Elderberry Cordial Syrup

The elderberries (Sambucus nigra) are abundant this year. Great bunches of them are hanging off the branches, bowing down almost begging to be picked and made into an elderberry cordial syrup.

As humans, we can benefit a lot from elderberry culinary delights. In folklore, Elderberries have been used as a protection against influenza.

World-renowned Israeli virologist Dr. Madeleine Mumcuoglu has dedicated her life to researching the health benefits of Elderberry extract and has established a clinically proven treatment against flu (including swine flu and avian flu).

In one placebo-controlled, double-blind study conducted by Israeli virologist Dr. Madeleine Mumcuoglu, 93.3% of the people taking an elderberry preparation reported significant improvement in influenza symptoms within 2 days of starting it, compared with the 6 days it took for the placebo group to see improvement. REF

Antiviral Effectiveness of Elderberry


Warning: Do not drink raw elderberry juice as it is toxic. “The berries must be cooked sufficiently to avoid the risk of nausea or vomiting or cyanide toxicity.” REF.

Elderberry Cordial Syrup Recipe Ingredients

  • Bucket of Elderberries
  • Granulated sugar
  • Cloves

Elderberry Cordial Syrup Recipe Instructions

  1. Cut the Elderberries just below the stalks.
  2. Use a fork to remove the Elderberries from the stalks into a bowl.
  3. Place the Elderberries in a saucepan with enough water to cover them.
  4. Simmer for 20 minutes.
  5. Strain the Elderberry mixture through a muslin or straining bag, squeezing to ensure you get all the juice out.
  6. Add 1lb of granulated sugar and 12 cloves for each pint of juice.
  7. Boil the mixture for 10 minutes.
  8. Allow the Elderberry mixture to cool, and then bottle in sterilised glass bottles, ensuring that the caps have a plastic seal.
  9. Add an equal amount of the cloves to each bottle you make up.

The Elderberry cordial syrup will last up to two years.

Covers its past and present uses as food and medicine. Including folklore, recipes, nutrition and safety. Also included are a simple botanical profile and photo identification guide.

Further Reading


  1. So I’ve jusr accidentally invented Elderberry toffee, by getting distracted and wandering off during the second boil.With tremendous good luck i walked back in just as the sugar caramelised but begore before it burned, realised what had happened and tipped it out on a tray to set. its delicious, intensely fruity, and would be just the thing for coating toffee apples if I had any apples to hand. Off to go and find some more elderberries now, thoughtfully sucking on my toffee-encrusted spoon…

  2. AMAZING! Trying to heal my body of Lupus, Multiple Myeloma, Lyme Disease &Fibromalgia and the calling is for nature and natural! I’m THRILLED to have found this and to learn all I can! Thank you Robin! ?

  3. I pick and freeze the elderberries so I can make the syrup at a quieter time of year for harvesting. It also means I can extract the juice without boiling, so retaining more of the goodness. I place the frozen berries in the strainer bag and leave to thaw and drain, squeezing out the fruit to finish. To each pint of elderberry juice add juice of one lemon, 1lb demerara sugar and 50ml water in which you’ve boiled cloves, cinnamon and ginger for 10-15 mins, covered. Boil rapidly for 5 mins then bottle.
    This recipe is from my herbalist

    • Hi Clare, so in effect you’re only boiling the elderberry juice 5 min. total? Is that long enough to get rid of the cyanide in the berries? (I think that’s what is in them and the reason they need cooking). I like how your method sounds too because I also don’t like to over cook my natural ingredients. I made my first batch and sweetened it with honey, not sugar.

    • I just steam out the berries in a juice steamer, and then drain the very hot juice into canning bottles and seal. once opened it will keep in the fridge for a long time. I do not add sugar to it so it is not sweet to drink. but works very well to stop any sickness. If i wanted it sweet I would use honey, stevia or xylitol. If you use xylitol you can keep in the cupboard as xylitol will crystalize in the fridge. and the xylitol will prevent it from going bad. I drink about a half oz. at a time three times a day. -Doesn’t take long.

  4. I’ve made this cordial for 2 consecutive years now and find it very effective against colds and flu. The secret is to take it immediately at the start of cold symptoms. I use mine as a hot toddy.

  5. Hi Robin- do you add cloves twice to this recipe? Once in the boiling stage and then again at bottling? Just wanted to clarify- can’t wait to make it this week! Thank you

  6. Hi
    read somewhere about using 1/2″ mesh to remove berries from stalks by rubbing them back and forth across it above a bowl. Didn’t have any mesh so took the front off my currently redundant cooling fan (floor standing size), gave it a wash and used that. Worked a treat.

  7. After checking several different recipes I added some grated ginger and cinnamon sticks in the final boil and strained again before bottling. It tastes pretty good. I am interested in the anti inflammatory benefits of the ingredients and wondered how much a day would be recommended to drink ? ie, one teaspoon or tablespoon ?

    • Ruthdigs – Honey does act as a preservative, although you would have to be very aware that it might ferment unless kept in a fridge. I am still playing with using honey and haven’t yet found the right proportions to use to make it stable without refrigeration.

  8. I’ve been making elderberry syrup for years now, and always with organic honey, which is added when the strained juice is lukewarm. Recipes differ, but it is basically 500ml water to 150g elderberries and 340g honey plus different spices. I keep the syrup on the counter, and have not had a problem with it going off or alcoholic! Alas, this year around us in London, all the elderberries, and blackberries, are over already.

