Elderberry Elixir

Everyone, or nearly so, in our small village has a terrible hacking, icky cold. All of us here at the Sanctuary have been a bit run down and short on sleep so it was no surprise when Loba woke up yesterday morning with a sore throat, low grade fever, muscle aches and copious phlegm and other face fluids…. She was miserable and overtired and begging for something to make it go away. First, I assigned her to extra sleep, instructed her to pour Fire Cider on everything she ate and drink lots of Ginger tea to enhance the body’s own virus fighting techniques of fever and sweating. She also ate easy to digest foods in small amounts in order to not further tax her system. AND, I dosed her up good with Elderberry Elixir, not that I don’t love Elderberry syrup, but I have found time after time that Elderberry is MUCH more effective when not heated in any way… my two favorite ways of preparing are the Elixir (see recipe below) and a honey paste with whole dried berries ground into raw local honey. I also had everyone else in the household start sucking down Elderberry Elixir.

And sure enough, after a good solid nap, and six or so doses of Elderberry she started to feel much much better. By the time she went to bed last night, she mostly just had some bodyaches and extra face fluid. By this morning, she just felt a bit run down and tired with just a little extra phlegm. I expect she’ll be all better by tomorrow morning. I want to point out that the average run time of this particular virus on other people in the village is at least a week, often with bronchial complications. And, none of the rest of us caught it. I started to feel a little bit off with a sore throat yesterday morning, but by the afternoon, I was fine.

To top it all off, Elderberry does not simply stimulate the immune system, which would make it somewhat dangerous to those with autoimmune disorders or certain other chronic diseases. Rather it modulates the immune system to more appropriately respond to environs and circumstance. It also disarms the virus and helps it flush through body quicker, while strengthening the mucus membranes, supporting the body’s natural fever mechanism without overheating, improves energy and stress handling AND last but certainly not least, it tastes great too.

I have tons of the Elderberry stories, I like this most recent one especially though because she was already sick, most of the time we just prevent the virus and never see many symptoms of it. Here, Loba was clearly manifesting signs of the same virus that was running around town.

If I had a snake bite, you bet I’d reach for the Echinacea. But for viral afflictions and general immune support, there’s no better herbal ally than the bounteous and lovely Elder!

As an aside, I don’t think that averting a virus is always the best course of action, sometimes we just need to get sick so we can spend a day in bed. Even so, I think Elderberry is a wonderful supportive therapy. Listen to your body and act accordingly.

Elderberry Elixir

For your elixir, it’s helpful to have on hand:
▪    A pint canning jar (or other glass jar that seals well)
▪    Fresh elderberries (dried can be used as well, simply use about a third of the amount, or about 2.5 oz to follow the 1:5 proportion method for dried plants).
▪    About a pint of high quality brandy (the better the brandy, the better your elixir will taste), depending on whether you’re using fresh or dried berries.
▪    Appr. 1/3 pint of raw honey (or to taste, as you prefer)
▪    A good stirring spoon

Step by Step Instructions
•    First, fill your jar all the way to the top with fresh elderberries.
•    Now, pour the honey in slowly, stirring as necessary, until the berries are well coated.
•    Next, fill jar with brandy, stirring as you go, until all air bubbles are released.
•    Now cover the jar with a tight fitting lid, and shake carefully to finish the mixing process.
•    Let macerate in a cool, dark place for four to six weeks (or as long as you can stand to wait.
•    Strain, reserving liquid. Store in an airtight container in a cool, dark place.

Take 1/4 – 1/2 dropperfull of Elixir every two to three hours at the first sign of illness. You MUST take the Elixir frequently rather than having a bigger dose further apart, it just won’t work that way. Use the same dosage if you are actively ill. For a general preventative dose, I suggest 1/3 dropperfull every four hours or so.

Be sure to rest extra as well, the Elderberry has a much harder time with your immune system if you’re really worn down. A little extra sleep will increase its benefits tenfold.


