Elderberry syrup is becoming more well known as a natural way to fight cold and flu, and for good reason! In our household, it’s a go-to throughout the winter. In fact, when my son was three, it was such a constant topic and request from him, our friends thought it was so funny and slightly impressive. Budding herbalist maybe? Haha. You can find my favorite elderberry syrup recipe and more about why we love it at this post.
Elder is a well-loved herb, that has been used for thousands of years and probably longer. The name dates back to the Greco-Roman period, with the latin name Sambucus stemming from the Greek word Sambuca, which referred to an ancient musical instrument – elderberry branches were made into shrill pipes and the wood possibly turned into small harps.
The tree was considered sacred to the Anglo-Saxons, who believed it to be inhabited by the Elder Mother, Hylde Moer, who was the Goddess of vegetation, life, and death. For this reason, it was necessary to ask the Goddess for permission before using the wood and offer chants and prayers. Once Christianity was introduced, the associations with Elder morphed into other stories, one being that the cross on which Christ was crucified was made of Elder. During the Middle Ages people believed that witches and evil spirits could be repulsed by pinning elder leaves around the home.
In 1656, William Coles wrote about Elder that: “There is hardly a disease from the head to the foot but it cures. It is profitable for headache, for Ravings and Wakings, Hypocondriak and Mellancholly, the Falling-Sickness, Catarrhes, Deafness, Faintnesse and Feacours.” And there are many, many more folkloric and medicinal tales about Elder from around the world. It has been an extremely familiar and important tree to many cultures worldwide.
A search for Sambucus in PubMed brings up 1091 results today. It is a well studied plant, with interest in it continuing to grow. In fact, for the past two years it has been hard to find Elderberries in stock online from various herbal suppliers. Today we know, Elderberries contain shikimic acid, an intermediary in the production of Tamiflu, an anti-flu pharmaceutical. Bioflavinoids in the extracts of Elderberry may prevent viruses from entering cells. In the Herb Society of America’s Essential Guide to Elderberry, James A Duke, Ph. D. writes “In the case of elderberry, as evidenced in my research, there are over fifty beneficial chemicals from which the body can select and use if they are needed. Elderberry is one of the most important medicinal species to be featured as an ‘Herb of the year.'”
Elderberry syrup is seriously tasty, but when you do start feeling something coming on, it may not be the most convenient option to take every hour or two (the recommendation when experiencing illness), since it needs to be refrigerated. The great thing is, you can actually use the same blend of herbs from my syrup recipe, or from my DIY kits, to make an Elderberry Oxymel!
What’s any oxymel, you ask? It’s a combination of herbs infused in a mixture of apple cider vinegar and honey. Sweet and sour yumminess. And the great thing is that it’s shelf stable so you can carry it in a dropper bottle and bring it with you when you are at work or out of the house. It’s easy to add a couple droppers full to a small amount of water or squirt it right into your mouth.
And you know what’s really tasty? Adding the oxymel to sparkling water for a sparkling elderberry soda! Or how about adding it as a delicious addition to homemade Salad dressing? There are oh so many possibilities for relishing in some delicious herbs.
So, with all of that in mind, I’ve laid out instructions on how to make your own elderberry oxymel at home! Enjoy!
Make an Elderberry Oxymel of your own
- About 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups Apple Cider Vinegar
- About 1/2 to 1/3 cup Raw Honey (Honey should not be given to children under 1 year of age)
- 1/2 cup elderberries
- 2 TBS Rosehips
- 1 tsp – 1TBS fresh grated ginger (depending on how spicy you can handle it) or 1 tsp. dried ginger
- 1 tbsp dried echinacea
- 7 cloves
- 1 cinnamon stick
- Or Alternatively, substitute individual herbs with one of my Elderberry Syrup DIY Kits
- Add all of the herbs to a pint sized Mason Jar.
- Add the honey to the jar, for a less sweet oxymel, use 1/4 cup, increasing honey for desired sweetness.
- Pour the Apple Cider Vinegar, slightly warmed, over the top of the herbs and fill the remainder of the jar, leaving about 1″ of air space.
- *You can adjust the ratios of honey and vinegar to your desired sweetness level, but this gives you a starting place and is the preference in our home.
- Stir and seal with a plastic lid (vinegar may erode metal). If honey is thick, that’s ok. It will eventually dissolve into the vinegar.
- Store in a cool, dark place for about 4 weeks, shaking often (preferably every day) to infuse the vinegar/honey thoroughly.
- Once the infusion is complete, strain your Oxymel using cheesecloth or fine mesh strainer. I prefer cheesecloth as you can strain out more liquids by squeezing it. If you are touching the liquid you may want to wear nitrile gloves because this will stain your hands.
- The Oxymel should keep for 6 months or longer in your pantry, and even longer if refrigerated.
- Note: You can even save your strained herbs and use them to make a big batch of tea which will last a couple of days refrigerated!
Disclaimer: I am not a doctor and no state regulatory board licenses herbalists. While I do seek scientific confirmation of the safety and effectiveness of the herbs and remedies I use, please remember that using remedies is a personal decision. You are in charge of your own health. Nothing I say on this blog is approved by the FDA or intended to diagnose, treat or prevent disease. All things on this blog are my opinion or the opinion of others.