Fight the funk: Homemade elderberry syrup

It's that time of year. Kids in school are going around passing "the funk" - the obtuse term to cover that winterlong not-quite-sickness that produces a lot of snot. (Sorry for putting that word in a food blog.)

All season long, they teeter on the edge of a fever or cough and we're out here with the humidifiers and neti pots trying to stop the inevitable. I had tried it all, save for elderberry syrup. It was a bit off the grid, and I said as much to a friend recently, who found it amusing. Turns out we have a friend who makes it homemade every autumn to prepare for the winter season.

elderberry syrup

My friend Jennifer (pictured up top) lives on a small flower farm in the mountains outside Charlottesville. On her property, nothing goes to waste. Unused flowers are dried and preserved, then placed in wreaths made from cut grapevines on the property. This bounty includes a pile of fresh-picked elderberries, which she makes into a syrup. My friend and I drove out there for a weekend of wreath making, hiking, good eating, and cooking up a batch of homemade elderberry syrup.

The concoction's coloring is a deep amethyst, and lasts for a very long time. We keep it in our fridge, and dole out two spoonfuls if we feel the funk coming on. This isn't a scientific study, but we've had zero sick days thus far.

You likely don't grow elderflower, but you can buy dried elderberries online. Here's a homemade syrup recipe, in case you'd like to fight the funk too.

 wild elderberry

Homemade elderberry syrup recipe


  • 1 cup dried (or fresh) elderberries
  • 2 tbsp dried ginger (grated or ground)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp whole cloves 
  • 4 cups filtered water
  • 1 cup raw honey (preferably organic)

Cooking instructions:

  • Place elderberries, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and water into a sauce pan.
  • Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer - keep uncovered
  • Simmer for 50 minutes, or until liquid is reduced by half (by the way, your home will smell wonderful)
  • Allow the syrup to cool until it becomes warm - not hot
  • Strain the elderberries, cloves and ginger (if grated) out of the mixture, and into a mason jar
  • Stir the honey into elderberry liquid
  • Store in the refrigerator all through the winter season


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