  1. Blue Turtle
    Aug 5, 2007

    Thanks for your recipie! I might try that this year instead of syrup, which is so loaded with sugar, but still mighty tasty. the elixir sounds lovely!
    now just to find me some ripe berries!

  2. Anonymous
    Aug 5, 2007

    Thanks for the recipe! I’ll make up a batch and see if it works for me my family. That’s strange, I’m in the phoenix area and I’ve had a sore throat for for about four days, but nothing else yet. I guess something’s going around…

  3. Michelle
    Aug 7, 2007

    This sounds delightful–how long do you let it sit for the extract? Six weeks?


  4. kate
    Sep 29, 2007

    Kiva, do you mean 50% of the volume of the jar eg for a 200 ml jar you use a minimum of 100mls brandy?

  5. Kiva Rose
    Oct 18, 2007

    kate, sorry I missed your question before! But yes, that would work fine. I put the berries in, fill it at least to the halfway mark with brandy (without measuring) and then add glycerin or honey.

  6. Angela Radcliffe
    Aug 28, 2008

    How can I know which elderberries are safe? I have purplish black ones in my field. Are they safe to use? Should I heat them?

  7. Kiva Rose
    Aug 29, 2008

    Hi Angela, you might want to look up my other posts on Elderberry as well. All blue black Elderberries are edible and medicinal as far as I know. Some people like to heat their Elderberries. Personally, I think that’s a great way to lessen or destroy the medicine. If you’re worried about them upsetting your belly or something then just dry them first.

  8. Kimberly
    Sep 3, 2008

    Hi Kiva, I’ve got tons of fresh elderberries in the garden right now. How much fresh should I substitute for the dried berries?

  9. Kiva Rose
    Sep 3, 2008

    Kimberly, just do a proportion of 1:2 instead of 1:5, or if it’s easier, just fill the jar with fresh elderberries then add your menstruum til the jar’s full.

  10. Mary Beth
    Oct 14, 2008

    Hello Kiva, I am a novice. I happen to have some elderberry juice. Someone said I could make an “elderberry rob”, but I was wondering if I could make an elixir with a substitue for brandy? Suggestions or ideas welcome. Much appreciation.

  11. Kiva Rose
    Oct 14, 2008

    Mary Beth,

    Are you asking if you can use something besides alcohol to preserve it? Because if you didn’t want to use brandy, vodka would work fine…. If you mean non-alcohol, you could just make a honey, although I don’t know what the proportions for juice to honey would be.

  12. Kathy
    Nov 12, 2008

    Hi Kiva Rose – Can I use Ginger flavored brandy and still add some organic powdered ginger – also can you add tinctures such as lemon balm or echinacea and if so what would be a proper amount? Thanks a bunch!

  13. Kiva Rose
    Nov 13, 2008

    Kathy, do you mean a commercially produced ginger flavored brandy? Or a homemade ginger brandy tincture? If you mean the former, then no, I wouldn’t use that (additives and all kinds of nasties that aren’t medicinal in the least), if you mean the latter, that could be fine, depending on how spicy you’re aiming for.

    You could add lemon balm and echinacea tinctures if you wanted, amounts would depend on what you were wanting to do. Do yourself a favor though, and don’t just make up a formula by throwing in every anti-viral thing you’ve ever heard of, herbs don’t work very well that way.

  14. Siobhan
    Feb 3, 2009

    Why use glycerine or honey ? Why not just make a straight tincture ? I am supposing 80%alcohol extracts the properties since you are using brandy ?

  15. Kiva Rose
    Feb 3, 2009

    Because then it would tincture, not elixir ;)

    Do you mean 80 proof? Because that’s what most brandy is: 80 proof, thus 40% alcohol.

    The point is to make something tasty and effective, and while Elderberry is plenty effective, it’s not that tasty to children and picky adults. Elderberry syrup is sweet and tasty and what most people want, but it doesn’t work as well as tincture due to the heating process so I came up with something that could replace the syrup taste wise without sacrificing effectiveness.

