Today I'm sharing with you one of my favorite tools for healthy living -- Homemade Elderberry Syrup -- and I've made it low-carb so even those on low carb diets can enjoy it.
When I was young, I got sick a lot. And I do mean, a lot.
It was during that time that antibiotics were all the rage, and I was sadly the victim of that kind of thinking.
Every time I got sick, my mother would take me to the doctor and would ask for antibiotics. It set me up for a ton of health issues including candida, gut problems, adrenal fatigue, and thyroid disease, and set the stage for my son's autism as well.
Everything is connected. And when you mess with your gut, you mess with everything particularly since it is the core of your health.
Since I found out the horrible effect that antibiotics can have on gut health, in addition to learning how they can lead to antibiotic resistance, I have tried my best to keep my family healthy without leaning on antibiotics for things like ear infections, goopy eye, and the sort.
I also think it's important to avoid over-the-counter meds as much as possible due to them having unwanted side effects. For example, for years I took Benadryl for allergy issues, only now to find out that it is an anti-cholergenic drug that can lead to Alzheimer's and brain shrinkage.
All the more reason to lean on healthy natural remedies whenever possible.
Brain Shrinkage and Alzheimer's?
I have a whole post on DIY Cold and Flu Remedies which includes this fabulous recipe for Elderberry Jam, but I started making Elderberry Syrup this year when my youngest got a very bad virus, as in a terrible terrible sore throat, a fever, and was feeling completely out of it.
We thought he had strep since his throat was so sore and we even ended up going to Urgent Care due to some odd symptoms, but we were sent home with no special treatment recommendations.
So I went to work nursing my son back to health.
I gave him Echinacea Tea, a mixture of garlic, cayenne, and honey, and this fabulous Elderberry Syrup.
The Homemade Elderberry Syrup was his favorite part of the regimen. I think he would have eaten it all day if I had let him :).
He sat and watched Lone Ranger reruns all day long, and I actually sacked out and watched them with him. I never really got sick, but my body sure was working overtime fighting the germs off. At one point I even slept through a bunch of the The Long Ranger's shooting, "Hi Ho, Silver!"calling, and more.
Elderberry Syrup Benefits
Simply getting more fruits and vegetables into your diet is always a good thing, but when you are adding in produce that is dark colored, the benefits typically run deeper. The dark color is an indication of more nutrition and more detox capabilities as the antioxidants in the foods scoop up all of the junk that is best removed from your body.
For centuries, elderberries were a standard folk remedy in Europe, North America, Western Asia and North Africa, so now their health benefits are being examined and studies.
Elderberries (Sambucus Nigra) are full of antioxidants which have many health benefits. They also have tannin, flavanoids (including quercetin, which is often used for helping mitigate allergy symptoms and anthocyanins), carotenoids, amino acids, vitamins, and more.
The benefits of Elderberry Syrup for Kids is the same and kids LOVE the yummy flavor too!
Are Elderberries Toxic?
Just so you know, if you buy Dried Elderberries for making this syrup, don't go a snackin' on them, MK?
Elderberries are not to be eaten raw as they are toxic when raw.
Actually it isn't the berries themselves that are toxic -- the seeds, stems, leaves, and roots of the plant are toxic, and of course, the berries have seeds in them.
I knew about this, but found out just how bad it could be.
The seeds, stems, leaves, and root contain a cyanide-inducing glycoside. 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 hospitalization may be required. The fruit of the elderberry is a tiny berry, about 1/8 to ¼ inch in diameter, and about 50% of the berry is seed.
Cooking the berries destroys the glycosides present in the seeds, making the berries with their seeds safe to eat. As such, the fruit of the Black Elderberry should always be cooked before consumption. Interestingly, research indicates that exposing elderberry to heat actually concentrates the polyphenols and anthocyanins. (source)
My Experience Eating Raw Elderberries
See, I had dried elderberries around for the purpose of making Homemade Elderberry Syrup and one day was craving berries. I figured that the elderberries had most likely been dried at a high enough temperature so as not to be raw, and I sat and snacked on some.
And some more.
I ended up awake almost all night with, let's just say, serious digestive upset. Upset to the nth degree.
The moral of this story is that friends don't let friends snack on dried elderberries.
How Much Elderberry Syrup Should You Take?
I've had readers ask me over the years, "How much elderberry syrup should I take?"
Well, the answer is that there is no real dosage or serving size information out there--it depends on you. However, this syrup is meant to be taken by the spoonful and not by the glass.
First of all, it's sweet and especially if you use honey as the base, you will be getting a glycemic hit from it. Regardless, however, you can get digestive upset from eating too much elderberry. Some people get that from taking only taking 1 tablespoon a day. So the best thing to do is start slow and listen to your body.
Some people take up to 2 ounces or more (4 Tablespoons) of elderberry syrup without having any laxative effect. It's often recommended that when fighting off an illness to take 2 Tablespoons up to 4 times per day, but again, you will want to see how your body responds to that.
Caution: Potential Drug Interactions
Please note that elderberries can potentially interact with several medications. If you are taking any of the following medications, please consult with your health care provider before using an elderberry supplement, eating elderberry jam, or any other elder plant products.
- Diabetes medications
- Diuretics (elderberry can potentially act as a diurectic)
- Immunosuppressants, including steroids and medications used to treat autoimmune diseases
There are several schools of thought on immune system stimulation so again, please speak with your physician regarding this topic.
What Is the Shelf Life?
The shelf life of this syrup should be about 3 months in the fridge, but that is if you make the version with honey. Honey has preservative qualities to it which enhance. You can typically compare the shelf life of this syrup to other fruit based homemade syrups.
Some recipes include a high-proof alcohol to enhance the shelf-life.
The low-carb version of this syrup should be good for about 1 month in the fridge or up to 3 months in the freezer.
- Cinnamon Stick: If using cinnamon, another option is to use 1 organic cinnamon stick.
- Jars: These are the jars pictured in the blog image.
Special Diet Notes
AIP: For those on the AIP diet, honey works well for AIP and raw honey is well known for its health benefits. Elderberries are not approved on the AIP diet, but they are a cautionary reintro. So you might want to take care adding this to your diet.
THM: For the Trim Health Mama (THM) plan, you are able to use the honey since this small amount is allowed for medicinal purposes. This syrup made with honey, however, is a THM "E."
Low Fodmap: Substitute maple syrup for the honey.
Easy Homemade Elderberry Syrup - low carb & AIP
- Combine the berries and spices (if using) and water in a saucepan.
- Bring to boil.
- Simmer for 30 minutes to an hour until the water is reduced by about a half.
- Mash the berries in the water, or blend in a blender.
- Strain through a cheesecloth, nut milk bag, or fine mesh strainer (optional).
- Add sweetener. Heat, if needed, to combine. (heat gently if using honey to not destroy the enzymes.)
- Store in a jar or bottle in the refrigerator of freezer. See notes for details.
Nutritional information is provided as a courtesy and is merely an approximation. Optional ingredients are not included and when there is an alternative, the primary ingredient is typically used. We cannot guarantee the accuracy of the nutritional information given for any recipe on this site. Erythritol carbs are not included in carb counts since they have been shown not to impact blood sugar. Net carbs are the total carbs minus fiber.
Keep this on hand all year round to help keep your immune system healthy, and use extra when fighting off "a bug."
Don't Feel Like Making Homemade Elderberry Syrup?
This recipe is super simple, but if you really are in need of the syrup and don't have time to make it, then you can buy quality Elderberry Syrup as well.
This brand has an organic version, but note that it isn't low-carb.
Have you had Elderberry Syrup before?
How did it work for you?