It’s Elderberry Time ~ Making Cough Syrup and Tincture

It's Elderberry Time ~ Making Cough Syrup and Tincture, Making Elderberry Cough Syrup & Tincture, Johns and York varieties, tincture and cough syrup, homemade remedy

It’s Elderberry Time ~ Making Cough Syrup and Tincture

I can’t tell you how much I have looked forward to harvesting the elderberries this year! I was diligent about pruning this spring ( I cut it back almost 40% and pulled up all the rooted suckers to give away) in anticipation of having more fruit. The two bushes outdid my expectations. If there was one herbal remedy that I really want to make and use year after year, this is it.

Sambucus canadensis is one of those “medicine chest” plants.  Soothing ointments and eyewashes can be prepared from its leaves and flowers.  All parts of the plant have been used for various complaints over the years. The leaves can be rubbed on skin as an insect repellent. Cuttings of elderberry are good for activating a compost pile. All the way around, it’s a wonderful plant that I’m happy to have as part of our edible landscape.

It's Elderberry Time ~ Making Cough Syrup and Tincture, huge American elderberry fruit, black, harvesting

What a gorgeous harvest, this being its third year!

Health Benefits:

Elderberry is used for its antioxidant activity, to lower cholesterol, to improve vision, to boost the immune system, to improve heart health, and for coughs, colds, flu, bacterial and viral infections and tonsillitis. Bioflavonoids and other proteins in the juice destroy the ability of cold and flu viruses to infect a cell. Elderberry juice was used to treat a flu epidemic in Panama in 1995.

Elderberries contain organic pigments, tannin, amino acids, carotenoids, flavonoids, sugar, rutin, viburnic acid, vitamin A and B and a large amount of vitamin C. These, including quercetin, are believed to account for the therapeutic actions of the elderberry flowers and berries.

Elderberries were listed in Mosby’s Nursing Drug reference for colds, flu, yeast infections, nasal and chest congestion, and hay fever. In Israel, Hadassah’s Oncology Lab has determined that elderberry stimulates the body’s immune system, and they are treating cancer and AIDS patients with it.

Elderberry is SO POWERFUL when used against colds and flu I decided to share both syrup and tincture recipes here.

Making Elderberry Cough Syrup:

It's Elderberry Time ~ Making Cough Syrup and Tincture, making elderberry syrup

There are several commercial brands of elderberry syrup available commercially but it is much more cost effective to make it, and you can control all the ingredients it contains. It can be used preventatively or for acute symptoms, and children should love the taste.


  • 1 cup fresh or 1/2 cup dried organic elderberries (minus stems)
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 cup raw local honey ( I only used 3/4 cup)
  • 1 organic cinnamon stick, 3 organic whole cloves, and organic ginger (optional)

Place berries, water, and spices in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 30 minutes or until a syrupy thickness. Smash the berries to release remaining juice and strain the mixture. Allow liquid to cool. Stir in raw honey only after it has really cooled to preserve the enzymes and good living food in the honey. This will last for 2-3 months stored in the fridge.

Note: Do not use for children under the age of one due to the honey.

It's Elderberry Time ~ Making Cough Syrup and Tincture, elderberry syrup

Making Elderberry Tincture:

In last year’s post, you will see exactly how to make a simple elderberry tincture. All you need are these three things:

1.)  fresh, dried, or frozen elderberries (minus stems). You can grow your own for next year, find them in the wild, or purchase them. Bulk Herb Store is a reliable source and their elderberries are organic.

Great selection of bulk herbs, books, and remedies. Articles, Research Aids and much more.

2.)  a quart jar with a tight fitting lid.

3.) 80 proof or higher vodka. There are Three Main Reasons to use alcohol when making tinctures. If you’re concerned about the alcohol, you can place the tincture in a cup, pour boiling water into the cup, and the alcohol will evaporate within seconds. OR, you can add your dose (20-30 drops) to a cup and let it dry up. When you add water to swallow it, there will be less alcohol left than in a ripe banana. 

See here for directions to make a tincture.

It's Elderberry Time ~ Making Cough Syrup and Tincture, removing alcohol from a tincture, elderberry tincture

For easy removal of the berries from the stems, don’t waste your time picking them off ~ just pop them into a freezer bag and freeze them. Once they are frozen for a day or two, they will become brittle and fall off practically all by themselves.

