November 8

Cold and Flu Remedy: Elderberry



Elderberry is known for supporting the immune system and fighting off the cold and the flu. Elder is a traditional folk remedy, but it also has the backing of modern studies that demonstrate it’s antiviral, flu-fighting abilities. Other studies listed on PubMed have also shown elderberry to be both antiviral and antibacterial

Catching the cold or a flu is miserable. No one enjoys having a fever, sore throat, or a congestion-triggered headache. Daily tasks are more difficult, or impossible, due to fever, weakness, and exhaustion. Sometimes, these infections become develop into acute bronchitis, or more seriously, pneumonia. Now imagine a this when the SHTF. Could you afford to spend a week in bed with the flu? Could you care for yourself or your family?

This year, there are two concerning flu viruses: this year’s (2013-2014) H7N9 Avian Influenza, or “bird flu”, out of China, which has a kill rate of about 33%, and the MERS Coronavirus from Saudi Arabia, which has an almost 50% kill rate. These are serious infections spreading right now. Will elderberry fight them? Maybe. The PubMed link above details elderberry’s influenza-fighting ability.

Whether it does or not, if virulent strains such as these were to spread to the US, our medical facilities would be filled with very sick and contagious people. If I come down with a cold, I don’t want to expose myself, and everyone else in my home, to something far worse by seeking treatment at the doctor’s office. I also don’t want to be waiting at a pharmacy, or fighting at one, for the last box of Tamiflu. I’ll stick with my elderberry at home.

Please note: If you are experiencing severe symptoms, you should seek medical attention immediately!

One distinction should be made, and that is if we end up facing a flu like the Spanish Flu, which killed mostly young adults and the healthy. That flu cause cytokine storms, where the immune system overreacted. Cytokines help fight infection, but you need the proper response, not too much, and not too little. I would avoid elderberry for those kinds of flu bugs, and opt instead for something like Oregon grape root tincture, or any of the berberines.

Elderberry may be taken in a number of ways, including juice, syrup, jam, or tincture (extract). Most studies, however, have been done on the extract. This doesn’t mean that other forms are not effective, just unstudied/understudied. However, traditional use includes the juice, syrup, etc. Caution: the unripe berries are toxic. Be sure to only use ripe berries, either fresh or dried. The ripe berries are sour, but once sweetened, are delicious medicine.

Elderberry can be taken either to prevent catching a cold or to fight off an existing infection. I take a single teaspoon dose of elderberry syrup daily during the cold and flu season to ward off infections. If I do end up with a cold or flu, I start taking elderberry tincture, 1 teaspoon, 4x daily. I give my children elderberry syrup, 1 teaspoon 4x daily. And thanks to a friend sharing an article on Facebook, I’ve also added a new elderberry remedy to my repertoire- homemade gummy candies.


Elderberry Tincture

  • Fill a mason jar 3/4 full of dried elderberries
  • Fill mason jar up to the very top with vodka (minimum of 80 proof)
  • Let steep for 6 weeks, strain, reserve liquid
  • Dosage: prevention- 1 teaspoon daily (I take it in a glass of apple juice)
  • Dosage: treatment- 1 teaspoon, 4x daily until symptoms subside, then reduce to 3x daily, then 2x daily, and so on.
Don't forget to label your tinctures! You will not remember what they are later!
Don’t forget to label your tinctures! You will not remember what they are later!

Elderberry Syrup
You can make strait elderberry syrup with only an elderberry decoction and honey. I prefer to make a double decoction and add more honey to make a thicker syrup. If you wanted to give this to a child under one year, you could easily substitute maple syrup, agave nectar, or other thick sweetener in place of the honey.


  • 2 cups of water, cold
  • 1/2 cup dried elderberries
  • 3 cinnamon sticks, broken- optional
  • 1 oz (by weight) ginger, peeled and sliced- optional
  • 1 and 1/2 cups raw honey


  • Place cold water and all ingredients into a pot.
  • Bring the pot up to a boil.
  • Reduce heat and simmer until liquid is reduced to 1/2 cup or 1/4th it’s original volume. (This took me approximately 35 minutes, check frequently after 20 minutes.)
  • Strain out the plant material, and pour the liquid into a pint mason jar.
  • Allow the liquid to cool a little. It should be very warm to make mixing earier, but not burn to touch, which would kill the enzymes in the honey.
  • Fill the jar with honey, mix thoroughly.
  • Store in refrigerator- lasts 1 month
  • Store in freezer- lasts multiple years
  • Dosage: prevention- 1 teaspoon per day
  • Dosage: acute infection: 1 teaspoon every hour until symptoms subside, with a minimum of 4x day As symptoms improve, reduce to 3x day, then 2x, then 1x until symptoms are completely gone.

I took a bunch of pictures of how I made the syrup.

Ingredients in pot
Ingredients in pot
I set a mesh strainer over a bowl in the sink to strain out the elderberries from the reduced liquid
I set a mesh strainer over a bowl in the sink to strain out the elderberries from the reduced liquid
I went a little further than I needed to in making the double decoction, but this will do just fine.
I went a little further than I needed to in making the double decoction, but this will do just fine.
Finished elderberry syrup in pint jar
Finished elderberry syrup in pint jar


Avian Influenza, Bird Flu, CDC, cinnamon, cold and flu remedy, Elderberry, elderberry syrup, elderberry tincture, Ginger, MERS Coronavirus, Raw Honey

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