Elderberry Herb-Overview, Experience, Recipes
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This plant is the guardian of my health for more than 30 years. I’m from the Balkans, the very home of this herb. Yes, I have it in my yard my whole life. My grandparents had it too. They used this herb for many purposes for years.

We use the same recipes today too, but not only for healing. We use it also as an awesome homemade refreshing summer drink. The taste is unforgettable, especially when the homemade juice cools down and is mixed with lemon juice. This healthy Fanta Shokata on the west is called Elderflower cordial.

Besides the overview in this blog, I will share experiences and recipes for homemade products from elderberry plant.

I will also talk about folk healer Petar Dimkov who became a legend during the last century. He claimed that Elderberry syrup can cure cancer.

What Is Elderberry Plant?

This plant is also called black elder, Elder, European elderberry. It is a poisonous plant for mammals and has certain habitats in the weed form.

The flowers and blackberries, similar to blueberries, have a long tradition in Europe and the Balkan in their use for wine and cordial.

The green parts of the plant are poisonous, and the berries may be eaten only when they are fully ripe.

It contains Vitamin C 36mg per 100 mg. It helps during fevers, increases urine flow, helps reduce the symptoms of cancer, heart disease, toothache, gum inflammation, and more.

There Two Types of Elderberry Plant.

There are two types of elderberry. One is Black Elderberry – Sambucus Nigra, and the other is European dwarf elder or Sambucus Ebulus.

Black Elderberry – Sambucus Nigra (Tree Form)

It grows massively and predominantly in humid places. We mostly know it from the nice smelly flowers that appear in May-June. The black elderberry is used to prepare sweet chili “bozonada”, a light flower syrup with sugar.

From these Ederberry’s flowers, we make tea too.

European Dwarf Elder or Sambucus Ebulus

This type grows as an herbaceous plant – shrub.

These shrubs with small blackberries are everywhere. We have them in the garden and in front of the yard. It ripens from late August until late September. This type of elderberry is edible only when fully ripe. We use it for jam, dark syrup, and wine.

What Are the Elderberry Syrup Benefits and Elderberry Tea Benefits?

There are lots of elderberry benefits research about what it does and how it benefits the human body.

You can read more about this here Biological Effects And Clinical Applications of Dwarf Elder (Sambucus ebulus L)

The Elderberry Is Most Often Used For:

Below are most of the uses of elderberry:

Elderberry for Flu

The studies show that elderberry might affect the immune system, can reduce inflammation, and is good to beat viruses. Elderberry syrup can help reduce flu symptoms too. You need to take it when you feel the first symptoms. This will shorten the number of days the flu lasts. Also, if you take it throughout the Fall, it helps you strengthen your immunity and prevent the flu altogether.

Feel free to use elderberry lozenges, elderberry tea, and elderberry juice. They all should help you to prevent and/or beat the flu quickly. It usually reduces the symptom’s duration for 2 to 4 days.

Elderberry Against Common Cold

It will help you recover from a cold very easily and very quickly. Same as with flu, to prevent it, you need to strengthen your immunity with elderberry tea or syrup.

Elderberry will work for sore throat too.

Elderberry for Cancer

This research says that

Elderberry contains natural antioxidants that main rule is protection from oxidative stress caused by reactive oxygen species which are known to be involved in disorders like cancer and hypertension.

So yes, this shows that elderberry syrup can be used for cancer. The research doesn’t go any further though. Yes, it might help, but sadly, there is much that’s not known, at least yet. I hope in future studies, we will finally find out.

The interesting thing is that the Bulgarian named the Healer Petar Dimkov, who gained wide popularity in the first half of the last century, wrote several books about folk medicine. His books claim that Elderberry syrup can cure cancer.

The recipe for that syrup is the same we make today from the fruit of Elderberry shrub (Sambucus ebulus L). I’ll put the recipe below.

If you’re curious to find out more about this self-proclaimed healer, there is a lot of information available on the internet.

Elderberry Extract From Flowers Against Skin Diseases

The studies show that this extract is used in folk medicine externally to heal rheumatic pain, wound, sunstroke, snakebite, eczema, and against piles on foot. In Turkey, for example, the folk people were collecting fresh leaves before the fruit is fully ripe, and cooked them with milk for 20 minutes. Then, they’d put that mixture on the wounds for rapid recovery.

Elderberry Tea Helps with Constipation

Drinking the tea from elderberry helps people who have constipation to have more regular stools.

Elderberry Gummies for Gingivitis

Chewing gummies from elderberry help with gingivitis. But, research doesn’t give proof that it will cure it or stop the symptoms.

Helps with High Cholesterol

Dried elderberries or tea helps reduce high cholesterol in the human body. Usually, it takes about two weeks to feel the results.

Elderberry dried flower on white background.

