4 Reasons to Consume Elderberry Syrup and How to Use When You Start to Feel Sick

Famously called his “Medicine Chest,” by Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, elderberries (Sambucus nigra) have a rich history being used as medicine by the ancient Romans, and widely throughout Europe for centuries.


elderberry syrup medicine


European folklore warns one mustn't cut branches from the Elder tree without first asking permission, lest the Mother spirit of the tree will haunt the taker of the wood. Other superstitions viewed the Elder tree as a charm that would ward off evil spirits and ailments, offering protection and luck to its keeper. 

Folklore informs us of the magical space the Elder seems to inhabit between worlds. In today’s world, the Elder tree is best known for its dark blue, black, or purple berries, which can be made into a delicious concoction handy in the herbalists cabinet during cold and flu season. 

*Eaten when raw, the berries (seeds in particular) can cause nausea and vomiting, so berries should be cooked or dried before ingestion.* 


cluster of elderberries

Much research and intrigue surrounds the abundant benefits elderberries supply; here are four good reasons to keep a bottle-full of syrup around in your medicine chest.

1. General Health and Wellbeing

Elderberries are a nutritive, health-building food containing a wealth of compounds to support the overall health of our bodies. Procyanidins and anthocyanins are the flavonoids that give foods like grapes, blueberries, apples, and elderberries their deep red or blue hues. They act as antioxidants with an affinity for heart health, supporting healthy circulation, and lowering inflammation in the body. There is also some evidence that procyanidins work synergistically with vitamin C, of which elderberry is also a good source, to suppress certain cancers. In addition to bioflavonoids and vitamin C, elderberries are also a good source of vitamin A, phenolic compounds, beta-carotene, iron, potassium, phytosterols, and several important amino acids.

2. Viral Defense

Consuming elderberries is a natural way to combat viral infections such as singles, herpes, and influenza. The berries both protect from a virus taking up residence in your body in the first place, and help stop and slow viral spread once it has arrived by preventing the virus from replicating. Consider combining elderberries with other potent antiviral botanicals, such as lemon balm (Melissa officinalis), which has been shown in studies to arrest replication of the influenza virus when it comes into contact with it, or oregano (Origanum vulgare), which is useful in treating bacterial infections. The broad compounds in these plant medicines become increasingly useful when viruses develop resistance to isolated compounds found in pharmaceuticals. 

3. Respiratory Relief 

Elderberries are cooling and drying, energetically, and are useful in cases of congestion and generally whenever you want to get something “out.” They are demulcent, or soothing, to the chest, making them good company when you have an upper respiratory infection with lots of coughing spasms. The berries are also a gentle diaphoretic, containing perspiration-inducing viburnic acid, helping to cool the body and break a fever. 

4. Urinary Health

Elderberries are diuretic, helping to move things along through the urinary tract, preventing or soothing infections in this area by helping to clear bacteria and other toxins from the kidneys. Also a natural anti-inflammatory, elderberries consumed during a bout with a UTI can offer relief and shorten its duration. Better still, use elderberry preventatively!

How to use elderberry syrup when you feel like you’re getting sick?

As soon as you start feeling like you’re coming down with something, employ this simple recipe:

Brew one cup of echinacea tea and add 1-2 teaspoons of elderberry syrup


Drink 3-5 cups throughout the day, and continue until you feel better!

echinacea flower head

Echinacea is a gentle immune stimulant, and can help ward off or shorten the duration of illness.

It is thought that echinacea should not be taken for more than 14 days straight, as it may not benefit your immune system to be constantly revving it up, but is more effective when used for acute conditions.

There may be added benefits to taking the elderberry syrup in a hot preparation. An old wives tale claims that drinking the syrup hot with tea before bed cures a cold. 

We’ve focused on the use of the ripe berries, but the flowers and leaves also harness their own notable medicinal powers. This powerhouse botanical is a valuable ally to acquaint yourself with, and it’s easy to discover why it garnered its reputation as Hippocrates’ “Medicine Chest!”

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