  16. Herb Lori
    Aug 21, 2009

    thank you so much for sharing your insights! i am trying to come up with a recipe that would be an elixir thin enough to pump…. any ideas on how to thin it down? or will your proportions be sufficiently thin?

    thank you!

  17. Kiva Rose
    Aug 21, 2009

    Yes, esp made with glycerine it should be thin enough… but having never pumped any tincture whatsoever, I can’t be completely sure.

  18. Deborah
    Sep 1, 2009

    Hi Kiva,
    So, I had so many elderberries (I know a nice problem to have) that I froze some. Do you think I could replace the dried for these frozen ones in the elixir?
    Thanks for sharing the recipe.

  19. Kiva Rose
    Sep 1, 2009

    Yes, see above comments for using fresh berries (essentially the same as frozen).

  20. Chura Mama
    Sep 9, 2009

    Thank you for your wonderful website. I’m curious if you have ever experienced side effects from elderberry? I’ve been taking it the past few days and have been feeling tired and groggy… not sure if it’s a coincidence or not. I’d be interested to hear of your experience with this. Blessings!

  21. Kiva Rose
    Sep 9, 2009

    Nope, and in over a hundred clients, I’ve never heard of that particular side effect either. In fact, many feel extra energy from elderberry.

    What else did you put in your elixir and how much are you taking?

  22. Jamie
    Sep 13, 2009

    Hi Kiva. I have about a full pint of elderberries in the freezer because I ran out of Vodka and would have to drive an hour round trip to get more. I want to make something for my little nephew (3years old) and niece (10 years old) with the remaining elderberries.

    I love this recipe here and want to make the drive to town to get the brandy and Glycerine, though I do have a ton of honey I could use.

    I don’t want to heat the elderberries as many sites say to do for the kids to remove the alcohol. But I don’t know about them taking something with brandy. Do you give it to your little one? What would the dosage reduction be?

  23. Kiva Rose
    Sep 13, 2009

    Jamie, just use the honey instead of glycerine :)

    Heating the elixir won’t remove the alcohol anyway, unless you boil it hard for a long time. Besides, a dropper of tincture has less alcohol than a ripe banana, it’s really not a problem in almost any case. For medium sized kids (usually between the ages of six and twelve), I usually give 1/3-12 dropper every 1-2 hours for acute symptoms coming on, or every 3 hours or so if the bug already settled in.

    Elderberry is pretty harmless and very nourishing in any kind of reasonable dose (I’m pretty sure you’d have to drink several ounces of elixir to feel funny, and even then, it’s probably just the brandy getting you ;) )

    I’ve given Elderberry elixir to lots and lots and lots of children now, it works very well and I’ve never seen any issues whatsoever. In fact, part of the point of the elixir is to make it so picky little kids will take it.

  24. Vickie Simmons
    Sep 28, 2009


    Just found your website. I am interested in making my own elderberry tincture, but wondered if you could recommend a good place to buy the dried elderberry. Thanks!

    • Kiva Rose
      Oct 16, 2009

      mountainroseherbs.com or pacificbotanicals.com are good places to start…

    • Kiva Rose
      Oct 30, 2009

      Mountain Rose Herbs or Pacific Botanicals are both good sources.

  25. amy
    Oct 16, 2009

    I was wondering I have a full bag of driend elderberries in my fridge I have had for some time do they go bad??? HOw long are they good when dried and whats the best way to store them
    than you

    • Kiva Rose
      Oct 16, 2009

      Dried last for at least several years if they’ve been kept in an airtight container out of the sun. I just keep mine in jars with airtight lids and kept in a cool, dark place.

  26. amy
    Oct 16, 2009

    how would i know if they are bad? They smell good and look fine they were in a zipped bad in my fridge. They are probably 2-3 yrs old I forgot about them.
    Also can I use elderberry wine instead of brandy or vodka its what I have on hand???
    thank you for your time

  27. Kiva Rose
    Oct 16, 2009

    You could try making a tea with them, and if it comes out deeply colored and strong tasting, they they’re probably just fine.