  9. I’ve just made 4 pints here in Essex. I made a smaller amount last year which all the family loved, particularly when getting colds over winter, so doubled up this year. The berries are smaller, but it’s come out beautifully. Thank you Robin

  10. Robin I have used a variation on your recipe to incorporate honey and reduce sugar eg =three quarters of your measure per pint of juice . I break this down further into half Demerara half plain granulated and into my usual two pint batches ( I always make two lots at the same time side by side) add Half bottle of Acacia honey 340 g size of bottle ( not the expensive one Asda spec?) to a two pint mix.. more for taste than preservative … further variation I add a mulled wine bag into the boiling stage tastes Devine for Xmas … I have a sweet tooth but I also added 1 lemon juice to my 2 pt batch at the juicing stages can’t remember why but must have read it some where. Like you I add the cloves x thanks for your eatweeds page !! you are an inspiration x

  11. Hi is it OK to have a teaspoon each & every day (even without cold symptoms) I wanted to give a spoon a day to my children but not sure on dosage? I used local honey instead of sugar! Thanks it is delicious

  12. I made some cordial – but I found it had a strange “beefy” undertaste that wasn’t very pleasant (to my taste) – is that normal or was I just unlucky with my choice of berries?
    Also been making lots of blackberry cordial with some star anise as the spice – very pleasant!

  13. This is the same recipe we use. Often get enough berries for cordial that lasts a family of 5 through to mid-summer – we get a “picking madness”. Have tried honey instead of sugar, but hasn’t lasted as long, which is odd.

  14. Made this for the first time on Wednesday and again today, such a delicious drink.

    Robin, have you ever made Pontack with elders? I made a bottle some years ago and it still lies unopened…waiting 7 years until using it!!

  15. I made elderberry tincture with vodka. Obviously the berry’s are raw. I took it last winter without any negative side effects and was almost entirely free of viruses.
    Do you think it is safe from toxicity processed as a tincture?

  16. Hi Robin,
    It is too early in the year for me to do elderberry cordial, but I made some elderflower cordial using the same method as your elderberry cordial recipe. The only extra I added was the juice and zest from 2 lemons and 1 small orange. if the taste is anything to go by, I cannot wait for the elderberries to ripen. Thank you for the recipe.

    • Incorrect. If you’d clicked through the research you’d have found this:

      In one placebo-controlled, double-blind study conducted by Israeli virologist Dr. Madeleine Mumcuoglu, 93.3% of the people taking an elderberry preparation reported significant improvement in influenza symptoms within 2 days of starting it, compared with the 6 days it took for the placebo group to see improvement. REF

  17. I’ve got a query about the process of removing the berries from the stems. Previously I’ve made a few Elderberry-based things (wine – highly recommended; tincture w/ vodka; and a syrup very similar to this); but each time I’ve spent the overwhelming majority of the time (90+ %) removing berries from stems and carefully removing as many bits of stem as I can. I remember being told before that the stems themselves are far (far!) more toxic than the berries and that it was therefore _essential_ to remove as much of them as possible. Obviously this massively exacerbates time though – particularly removing all of the tiny bits of stem that always seem to break off when using the fork method you mention: there always seem to be hundreds of such bits when I use a fork…

    Do you have any notion of the purity of the berries you use and risks/toxicity of leaving a few bits of stalk in? It would be soooo much quicker to just use the fork and not worry about all of the tiny bits of stalk, rather than me then spending ages (sometimes days!) picking out all the tiny remnants…

    • The most effective way I have found to remove the berries is to freeze them first and then fork them off the stalks before they have managed to defrost. Also it doesn’t matter if small amounts of stalk remain as the cyanide in them is removed when you cook them.

      Elderberries are toxic rather than actually poisonous. Poisonous = will kill you. Toxic = make you puke, gut cramps, headaches etc. etc.

      From Nordic Food Lab:
      The crucial fact here is that HCN (cyanide) has a boiling point of 25.7°C. Which means that in preparations involving heat, and even a slight incubation above room temperature, most of the free cyanide will evaporate, leaving the food product much safer.

  18. I made this last year and loved it but this year the berries near me all seem to be out of my reach but there is a corner of dwarf elder in the field I can easily reach. Do you know if the dwarf elder berries have the same properties as the normal elder ? The flowers smelt delicious but very different to normal elder
    flowers. BTW I love eatweeds site and thank you for the mass of information you share.

  19. Just searched for more info on their possible toxicity and found some useful info on the American Council for Science and Health website. Here’s an extract:

    Alex Berezow, PhD — October 9, 2019. It’s not quite accurate to say that elderberry contains cyanide. Instead, elderberry — along with several other plants, including almonds and cassava — contain what are known as cyanogenic glycosides. That’s an organic chemist’s way of saying “sugar derivatives that can generate cyanide.”

    Marvin Pritts • 10 months ago
    There are at least 2650 species of plants that produce cyanogenic glycosides, but there is a large difference between the levels of these cyanogenic glycosides in fruit vs. seeds, bark and leaves. Levels in the flesh of the US native elderberry fruit (Sambucus canadensis) are quite low. In fact, this fruit has been consumed for hundreds of years by humans and other birds and animals without harmful effects. Levels are higher in S. nigra (the European elderberry) and some of the other 25 species, but S. canadensis fruit is safe to consume in reasonable quantities. Literature exists that suggests elderberries have anti-viral properties.

    S. canadensis is just a subspecies of S. nigra and neither is particularly safer than the other. The carefully picked over ripe fruit has a lower level of toxins but tolerance varies and there is no “magical” health property to the raw fruit. USDA Warning: The fruit of all elderberries should be cooked to degrade the alkaloid compounds before consuming.

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