It's Elderberry Time ~ Making Cough Syrup and Tincture, bag elderberries and pop into freezer. Berries fall off easily

Plant Elderberries this fall for your own stash:

To give you an idea of how much room you will need if you ever plant elderberry (you need two different varieties for fertility), here is a picture of the largest one, ‘Johns’ :

It's Elderberry Time ~ Making Cough Syrup and Tincture, Johns elderberry planting, fruiting

As a society we have gone outside the home for most of what we need and want in our lives. To mix homemade and homegrown into as much of our lives as possible – even in the littlest things – can change so much.

I encourage you to consider planting edible landscape such as currants, aronia berries, elderberries, and red raspberries. You can have your own ‘medicine chest’ right in your own backyard. Yes, you can, with a little planning, research, and hard work!

I am not a doctor, and do not share this as medical advice;  it is something that has been practiced for hundreds of years. Both Pliny the Elder and Hippocrates mentioned and recommended elderberry as a medicinal herb in their writings.

It's Elderberry Time ~ Making Cough Syrup and Tincture

“And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food.” ~ Genesis 1 :29

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~ Jacqueline

This entry was posted in Berry Growing, Garden, Health, Herbal Remedies. Bookmark the permalink.

65 Responses to It’s Elderberry Time ~ Making Cough Syrup and Tincture

  1. LindaG says:

    I really want to thank you for this post. I have bookmarked this post and will bookmark your tincture post, too. I wish I had seen the tincture post sooner. We just cleared a bunch of elderberries.

    Hopefully they will come back. At least the ones along the fence.
    I’d just as soon they not grow right next to the house.

    Have a wonderful week!

  2. Kristen says:

    I LOVE this post. I have been wanting to make elderberry syrup and tinctures for the past year and this post has inspired me to finally give it a try. Deep Roots is quickly becoming one of my favorite reads. You’re like the mentor I’ve been searching for but never met. :) Thanks for all of your work!

    • Jacqueline says:

      Dear Kristen,
      Thank you for your kind words. You are so encouraging, and if I can encourage YOU with a little mentorship, well, praise the Lord for that :) I am so glad you are spurred on to making a tincture or syrup. This will be our third year to make it, and we have found it to be very effective and quick acting, especially if used right at the first sign of a cold or flu..
      Many blessings,

      • Diane Merritt says:

        Dear Jacqueline-
        Thank you so much for your wonderful website!! I made Elderberry tincture for the first time from my bushes. This is my first harvest!
        I am trying to find the seeds for a Lobelia (Indian tobacco) plant. Do you know where I could order them? I live in Utah and I know that Lobelia grows here, but I have not been able to find any place where I can find this herb to buy so I can have it in my garden.
        |Thank you.
        Diane Merritt

  3. Jennie says:

    Thank you so much for this post!!! We just found wild elderberries growing in our woods last week on a nature walk. The children were all delighted to be able to eat from the woods and it was right after we had read about the Nomads eating off of the land. God is so good! One question. The syrup only last for 2-3 months. Could we freeze more berries to make more syrup after the first one is either gone or has gone bad? We will be picking these today!!! So excited to try this.
    Thanks again,

    • Jacqueline says:

      I’m sorry about the delay in writing this reply…we just returned fro a trip to NC tonight at 7PM. Yes, you certainly may freeze them, and they will keep at least 8-9 months frozen, perhaps longer, if double bagged in freezer bags with as much air removed as possible. I am so glad you found them!! Yes, our Creator God IS so good!!!

  4. Hello Jacqueline ! I love this post. I am sharing on my Facebook fan page right now.

    By the way, just an idea – in your wordpress, you might wish to change your permalinks to be the titles of your posts instead of the p=######. My understanding is that that is better for SEO. :-). You can also change the words to be things that folks are searching for if you like -).


    • Jacqueline says:

      Hi Adrienne,

      I can’t tell you how thrilled my daughter and I are to finally understand what you were sharing with us. I had no clue. My daughter had long wondered how to chance the URLs into the titles, and was just getting ready to sit down and learn how to do it. When you commented, she got very excited and knew that the permalinks were what changed the URL. Thank you so much for taking the time to tell us about this!


  5. Great post! So jealous of your bumper crop, the elderberries were very sad here this year. It’s been so hot and dry that they quickly shrivelled on the trees/bushes before falling.

