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Natural Flu Treatment: The Healing Power of Elderberries + Recipe for Elderberry Elixir

I had several alternate titles floating around in my head for this one…

“The Week All 3 Children Had The Flu”

“Why I Can’t Co-Sleep With A Sick Toddler”

or perhaps:

“The State of My House After A Week With The Flu Bug: A Pictorial Essay” (Which I scrapped because this is a family-friendly blog and those pictures would have delved into the horror genre)

So to keep things simple, I want to spend the bulk of this post praising the healing power of elderberries (and I’ll spare you the details and scary pictures)!

 The kids all contracted the flu this past week, so I broke into my herbal medicine cabinet and whipped up a batch of this elixir.  It’s a WONDER DRUG – really and truly, but let me explain.  Herbal medicines and OTC drugs work very differently:

  1. “herbs, essential oils, and vitamins are STRONG.  Just because they are natural does not mean they are safe! Do your research FIRST!

  1. herbal remedies work differently than over the counter and prescription drugs.  OTC drugs/pharmaceuticals are not meant to HEAL you.  They are meant to take away the discomfort and symptoms so that you can hopefully rebound quickly.  For example, if you take a nasal decongestant, it may dry you out, but it doesn’t mean that your cold is gone – it just means that you can go to work and make it through the day without using up an entire box of kleenex.  Herbal remedies, on the other hand, DO treat symptoms, same as the OTC/Rx drugs, but in such a way that it encourages your body to heal itself.   Example: you take echinacea and QBC Plex (more on this to come) instead of a nasal decongestant.  It doesn’t work as strong as the OTC drug (ie: you don’t feel like you swallowed a dozen cotton balls), but your nose did stop running and your sinus pressure has gone down.  That’s because the QBC Plex has naturally relieved the swelling in your sinus cavities so that,  as the echinacea has encouraged your nose to drain, the swelling has gone down so that it can actually move.

  2. Because Herbal Remedies work differently, they may not feel as strong, or seem like they are “doing the trick” as quickly as their chemically-based counterparts, but in many instances,  your body rebounds FASTER and the duration of your sickness will be significantly less than with OTC drugs alone. Example (source) “According to Prescription for Herbal Healing, ‘a clinical study of elderberry found that it cured 90 percent of flu infections within seventy-two hours. In the same trial, patients receiving a placebo needed six days.’” (from “Resources For getting Started With A Natural Medicine Cabinet“)

In using this elderberry syrup, we noticed a HUGE difference within an hour or two of taking it; the kids had more energy, developed an appetite, and my middle daughter’s fever broke and her nausea subsided.

We continued giving this to them several times a day, and although it didn’t make the flu go away instantly, it noticeably lessened the severity of their symptoms and all three are on the mend after only a few days of taking it.  Plus, after researching the side-effects of Tamiflu, the most oft-described drug for flu symptoms, we decided without question that we did not want to risk giving it to our young children.

The Elderberry syrup that we now keep stocked in our house contains the following:

  1. elderberries: a known anti-viral, useful in treating and eliminating types A & B influenza, as well as a powerful immune booster.

  2. raw honey: (not regular, pasteurized honey – make sure that you are using raw honey) this helps cut the cranberry-like tartness of the elderberries, and it’s also anti-viral, anti-fungal and anti-bacterial – perfect for treating sicknesses and a great natural preservative.

  3. ginger: which is useful in treating nausea, inflammation, and it’s also anti-viral

  4. cinnamon: a yummy addition to this recipe taht is also helpful in soothing upset tummies and relieving gastro-intestinal disorders

  5. echinacea:  an immune booster and useful in treating upper-respiratory infections and sinus swelling

  6. lemon: helps combat fatigue, can help in fever reduction, and is a bio-available source of Vitamin C

So into the kitchen I went, and mixed up a batch of this syrup!  (side note: it makes your house smell wonderful!)

Elderberry Elixir


  1. 1/2 c. dried elderberries where to buy

  2. 2 Tb. dried echinacea* where to buy

  3. 4 inch-long piece of ginger peeled and cut into thin discs

  4. 8-10 inches of cinnamon stick broken into pieces

  5. 3 c. distilled water

  6. 1/2 c. raw honey where to buy

  7. juice from one small lemon optional. This does add a great health boost, but will decrease the shelf life


Throw everything BUT THE RAW HONEY and lemon juice into a very clean (preferably stainless steel) pot. (here is what I use) Do not even think of adding the raw honey - heating it up will kill the beneficial enzymes!

Turn your burner onto medium/high and bring the mixture to a constant simmer. Allow it to simmer for a few minutes and then reduce the heat to low - or just hot enough that small bubbles still form on the edges, but not in the center.

Continue to simmer the elderberry mixture for approximately 45 minutes, and enjoy the wonderful spicy fragrance!

In the mean time, measure out the honey and lemon juice into a container (I love my mason jars for this, but oh, this jar is most definitely on my wish list!).

The liquid is done when it has reduced by almost half. Allow it to cool in the pan until it is barely warm (and letting it set out to reach room temperature is totally fine).

Smoosh the berries around with a spoon to release the rest of the juice before you strain it. The easiest method to strain the syrup is to use a french press, but you can also use cheese cloth or a reusable coffee-filter.

Once it's cooled down, strain the mixture and then pour it into the honey and lemon juice and stir gently with a whisk.

Voila, you're done!

If you’re using this to treat cold/flu symptoms:

  1. Adults can take 1-2 Tb. 3-4 times per day

  2. Children (over the age of 1 year) can take 1-2 tsp 3-4 times per day.

Once the symptoms subside, it’s a good idea to keep taking this for several days, to re-boost your immune system.

If you are using this as an immune boosting supplement:

  1. Adults can take 1-2 Tb. once a day

  2. Children (over the age of 1 year) can take 1-2 tsp once a day.

*omit the echinacea from the recipe if you’d like to use this elixir as a daily supplement/immune booster.  Echinacea should not be taken for longer than one week.  Leave it in if you are using this to treat cold/flu symptoms.

Do you have a favorite cough-cold-flu home remedy?  Have you ever tried elderberries?

And for the record: I’m not a doctor, I’m just a mama, so everything that I list here comes from my own experience and research, so use our recipes at your own discretion.  Please consult with your doctor if you have a serious or lingering illness, and talk with a naturopath/holistic practitioner for certified herbal recommendations

Natural Flu Treatment! Check out this recipe for elderberry elixir  <- click to tweet!


This post was linked to Monday Mania @ The Healthy Home Economist, The Homestead Barn Hop @ The Prairie Homestead, Welcome Home LinkUp @ Raising Arrows, Better Mom Mondays @ The Better Mom, Fat Tuesdays @ Real Food Forager, Titus 2 Tuesdays @ Cornerstone Confessions, Frugal Days @ Frugally Sustainbale, None , WLWW @ Women Living Well, Homemaking LinkUp @ Raising Homemakers, Whole Foods Wednesday @ Whole Lifestyle Nutrition, Simple Lives Thursday @ Gnowfglins, Healthy 2Day Wednesdays @ Authentic Simplicity, WFMW @ We are That Family, The Parent ‘Hood, Lessons from Ivy, Top Ten Tuesday, Titus 2sdays, Teach Me Tuesdays 

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