    You could use wine, but it won’t be anywhere near as strong as it would if you used vodka or brandy because of the alcohol percentage difference and thus extraction strength.

  28. amy
    Oct 16, 2009

    Thank you so much for your help. I will boil some up and see how it taste.
    I am so HAppy i came across your site!! I have been reading here all morning…

    Your a blessing

  29. amy
    Oct 19, 2009

    WHen making elixer and you pour berries and honey and alcohol in jar and let sit shake for 4-6 weeks can you start taking in and do you just leave the berries in there?
    thank you so much

  30. Kiva Rose
    Oct 19, 2009

    Sure, you can if you want…. you have to strain and squeeze the berries if you want the last bit out though.

  31. kristina bentley
    Oct 24, 2009

    Hello Kiva!

    Been getting a lot of pressure from the “in-laws” [whom I live with] to get the H1N1 vaccine…for th ebaby’s sake as they put it. Not going to happen. But, I am looking for some good preventative measures and planning on going the elderberry route. I found a source for some dried berries [wasn't able to find the real live thing this year, hopefully soon though..I know they're near!].

    I am wondering if I should forgo the alcohol and just go with a honey for a couple of reasons…

    Osro is 16 months old, and I don’t know anything about the risks of giving toddlers alcohol.

    I am pretty certain that I am dealing with adrenal fatigue and am prone to UTI’s and yeast infections, which leads me to believe the alcohol may not be good for me.
    Is the elixir more effective than a simple honey [which I would end up mixing or just taking along with ginger honey]?

  32. Kiva Rose
    Oct 25, 2009

    Hi Kristina,

    The truth is, in a dropperful of regular tincture there’s less alcohol than in an a very ripe banana. In elixir, there’s significantly less than that. I certainly don’t view it as an issue unless there’s clear reaction to alcohol (and even then, I tend to think this is often a problem with what the alcohol is made from, not alcohol itself), a history of severe alcoholism or something like that.

    I have had adrenal fatigue as well as chronic utis and yeast infections in the past, and did not find that herbal tinctures caused me any difficulty.

    The honey is fairly effective, but no, I don’t find it to be as effective as the elixir, and you need a significantly larger dose. Personally, I worry more about frequent doses of sugar (which honey is) than I do of alcohol….

    If you eat fermented foods or beverages, you likely get small doses of alcohol frequently anyhow, and I don’t think small doses of tincture are really any more significant than that but everyone should follow their own instincts about these kind of things…

  33. kristina bentley
    Oct 25, 2009

    Thank you Kiva. Yeah, I was wondering if the honey dosage would have to be higher, and as you said, frequent doses of sugar is defintitely a concern.

    I have had a history of alcoholism, although I am not worried now about falling back into that. After doing some testing, I found myself with almost instantanious headaches and stomach cramping after only one sip each time of a white wine, a red wine and then a whisky.

    I have been drinking Kombucha lately with no ill side effects.

    I feel like I would prefer to make an actual elixir. I think I will do that, and if I find myself with a bad reaction, it will just be designated to the boys I suppose!

    Thank you again Kiva.

  34. Terri
    Oct 29, 2009

    Hi Kiva,
    I made this a few months ago and really enjoyed it. I book marked this page but it looks like it’s changed since I was last here. The recipe looks like it’s changed too. The one I followed had 1/2 pint of berries, cover berries with honey and then fill rest of jar with brandy. With the new recipe, 1/2 oz of berries only gives me about 2 tbls instead of filling the pint half full. I was curious as to why the change.

    • Kiva Rose
      Oct 29, 2009

      I haven’t changed it recently that I recall(although I might have at some point in its history), but the 1/2 oz is a typo, it should 2 1/2 oz for dried berries, follow an appr 1:5 proportion for dried berries. Either way, I’ve updated the post to more easily usable for dried or fresh berries, and to correct the typo. Thank for reading!