Elderberry Juice for Postmenopausal Symptoms

The refreshing drink from the Elderberry flower, besides being very delicious, also helps postmenopausal women.

Other Elderberry benefits:

  • Prevents infections
  • Prevents H1N1 “swine” flu
  • Prevents Hay fever
  • Reduces Nerve pain
  • Reduces Toothache

Are There Any Elderberry Side Effects?

The side effects of consuming elderberry are very minor, except for the fact that when they are raw and unripe, they are mildly poisonous.

It is relatively safe when used in a proper manner.

The Raw Elderberry Has Low Level of Toxicity

The elderberry contains a low level of toxins. Eating unripe berries might lead to poisoning. Be careful not to eat too much of that fruit, especially with children.

The low level of toxicity can be prevented with cooking. Every form of cooked elderberry is safe for consuming. The fruit must be fully ripe before you can eat it raw.

Elderberry Syrup Side Effects

Elderberry can interact with some medications used for respiratory conditions and asthma. It could reduce the effectiveness of medications taken to suppress the immune system.

It is not known if consuming an elder for a long time is safe. For that reason, children can take it to 10 days and then stop for some time. If there is reason continue again, do so. If there isn’t, leave it till next fall when you start preparing for winter and colds again.

For adult people, it is safe to consume it for up to 12 weeks. If you start to feel, odd stop.

Some Types of Elderberry Have Poisonous Leaves

Some types of elderberry have poisonous leaves and stems, so be careful when you use them for skin diseases.

Elderberry Syrup Dosing

Elderberry Syrup Dosage for Adults:

It is recommended to take 1 tablespoon daily (in the morning) in Fall to help boost the immune system for winter and to prevent catching the flu.

When you have a common cold or flu, start to take 1 tablespoon every 3-4 hours. 20 min before a meal is the best. Max 6 times per day.

For sore throat, use the previous dose not more than 6 times a day.

More than 6 times a day can cause diarrhea and unintended side effects.

Elderberry Syrup Dosage for Children:

For children older than one, it is recommended to take 1 teaspoon daily (in the morning) during Fall to help boost the immune system for winter and to prevent catching the flu.

When children (older than one-year-old) feel sick or catch the flu, start to give him 1 teaspoon every 3-4 hours. 20 min before the meal is the best. Max 6 times per day.

For sore throat, use previous dose not more than 6 times a day.

More than 6 times a day can cause diarrhea and unintended side effects.

Elderberry Recipes for Syrup, Juice, Gummies, and Tea

These recipes were introduced in the ex-Yugoslavia region. They are told from generation to generation, and my granny uses them even today. I divided the recipes into two parts.

Recipes for Elderflower

One part will be about recipes from green parts like flowers. The elderflowers in my country are seasonal and are best to use from the end of May until the beginning of June.

The flowers that we use in these particular groups of recipes are from the elderberry tree (Sambucus nigra).

The product from this part of the recipes will have a light color. The products will be light elderflower syrup- cordial, juice, jelly, and tea.

Recipes from Elderberry

The other part recipes are from fruit or the dark purple berries that are fully ripe (be careful with that). We collect them in late August and September.

This dark Elderberry fruit that will be used in this group of recipes is from another type, namely the elderberry shrubs (Sambucus ebulus).

The products from this part of the recipes will have a dark color. For example, dark elderberry syrup, jam, and dark wine.

So let’s begin with the first group recipes, the elderflower one (remember we collect them from late May to the beginning of June from the Elderberry tree):

Recipe for elderflower cordial or light refreshing syrup (without heat treatment)

It is the most refreshing, healthiest summer drink, and I prepare for it every year. It is very easy to make at home.

This one is without cooking, I’ll write the one made with boiled water.

Here we go!


  • 50 elderflowers
  • 5 lemons chopped into smaller cubes with corn
  • 5 packs of citric acid
  • 5 liters of water
  • 5 kg of sugar
  • Gauze


  1. We wash the flowers
  2. We put the small cubes of lemon and 5 packs of citric acid in 5 liters of water.
    After that, we put the flowers too
  3. We mix everything nicely. Then, we cover the mixture with gauze and we leave it for 24 hours with occasional stirring to release as much juice as possible.
  4. After 24 hours, we drain the liquid through the gauze
    In that liquid, we add 5 kg of sugar, mix again, cover it with gauze, and we leave it for another 24 hours with occasional stirring to dissolve the sugar.
  5. Finally, we collect the result in glass bottles and freeze them.


Because we used cold water and no preservatives, the elderflower syrup must be frozen. We use it when needed. After opening the bottle, we keep it in the refrigerator and we drink it as soon as possible.

This elderflower cordial can be diluted with water, sparkling water, soda or gin.

If you don’t want to use citric acid, use 10 lemons instead.
Use only glass bottles.

The beauty of this drink is that there is no heat treatment during the preparation.
That’s all. Enjoy your drink!

