Elderberry Elixir for Coughs and Colds

The change of seasons almost always brings with it a bunch of cold viruses; it seems like every second person I talk to has a runny nose or a cough!

It's pretty awful to see your children sick and doctors and pharmacists will tell you there's little you can do for them apart from letting them rest, giving plenty of fluids and if the child has a high fever; an age appropriate dose of paracetamol.

From my perspective, I like to do a few more things in the home kitchen to aid a fast recovery- it's is all about boosting immune system function. I've increased my kids intake of vitamin C, chicken broth, children's echinacea drops and my new favourite... this Elderberry Elixir!

You can buy elderberry cough syrups and elderberry vitamins pre-made, but it's so much cheaper and fun to make at home!

I picked up a bag of elderberries from my local health-food store, though if you don't have one nearby, or if you want to buy bulk, you can also buy them online (Use code: ZVM640 for discount on your first order).

Historically, elderberries were used in a syrup to build the immune system and prevent colds and flu. A recent Norwegian study has shown that elderberry juice (Sambucus nigra) not only stimulates the immune system, but also fights the influenza virus.

Besides containing lots of flavonoids and free radical-scouring antioxidants, elderberries contain 87 percent of the daily value in vitamin C, and high amounts of vitamin A, potassium, iron, vitamin B6, fiber, and betacarotene.

This Elderberry Elixir is very easy to make and as the berries are a bit tart you can add your choice of sweetner (no honey though, if it's to be given to a baby under 12 months) to make it more palatable for young children.


50g dried elderberries

2 cm knob of ginger, grated (zing!)

2 tbsp maple syrup (i've also used brown rice syrup, which is less sweet, and creates a more syrupy elixir)

2 cups water


Add all ingredients to a small saucepan and bring to the boil. Simmer gently uncovered until the syrup has reduced by half (40min-1hour). You'll have one metric cup of syrup. You could make more, keep in mind though it will only be good for about a week in the fridge.

Pour syrup into small jars and store in fridge or freezer, depending on how quickly you'll use it.

To serve:

As a tea: Add 2 tbsp syrup to a cup of warm water.

As a juice: It's also lovely mixed with pear juice. When I stew pears for our breakfast, I reserve the pear water and mix it with the Elderberry Elixir for my 10month old- he LOVES it!

As an immune boosting tonic: I give my children a 5ml dropper full of it, straight in their mouth. One dropped for my 10 month old, two dropper fulls for my 3.5 year old.