    • Jacqueline says:

      Hello, Wildcraft Diva,
      One thing I did find out is that they need about an inch of water a week as they set berries. We mulch ours heavily, too. I am praying you will also get a ‘bumper crop’ next year and thereafter :)

  6. Auntie Em says:

    How interesting! I will see if they grow down here! We planted a peach, plu, and pear tree this year, so we are making small progress : )

  7. Looks like a great recipe. I’d love to have my own to make like this. Good to see the raw honey in it rather than the usual sugar too.

  8. dee m says:

    Wow! I am amazed.. I have been eating Elderberries all my life, not alot, but perhaps a teaspoon to tablespoon full in my organic greek yogurt…my husband and neighbor as well. They come back every year on our farm this last 35 years. We usually pick 5 to 10 gallons of them, giving me quite a few after stemming to freeze in small portions. I make jam throughout the winter.

    I never knew of the fusions or tinctures. Thank you for such an awesome post. Looks like I will be making them this fall. Our Elderberry season came a month early this year due to our drought here in OH. Last year we harvested 10 gallons, this year only 5…but more then enough to do a little of everything with them. :) … thanks!

    • Jacqueline says:

      That is exciting! So many say elderberries are harmful raw, but we’ve felt to eat them in moderation is a good thing. It is definitely cleansing! We found we do NOT like them in pancakes, however 😉 Thanks for visiting.

  9. Margaret R says:

    Hi, I just found your blog. I came over from New Life on a Homestead. I love reading all of the advice and ways to make things from scratch. My gramma and mom used to make elderberry wine every year. We would drive around the countryside looking for bushes and pick them. Then gramma would make the wine. My mother and gramma drank one small glass every day. Probably why they were hardly ever sick. When we moved to northern Michigan my gramma died and my mom never made the wine after that.

    • Jacqueline says:

      Dear Margaret,
      Thank you for sharing the story of your childhood gathering with your mom and gramma. Bittersweet memories about your family. I hope you start making it once again! May you and your household be blessed, friend :)

  10. I love this post, and also your ability to make all of these syrups and things for the health of your family! We buy elderberry syrup, and I really think it keeps us healthier in the winter. It would be great to be able to grow some though! Thank you so much for sharing at Thrifty Thursday, hope to see you again :) Have a blessed day!

  11. Deb says:

    That top photo is just gorgeous! Thank you for this post and recipes. We don’t have elderberries on our property, I bookmarked this post hopefully for future use. Friends gave us elderberry jelly a couple of years ago when they found an elderberry tree alongside the road and made some – delicious!

    One thing I recently discovered is that I can’t eat raw honey w/o getting sick (and my son just became a beekeeper!). That makes me so very sad…and I see raw honey is in the cough syrup recipe. Maybe I could still make it for the family even if i can’t try it.

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  14. I’ve obviously late reading this post, but just wanted to say how amazing your bushes look and what an inspiration it is to plant some myself. Like you said, learning to use homegrown and homemade is such a freeing and wonderful experience. It really makes me stand ever more in awe of our God when I realize the plants I walk on everyday actually hold incredible healing power.

    We serve an amazing Creator!

    • Jacqueline says:

      It makes me think of the scripture to subdue the earth…God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.” Genesis 1: 28a Take dominion in your backyard, at least!

  15. Valerie Lee says:

    I am excited to find a cough syrup recipe! I hope I can find some elderberrys at some store. I’d love to hear all your thoughts on using herbs and berries in the garden in our homes.

  16. Annette Wolf says:

    This a great post….!
    We’ve some dried Elderberries from Bulk Herbs and I am encouraged, after reading this article, to get some “going”. A big “thanks” to you Jacqueline!

  17. Stephanie W says:

    I just discovered your blog today in a search for elderberry cough syrup. :) The Bulk Herb Store is out of stock on the dried berries. Do you know of another reliable source for them? I would love to ward off bronchitis and such this winter.

  18. Kristen says:

    Hello, Jacqueline!

    Thank you for writing this terrific post – I used your recipe this weekend to make my first batch of elderberry syrup! I was just wondering if you know, though, are a few little stems in your dried elderberries an issue? I picked through them before simmering but I wonder if I missed some. My tummy is a little off today, which made me think of this. Are the stems bad for you?

    Thank you so much for sharing any knowledge you might have on this and God bless!


    • Jacqueline says:

      Hi, Kristen,
      We always pick out as many of the tiny little stems as possible~ if you eat many and they are raw, they aren’t good.. In the measuring cup (in the photo), those stems got picked out before I made the syrup. I do know of some friends who aren’t so particular, and it hasn’t seemed to bother them, but do your best to pick out 98-99%. Hope this helps.

