Elderberry syrup is practically a treat in our house. Fresh batches never stick around very long and I find myself making more often. I tested a lot of recipes when I first set out to develop one and finally settled on this one as my absolute favorite. Elder is one of the herbs that is associated with a rich history of folklore in seemingly every culture, perhaps because it is such a noteworthy and powerful herbal ally.
The Elderberry used for medicinal purposes comes from the Sambucus nigra tree-like shrub, which produces clusters of dark purple berries in late summer to early autumn. It can grow to be up to 20 feet high and wide, but is often found at heights as low as 3 feet. The plant has a pith-centered stem and compound leaf structure with 5-9 serrated leaves. I have come across a few people groups who still hollow out the branches and use them to make flutes like this one. The branches produce clusters of small, cream-colored, twinkle light-like flowers that are also used medicinally, in food and skin care recipes, and that turn into the well-loved clusters of fruit valued by humans and birds alike.
Elder is fairly easy to cultivate and can be propagated by seed or with cuttings. It can thrive in almost any kind of soil, but does like moisture and some good compost. I like to plant Red Clover near its base once the plant has established itself to help nourish the soil. Elderberry seeds seem to have a higher germination rate when stratified (though I know some herbalists who don't think it's necessary) and can be planted in the fall season when they would naturally fall to the earth. Expect fresh little Elderberry seedlings to pop through that soil sometime in early spring.
Elderberries are a powerful peoples' medicine but they are best used after they have been cooked. The raw fruits can cause nausea and digestive issues when consumed because of the chemical composition of their seeds. It's best to cook or boil the fruits before using them.
Elderberries are most well known for their starring role in Elderberry syrup - a traditional home remedy that is renowned for its ability to help people feel better faster during the cold and flu season. They have been studied a lot in recent years and some of the results of these scientific studies have been impressive, bolstering Elderberry's reputation even in western circles. Elderberry is indicated for a variety of cold and flu symptoms, respiratory infections, sinusitis, fever, coughs, and more. Energetically, it's a cooling and drying herb.
One study concluded that Elderberry may have a beneficial effect on blood pressure and oxidative stress, while possibly reducing side effects of blood pressure medications and improving quality of life. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27417664
Another study showed that Elderberry and Elderflower constituents may possess inflammatory modulating activity. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28282861
One constituent, lectin, has been / is possibly still being studied as a substance that may help halt the progression of ovarian cancer cells. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5520748/
Numerous studies have concluded that the anthocyanin content of Sambucus nigra shows promise for being beneficial in cases of Diabetes. The polyphenols are shown to have an anti-inflammatory effect and modulate immune system response. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25327310
Elderberry extract shows promise as an antidepressant agent. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25491608
It’s also been proven to reduce the duration of and severity of cold and flu symptoms. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4848651/
INGREDIENTS FOR MY LAVENDER ELDERBERRY SYRUP RECIPE
- organic Elderberries
- organic dried Ginger root
- organic Lemon juice
- filtered water
- raw, organic Sucanat (or whatever organic, raw, unbleached sugar you prefer to use)
- organic Lavender buds (They must be English Lavender buds from certain varieties of Lavandula angustifolia plants - look for Lavender buds labeled as culinary Lavender, like these, which come from a friend's beautiful farm.)
Watch the video below to learn how to make it.
You can also make herbal syrups with honey instead of the sugar. For a long time, I did this because I prefer honey to sugar, but I ultimately ended up deciding that the consistency and shelf life of syrups made with sugar is so much better (in my opinion, anyway) that we now make them with raw sucanat (a type of unbleached, unprocessed sugar that is, essentially, dehydrated sugar cane juice) here in our house. Yay for nice thick herbal syrups! =)
What do you like to include in your Elderberry syrup recipe? Have you ever made any for your family?