By Nicole Staniger CPM, LM

When Spring warmth brings life into the sleeping Elder cane, beautiful white lacy flowers speckle this precious and anciently-revered medicinal plant.  While these flowers provide immunologic benefit,  I prefer to sparsely harvest the flowers so the plant can offer up an abundance of berries in the summer months.  My favorite preparation of the Elder Berries is a syrup (though you can also make an effective tincture or decoction as well).  This is commercially sold as “Sambucol syrup” and hit the mainstream as a remedy for the flu after a few important studies came out.  Elderberries have long been honored for their ability to treat respiratory illness and increase immune function (as well as improve eye health!).  One placebo-controlled, double-blind study found that after 2 days of taking elderberry syrup, 93.3% of the influenza patients had a significant improvement in their symptoms; whereas, 91.7% of those who were taking the placebo had no symptom improvement for 6 days after diagnosis of the influenza.  When this study was popularized, Sambucol Syrup could be found on shelves of health stores everywhere.  Various forms of this study have been repeated and the results show that Elderberry preparations are extremely effective at blocking viruses from entering host cells, boosting the immune system, and aiding the body in combating all forms of Influenza.

If you suffer from chronic respiratory issues, you may consider adding in 5mL of Tincture twice daily.  For those with acute respiratory infections or the flu, it is recommended to take smaller doses more frequently.  If using the tincture,  3-4mL every hour for adults.  I prefer the Syrup, since your whole family will love the flavor and you can sneak some other immune-boosting plant magic in there and they’ll still love it!  For children over 1 year of age, one teaspoon every hour; for adults, 1 Tablespoon every hour until the acute illness passes.  The recipes are below.  Blessings to you for a happy healthy Spring!


Elderberry Syrup Recipe


1 cup dried elderberries (or 2 cups of fresh)

3-5 Tablespoons sliced fresh ginger (depending on taste preference)

2 cinnamon sticks

1/2 tsp whole or ground cloves

4 cups water

Honey to taste

Combine all ingredients except honey in a saucepan and bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 45 minutes uncovered.  Strain solids and compost.  When liquid is warm, add honey to taste.  Cool and store in the refrigerator for up to 12 weeks.





Elderberry Tincture Recipe (with Vodka)

Fill a pint mason jar 1/2 full with fresh rinsed elderberries (1/4 full if using dried).  Add vodka leaving 1” head space.  Store in a cool dark place for 4-6 weeks, shaking once a week.  Strain berries and reserve liquid in a cool place for up to a year.

To order dried elderberries wild-harvested from the generosity of the Sierra Nevada’s, email: [email protected].

Nicole Staniger, CPM, LM, practices midwifery within a 2-hour radius of Lake Almanor, where she provides fertility counseling, prenatal care, home birth, and postpartum care for families. She offers holistic care and counseling to women from puberty through menopause.  For more information, visit her website,, email [email protected] or call 530-520-8682

1 Zakay-Rones, Zichria, et al. “Inhibition of Several Strains of Influenza Virus in Vitro and Reduction of Symptoms by an Elderberry Extract during an Outbreak of Influenza B Panama.” Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine 1, no. 4 (1995): 361-69.

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.  Information is not intended to replace qualified medical care. Products mentioned are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.