safe and only use elderberries that have come from a trusted source – and I cook them thoroughly according to the recipe.
Elderberry and Wolfberry Syrup Recipe*
½ cup dried Elderberries – sambucus nigra
½ cup dried Wolfberries – Lycium barbarum
4 cups filtered water
1 cup raw honey
1 drop each of:
Cinnamon Bark Essential Oil
Orange Essential Oil
Lemon Essential Oil
Ginger Essential Oil
Add the Elderberries, Wolfberries and filtered water to a saucepan. Bring to the boil to simmer for 45mins – 1 hour (Until half of the water has evaporated).
Remove from the heat and allow to cool.
When cool enough to handle, strain the berries in a sieve so the liquid goes in to a glass bowl, jar or saucepan.
Gently squash the berries to get out any remaining moisture.
Add the essential oils to 1 cup raw honey and then add this to the berry liquid.
Stir until well combined.
Decanter into a glass bottle or jar.
Store in the fridge.
Elderberry & Wolfberry No Grain Bread*
- 6 eggs
- 55 grams raw honey
- 1 cup elderberry/wolfberry leftovers
- 6 Tbs Coconut Oil
- 3 drops Tangerine essential oil
- 1 tsp aluminium free baking powder
- ¼ tsp celtic salt
- ½ cup coconut flour
- Preheat oven 180 degrees
- Combine all ingredients in a food processor and blend to combine.
- Pour in to loaf tin.
- Bake for 47 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.
- Allow to cool before slicing.
- Store in the fridge for up to a week.
*Recipes adapted from the Homemade Mommy
1. Zakay-Rones Z, Varsano N, Zlotnik M, et al. 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. J Altern Complement Med. 1995;1(4):361–9.
2. Zakay-Rones Z, Thom E, Wollan T, Wadstein J. Randomized study of the efficacy and safety of oral elderberry extract in the treatment of Influenza A and B virus infections.” J Int Med Res. 2004;32(2):132-40.