  19. Stephanie says:

    I just got some frozen elderberries and was wondering if I can make the syrup; I noticed the syrup recipe calls for either fresh or frozen berries. Thanks!

  20. Stephanie says:

    Oops, I just re-read my post, I meant to say the recipe calls for fresh or dried berries but wondering if I can use frozen in yours or any recipe? Thanks again!

    • Jacqueline says:

      Yes, it would make sense that you could use either, but I have not read that anywhere. Since freezing reduces some of the nutrients (but less than canning or cooking), using frozen might mean that the resulting syrup won’t be quite as powerful, but still very good!

  21. Valerie Wilson says:

    My husband and I live on the same property, 37 acres with our daughter and her husband and four children. Our youngest daughter and her family live within walking distance. I have contemplated a various amount of possible ways to ‘use’ the land here. I don’t know a great deal about growing organically but I do know you have to be a distance from those growers who use chemicals. There is a small field next to the property that does get chemicals so I am not sure we could create an atmosphere entirely organic. After reading your posts, I wondered if we couldn’t begin to grow those plants that would have a medicinal purpose for our own use and then if we can work it out, begin to sell what we have created. So, with that in mind, do you know of a book that would list the various plants, herbs, etc. that could be used for a medicinal purpose, what that purpose is and possibly recipes like you posted? My husband and I have been treating ourselves naturally since he had prostate cancer 6 years ago and I need something to help with swelling as in carpal tunnel syndrome and swelling in my back from a break when I was an infant. So how much better would it be to grow these items ourselves?….If you have any suggestions, that would be super….I too enjoy your site…I need to go back over to check your many topics….Blessings…Valerie

  22. Davi says:

    I found your site a week ago I went out and bought dry elder berries for tincture
    But forgot we can’t get 80 proof vodka on this side of the border(Canada) is there any other way a person could tincture the berries or other herbs without 80proof
    Allso love the fact that you guys all love the great Creator of this world
    God bless.

    • Jacqueline says:

      Hi, Davi,
      I have read it several places that you can use vinegar or brandy…so yes, I think so. It will possibly not last as long on the shelf, though.
      And, yes, we do have an awesome Creator God :-) BlessingS!!

  23. Des Paul says:

    I have an Eldeberry tree that must be about 20 years old. It flowers profusely but never bears berries.

    What could be the reason?

    I’m involved in the Rural areas of Zimbabwe, where I teach the villagers survival skills, especially in organic farming and in health – Nutritional healing. I do use herbs and teach them how to grow and process them. Elderberry is a tree that I’d love to introduce as one of our agroforrestry plants.

    I’m proud to be the first to introduce Chia (Salvia hispanica) to Zimbabwe. I believe that it will save thousands of lives.

    You can find me on Facebook. – “Des Paul”.

    Mu preferred method of communicating is by email which you now have.

    • Jacqueline says:

      Des Paul,
      You must prune it to encourage it to bear if it is that old…too much to support and no energy left to bear fruit…sort of like our lives when the Lord prunes away the superfluous stuff (baggage). I’ll email you! Blessings!

  24. Bethany says:

    I’ve been using your elderberry syrup recipe for a while now and we love it! Unless we are sick though, I forget we have it and then it goes bad. Sigh. Do you know if I can freeze it after I make it? Or will that change it too much?

    • Jacqueline says:

      Hi, Bethany!
      That is a really good question~
      I think you might be able to freeze it and still have it be of good strength, but I’m thinking if there isn’t much left, I would almost rather just give it to the children or yourself to finish it up and make another batch (with the frozen berries) when you need it. It can’t harm them or you. I wish I knew just what to tell you :)
      Many blessings to you and the family!

  25. Luci Wood says:

    I love this post, thank you for your great information!! I would love to plant one of these bushes. I live in Alamogordo, NM. Would it do well in this climate? Summer highs are about 110 degrees, winter highs as low as 30 degrees.

  26. danielle says:

    I’ve been making elderberry syrup for many years, my daughters asked me to try a new recipe and so, I stumbled upon your blog. I’m very excited to compare flavor, I’m sure yours will be delicious & I hope my girls will take it more willingly than in the past. :) My question is this, can you recommend an additive other than honey that is beneficial & makes the syrup palatable to young ones who can’t consume honey? Thank you!