The other recipe for elderflower syrup is with boiled water

The same procedure as the previous recipe, except you’ll need one more liter of water.

In that water, add sugar and let it boil until the sugar has melted with occasional stringing.

Add the hot water with melted sugar to the previously drained liquid from the elderflower.

Elderberry gummies or jelly recipes (cooked)

The elderberry gummies are very delicious and children love them.
The recipe to make it at home is very easy.


  • 5-6 elderflowers
  • 300 ml of water
  • 150g sugar or by taste
  • 1 lemon
  • 30gr gelatin


  1. In a container, put the water and sugar, the elderflowers (washed), and lemon with its core cut on pieces. Let it boil for 2-3 min, then turn it aside and let it rest for 5-6 hours.
  2. After that, squeeze the pieces of lemon, remove the flowers, and drain through gauze.
    With part of that liquid, sprinkle the gelatin and leave it to soak up. Then, put it over a boiling pot and let it melt. Mix the rest of the liquid and pour it into molds (or any type of plate covered with transparent foil). Then, leave it to cool off and harden.
  3. If you used molds, you’ll get these fun little gummies. If you used a plate with a transparent sheet, then remove the sheet and cut the gelatin anyway you prefer.


There is an option to pour them with chocolate. The blend of flavors is excellent and you can even sprinkle the serving with sugar, but beware – if you do this, you’ll need to eat them fast because the sugar might get soaked due to the moist structure of the gelatin.

We prefer them without chocolate because we eat it before that procedure.

Okay, that was for the flower products recipes. The rest is for the dark fruit of elderberry shrubs.

Elderberry syrup recipes – dark syrup from the fruit


  • 1 kg of sugar
  • 1kg fully ripe elderberry (remove all the green beans, they can cause big problems)
  • One big glass jar


  1. Cut fully the ripe elderberry fruit – together with the twig, wash and leave it to drain and dry (it must not be moist.)
  2. Remove the berries from a twig by the hand of use fork. Either way is very easy.
  3. In a clean, dry jar of around 5 liters, but the first row of sugar, and after it, a row of elderberry fruit and so on until the jar is full to the top. The last row should have a large amount of sugar to cover all the berries.
  4. Fasten the top of the jar with gauze and leave it in a light place (not directly in the sun) for 3 weeks.
  5. When you notice that sugar has merged with the berry juice – only then can you start to stir it at least once a day with a wooden spoon taking care not to crush it.
  6. After 3 weeks, carefully drain the result through gauze. I say cautiously because you don’t need to drop a berry or seed or anything else because, with that, you prevent further fermentation. (Don’t throw away the remaining fruit berries they can be used you for the next recipe.)
  7. Collect in glass bottles or jars and keep it in a cold and dark place.


For the dosing of this Elderberry syrup, you can check above on this blog.

Recipes for elderberry wine

The used elderberry fruit from the previous recipe is put through gauze and put in another clean jar. Add another 3 liters of water, fasten the top of the jar with gauze, and leave it in a light place (not directly in the sun) for another 3 weeks.

After 3 weeks, you will have delicious elderberry wine.
Collect in glass bottles and keep it in the cold and dark place.

Recipes for elderberry jam


  • 1kg fully ripe elderberry (remove all the green beans, they can cause big problems)
  • 600g sugar
  • 1 lemon
  • 2 vanillas
  • 1 pack of gelatin


  • Elderberry fruits are clean and washed.
  • Put them in a container with the sugar. Boil for about 20 minutes.
  • Mix gelatin with 2 tablespoons of sugar and vanilla, and add all that mixture to the jam.
  • Add the lemon juice into the jam.
  • Boil it for a few more minutes and then turn the stove off
  • Fill in jars while it’s warm. Close and store in the basement.


After adding the gelatin, be careful not to overcook it because it greases quickly.

Dried elderberry recipes

Where to buy dried elderberries if you can’t find any at home?
I’m sure that you can find them in herbal pharmacies and make these beautiful and healthy recipes.

There will be two recipes.

Ingredients :

  • 15-20 dried elderberry fruit grains
  • Water


Put the dried elderberries grains in a little water. Leave it all night.
Next morning, drain and drink the cocktail before breakfast.


    • 1 l water
    • 300 g dried elderberry fruit
    • 1 kg honey
    • Cinnamon (if you prefer)


Mix all that and collect it in a glass jar. Keep it in a cold and dark place. You can dilute it with water if you want.


You can use it for prevention (one tablespoon) in Fall if it’s needed for the flu and cold.

Final words

If you can find it and exist in your place where you live you are a fortune. If you can’t find it. I’m sure that you can buy it in the store. Worth to try it because with that you will contribute to your health and help your body to go over flu and colds easily or better to prevent it. Besides healing, it is a very delicious and refreshing drink.

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