Make your own Spiced Elder Immune Syrup

The Herbal Clinic Swansea

As the berries ripen in the autumn sunshine, look out for the clusters of purple/black elder berries and make your own elder immune syrup.


If you are unfamiliar with the elder tree (left) make sure you have a good guide book to hand.

Elder is a small tree or shrub, often found in hedgerows,woodlands and common land.

The leaves (right) have 5-7 oval and toothed leaflets.

The dark purple or black berries (below) are found in large clusters on an ‘umbel’ (smaller berry stalks all originate from a single central stalk, like an umbrella handle with spokes.)

A golden rule of foraging is to only take a maximum of 1/3 of what is available in one area and only pick for personal/family use. Leave plenty for the wildlife that may rely on the plants for essential nourishment or shelter and to encourage the vigour of the plants themselves.

With elderberries it is usually hard to over pick – there are often a good proportion of the berries that are not accessible, and the birds have the knack of getting in first. The birds in our garden get 90 percent of the berries on our tree before we ever get a look in!

Other black berries that you may confuse:

Dogwood (below) also has small round clusters of black berries at this time of year, but the clusters are smaller than those of elder and the leaves are quite different when you look closely.

NOTE: Elderberries themselves are an emetic when eaten raw so ensure you cook them before using.


For this recipe you will need:

  • Fresh elderberries
  • Raw honey
  • Spices: 1 cinnamon quill, 10-15 cloves,
  • 2 inches chopped fresh root ginger

Optional: Brandy, astragalus root

Remove the elderberries from their stalks (if you find this process too time consuming you can freeze the berries on their stalks then use a fork to remove them. Alternatively, see it as an opportunity for some quiet mindfulness.)

Place the spices (and astragalus if using) in a saucepan and simmer in a little water (enough just to cover them) for 5 minutes until almost all the liquid has evaporated.

Wash the elderberries, drain well and add these to the saucepan with the spices.

Turn the heat onto medium, allowing the berries to release their juice, then bring to the boil. Gently simmer for 10 minutes with the lid off, allowing the juice to reduce a little.

Strain the mixture through muslin or a fine sieve pressing or squeezing well to remove as much liquid from the pulp as possible. Measure the quantity of liquid you have; for every 300ml of juice add 200ml of honey (preferably raw.) Mix well. Add a little brandy if desired to aid preservation and warm the cockles! Not much is needed; 10ml per 100ml of syrup.

Bottle the elder immune syrup in sterilised bottles or jars and keep refrigerated. Use within 3 months.

To use; mix with hot water for a delicious warming, fruity and spiced immune boosting tonic.

The Herbal Clinic, 32 King Edward Road, Swansea SA1 4LL / 01792 474356 /

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