    • Jacqueline says:

      I have used glycerin in the past and it can be a short term sub until they can take honey. I don’t know of another that I’d recommend. Hope that helps :) Thanks!

  27. cory says:

    Great site, thanks for sharing your info. I live in s. Idaho near the south hills and elderberries grow wild in the hills here so I collected a large amount this year. My dad and mom used to collect them for jam before I was born. Now I think I will try the syrup and tincture.I always enjoy learning about natural meds. I can make at home. Thanks again.

  28. Amy Jung says:

    You inspire me so! I wish you lived next door to me! :) Instead I’ll enjoy your blog…:)

  29. Jane Wendy Smith says:

    Small but very useful! I don’t know if elderberry and resveratrol are somewhat related? I’m not sure but base on the description (health benefits) they are quite similar. Aside that it has high antioxidant, lower your cholesterol, to improve vision, to boost the immune system, to improve heart health, it has also aging properties and of course effective for losing weight. I haven’t tried the syrup. I’m gonna make some, thanks for the recipe. Looking forward for another a new recipe. Read further: Resveratrol Worth a Try

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  31. Melissa says:

    Hi- I loved reading this article. Thank you for writing it. Do you know if it is legal to teach classes on how to make tinctures using alcohol? I live in Utah and have been told there are strict rules about alcohol. Let me know if you have any advice.
    Thank you!

    • Jacqueline says:

      I know we gals get together and teach things all kinds of things in an unofficial way here in our state. I can’t imagine that using a tincture would ever be illegal since the alcohol in one dropper-ful is equivalent to that in one very ripe banana (as it ferments, it produces a small amount of alcohol!)

  32. Deborah says:

    I have noticed that there is an over abundance of them here, so you bet I will be picking some, thanks for the recipe.

  33. Robin L. says:

    Thank you so much for the good, practical information! Have you ever considered putting your articles together in a book format? I find myself savinng/pinning everything you write about health/food/”grow-your-own” & wishing I had it in print to refer to at home!

    • Jacqueline says:

      Robin, I haven’t! I need to ask my daughter about this and how feasible it is. I’m clueless about such things lol :)
      You are very encouraging!!
      Blessings to you and yours.

  34. BJ says:

    Can I can the syrup like I do maple syrup?
    Or would it be better to freeze the berries and make more syrup in the winter.
    Would you mind emailng me a response, if you get a chance?
    Thanks so much for this great info.
    Beautiful photos too!!!

    • Jacqueline says:

      Yes, Bj, you can probably can it but I think it would break down some of the medicinal properties…not sure. Freezing would be the best way in my humble opinion…

  35. jen says:

    I.just.found some berries in my woods. Some are soft and smell like wine, fermented a little bit. Can I still use them?

    • Jacqueline says:

      Jen, if it is a shady place, they are not elderberries as they need sun. Make sure you have a firm ID on them before assuming they are elderberries. I hope they are :) Soft and smelling like wine…hmmm.. I never noticed with mine, so I can’t say.

  36. freda says:

    i come from a town in the north east of England! ive just found your blog and love it making the elderberry syrup right this moment!!!Thank you so much for sharing this amazing recipe ,,,

  37. Paul Andrews says:

    Firstly I’d like to say what a great site, thank you for sharing your ideas. I wonder if you might e able to offer me some advice please regarding the following?
    I am fairly new to wine making using elderberries and have just transferred the fermenting wine from the brewing bucket into a demijohn (fitted with an airlock) for the ‘secondary stage of fermentation’. However, I have a bit of win leftover from the ‘bucket’ (about 1 pint maybe) but not enough to use in a 2nd demijohn (though it is in my airlock fitted spare demijohn at the moment), so I wondered if it may be possible to use this to make an elderberry linctus/cough mixture??
    I would be very grateful for any advice about this as it would be a shame to waste it.

    Kind regards

    • Jacqueline says:

      Hi, Paul!
      What a neat question and operation you are undertaking! I would say ‘Try it!’ It doesn’t have to be fermented for the tincture, but preserved for shelf-life. I think that by adding vodka would achieve that purpose wonderfully. I am not sure how much to use, though, since a true tincture is pure vodka and syrup is boiled with not the longest shelf life (2-5 months). For 1 pint, I would think 1 cup vodka would be a starting place. I’d love to know what you do and how it turns out :) Hope it all turns out magnificently!

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