  35. Terri
    Oct 30, 2009

    Thanks for clearing that up, Kiva. My notes were probably wrong.

  36. Celeste
    Aug 10, 2010

    Hi Kiva,
    We just picked a bunch of wild elderberries and have been scouring the internet for what to do with them. I agree with you that cooking them seems to be counter-productive, potentially destroying much of the berries’ effectiveness. But most of the other sites I’ve found recommend cooking the berries because of toxins. What’s your take on that?

    • Kiva Rose
      Aug 10, 2010

      The only dangerous part of the berry is is the seeds, and even then, only when ground/chewed up very thoroughly (otherwise they simply pass through your digestive tract) and even then only in very large amounts. I’ve eaten large amounts of elderberries raw and have also consumed many quarts of elderberry elixir (and that’s just me) not to mention dispensing gallon upon gallon to clients, including many babies and small children.

  37. Deb
    Aug 17, 2010

    I just made this with dried berries, honey and brandy. However, there is a white frothiness at the very top around the edges. Has this ever happened to you? I’ve made a cordial with vodka, sugar, and elderberries before and this didn’t happen. Could this be because of the honey?

  38. Dean
    Oct 30, 2010

    Sorry to bring this post back but I have a question. Do crush the berries before sealing and letting sit or do you just leave the berries whole?

  39. roxanne
    Aug 24, 2011

    Hi – just curious, what is the purpose of the brandy? I have a family member that cannot have any alchohol at all due to a condition. What would you suggest? I make elderberry syrup myself with just honey so I am curious of the purpose of the brandy.

    • Kiva Rose
      Aug 24, 2011

      The purpose of the vodka is to preserve and extract the medicine.

      I don’t usually make much in the way of syrup for two reasons, 1) heating the elderberries destroys some of the bioflavonoids responsive for the anti-viral and immunomodulating properties and 2) I don’t have refrigeration in my cabin and the syrup goes bad, which is a real problem considering how difficult it can be find enough Elderberries to harvest in my area.

      I’d rather just use a cold infused elderberry honey than a syrup, although it will still ferment in fairly short order in most cases. But the amount of alcohol actually present in a dose of elixir is less than in a piece of overripe fruit like a banana.

      • roxanne
        Aug 25, 2011

        Thanks for the info! Have you ever used apple cider vinegar insated of alchohol? Do you think it would work the same way to preserve it?

        • Kiva Rose
          Aug 25, 2011

          Yes, and I absolutely love Elderberry vinegar (lasts longer if you use dried berries rather than fresh), especially in oxymels where I combine infused honey and elderberry vinegar together… but of course acetic acid extracts different constituents than alcohol does. To utilize its immune/anti-viral properties you’ll likely need a somewhat larger dose.

          As with all medicinal preparations, none is an analogue for another, they’re just different. If you want a convenient prep somewhat comparable to tincture or elixir, I would go for the oxymel but in significantly larger doses.

  40. jennifer
    Sep 12, 2011

    I would love to make this but I only have one cup or so of brandy on hand. Could I just fill a half pint jar with elderberries, cover with honey and then the brandy or would that not work. I know I probably wouldn’t get much but I was thinking just at trial run.

    • Kiva Rose
      Sep 12, 2011

      Sure, it would work fine :)

      • jennifer
        Sep 12, 2011

        Awesome!! Thank you for your help!

  41. Kelli Nolden
    Oct 11, 2011

    I did this recepie 2 wks ago. I checked it today and it seems to be fermenting. Did I not add enough brandy? My other 2 qt jars seem to be ok. Can I add more now and still save the quart or is it past the point of saving? I hate to waste my brandy! ;)

    • Kiva Rose
      Oct 11, 2011

      Could be your berries are just juicier from a moister climate than mine. Yes, you can add more brandy, but better yet, add some everclear or higher proof alcohol and that will preserve it better and help stop the fermentation.

  42. Christina
    Nov 1, 2011

    Mine are fermented, too. Are you saying it can still be used even if it is fermented? I did not use this recipe, but came on here looking for answers to the ferementation problem. I am in a very dry climate. ??

    • Kiva Rose
      Nov 1, 2011

      If it tastes okay, you can still use it but it’s going to continue to ferment unless you cook it (careful cooking with alcohol) or add a lot more high proof alcohol. If you found the the proportion you used fermented, then just use a higher proportion of alcohol next time.

  43. Gabriela
    Nov 1, 2011

    Hi Kiva – This is the first time I try something like this, so I want to make sure I understand. Can you please post the ratios of berries, brandy and honey when using dried berries? Do I still use just enough honey to coat the berries, or is it more? And, does the honey have to be raw honey?


    • Kiva Rose
      Nov 1, 2011

      It’s really just an eyeballing kind of thing and depends on how sweet you want it. You can still just cover the dried berries (fill the jar about a quarter or third of the way up with dried berries) with honey and then fill the rest of the way with brandy or other alcohol.

  44. Heidi
    Nov 23, 2011

    What is the shelf life for an elixir? Does it last just as long as a tincture? Thanks!

    • Kiva Rose
      Nov 24, 2011

      My experience is that it’s often actually longer than a tincture.

  45. Jade
    Jan 3, 2012

    Great elixir. Will be making some in August when we collect fresh berries! thank you…..

  46. Kimberly
    Oct 16, 2012

    Hi Kiva,
    I am sad to have missed the conference this year–I’m manifesting the means to make it next year. I want to thank you for this post. I actually made some elderberry elixir (with fresh berries) this year (along with Staghorn Sumac elixir–one of my all time favorites!), but I recently began to question myself after reading everyone saying you MUST cook the berries. Thank you for the reassurance that I am indeed listening to the plants. We are in MN, so it’s definitely time to start taking it. Thank you again and blessings.

  47. Donna
    Dec 5, 2012

    I made this wonderful elixir over a year ago. How do I know when it is no longer fit for consumption? It has a much more potent alcohol taste than a year ago, but seems to be every bit as effective as last year. One jar seems to be more brown than purple. Should I make it fresh each year? Thanks.

  48. Kiva Rose
    Dec 6, 2012

    You should be able to tell by the taste, if it starts tasting at all off (as in fermented in a bad way) then it’s probably not good, but otherwise it should be effective for several years… I usually run out every year though, so I make more pretty frequently.

  49. Babs McColl
    Jan 28, 2013

    I have been reading your website and have taken down details of the elderberry elixir, thank you so much Kiva…I did not know anything about elderberrys until I was saying a prayer one day for a solution to my lung problem and elderberrys popped into my mind!
    I was diagnosed with Allergic Intrinsic Alveolitus in 2008 and the specialist said it was the feathers from my cockateil bird I had for 27 years. I used to kiss him and did not realise I was giving myself a disease! Sadly he died a long while ago…but my lungs have got steadily worse and I have been really breathless for the past 3 months or so. I take hyssop tincture which does help with the mucus, but the breathlessness is still there. On xray it shows all the bits of white inflammation on my lungs. I have a steroid inhaler and ordinary one, (which I have refused to take up until the past week as I have osteoporosis and steroid take the minerals out of your bones) I actually literally watched my own mum crumble away as she was on permanent steroids…and the doctors wonder why I will not take them?? I am a therapist myself and into all the alternative remedies and your site has given me new hope. I got the hyssop from a lady whom I trust, I also eat very healthy and take lots of vits/minerals. Hope I haven’t written too much?

  50. Kristin
    Jun 19, 2013

    Kiva. I hve made this 2 years running and missed last year. I felt uch a difference. Elderberries are lready coming on in my area. Thank you so much for this tecipe. It is one of the best medicines i provide my family. And yes my toddler loves it and asks for it every day. I think she has developed a taste for alcohol as she loves rescue remedy as well. But lo. Hopefully she associates it with medicine and in very small doses.


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