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Elderberries are powerful medicine to have on hand yet there is much controversy surrounding the elder. To heat or not to heat? Are elderberries poisonous? These are the questions for which I do my best to give thoughtful and well researched answers.

Making Elderberry Medicine

In order to easily separate the elderberries from the rest of the plant material, freeze the harvest overnight. Garble the berries from the stems while they are still frozen. Once the berries thaw out, it becomes difficult, time consuming, and messy to remove the stems.

Now, put a small amount of berries at a time in a bowl, and gently squish them to break open the skins, making sure to not break open the seeds.

Fill a jar 1/2 of the way up the jar with fresh squished berries.

Fill jar with 2/3rds full with either brandy or apple cider vinegar, then top off to the top of the jar with honey. Brandy and honey make an elixir, apple cider vinegar and honey make an oxymel.

Tightly cover the jar with a plastic lid, or with a piece of parchment paper between the metal lid and the vinegar if making an oxymel, and put it on a dish as there may be some leakage. Let macerate in your fridge (to prevent fermentation) for a month, then strain all plant material including the seeds.

A half to a whole teaspoon in a cup of warm water several times a day is all that is needed to provide relief. As elixirs and oxymels take a month to macerate fully, you might want to get on this right away!

If you choose to make a straight up alcohol tincture, fill your jar halfway with the mashed berries, then fill to the top of the jar with 100 proof alcohol to extract and preserve all alkaloids and antioxidants. It may be necessary to refrigerate the alcohol tinctures while they’re macerating to prevent fermentation. Be sure to put a label on your jars/bottles.

To make a living elderberry honey syrup with fresh berries, use the same method above, filling a jar halfway up with squished berries then top off the jar with local raw honey. Every day, turn it upside down – right side up first day, upside down the second day, right side up third day, etc for the first 2 weeks. After 2 weeks, keep the jar in the fridge to keep from fermenting. The syrup is ready in 3-4 weeks. Strain and enjoy on pancakes, in tea, on toast…the possibilities are endless and guess what? Polyphenols, Vit C,Β and prebiotics are intact!

You, your family, and your friends will be very happy when you provide them with herbal medicine that works effectively!

Let’s look into the medicine in elderberries. Elder is probably the most well-known antiviral herb on the market at present. It can assist in reducing inflammation in the sinuses and lungs to relieve congestion, eliminate metabolic waste, stimulate sweating to remediateΒ fevers, and reduce flu and cold symptoms. Elderberries contain shikimic acid, an intermediary in the production of Tamiflu, an anti-flu pharmaceutical. While commercial production of Tamiflu uses the shikimic acid in star anise, elderberries also contain this valuable constituent. Cool beans, elderberry!

Phenolic compounds in plants are secondary metabolites. While some claim they are not inherently necessary for a cell’s survival, they play key roles in the protection against pathogens, saline stress, heavy metal stress, UVA and UVB radiation. Antioxidants, terpenoids, and alkaloids/glucosinolates are 3 of the principal kinds of secondary metabolites synthesized in plants. Shikimic acid is part of the secondary metabolism in the actions of plant vitality.

Elderberries contain a variety of polyphenols. Polyphenols are a class of flavonoids, AKA antioxidants. In plants, polyphenols role is to give fruits and veggies their color, contribute to bitter taste, astringency, aroma, and the stability of the plant.

In us, polyphenols help to slow down or prevent the progression of diseases such as diabetes and Alzheimer’s. Additionally, they fight free radicals, kill viruses, fungi, and bacteria, reduce the appearance of aging, reduce inflammation, protect the cardiovascular system, support normal blood sugar levels and blood pressure, promote brain health, protect the skin against UV rays.

Guess what? Studies show that organically grown food contain more polyphenols than non- organic food. Wild foods. like elderberries, are packed with polyphenols!

Polyphenols help to positively influence the health of the gut ecology. Beneficial bacteria thrive in the gut with the addition of polyphenols, while bad bacteria are negatively impacted. What we eat directly influences the health of the structure of our gut and the demographics (the population and particular bacterial groups within it) of the bacteria in our intestines.

When processing elderberries, care must be taken to ensure that the medicinal components are kept intact. While immune supporting magnesium, potassium, niacin, viburnic and shikimic acids and other health supporting constituents and nutrients in elderberries can withstand heating and drying, the ascorbic acid, anthocyanins, and many other flavonoids (AKA antioxidants) may not. Heat and drying, whether it is stove top heat, or drying in dehydrators, microwaves (!), or any other heat source can degrade to a degree to destroy many of the flavonoids in plants (1). Process temperature is a critical parameter that impacts on the food matrix, altering heat-sensitive compounds such as anthocyanins, in strong relation to magnitude and duration of heating (2).

The antiviral and anti-inflammatory actions of the anthocyanins in elderberries are reduced with heating. 10 minutes in a hot water bath reduces the anthocyanins by up to 10%. Rather than steeping elderberries in hot water, most people boil (212 degrees F) their elderberries on the stove for much longer than 10 minutes at a much higher heat, which destroy a greater percentage of the healthful actions.

10% medicinal loss is not a huge reduction in medicine and is not as significant a loss as would be had by boiling the berries. My point is that people will boil the heck out of the berries for much longer than 10 minutes. I’ve crawled all over the internet looking at elderberry syrup recipes. Long boiling/simmering. Using immune depressing sugar to make the syrup. No bueno. Just because a zillion people copy and paste a recipe, it doesn’t mean the info is golden. Something to think about, hey?

There is much controversy concerning the lectins in elderberries. Some will point to an occurrence back in the 80s where several people were β€œpoisoned” by drinking a large quantity of fresh elderberry juice that included pressed leaves and branches. The symptoms were severe gastric upset and diarrhea. It appears that lectins were the culprit, as “Arterial blood gases were normal for all eight, as were serum cyanide levels”. See this article from the CDC regarding this event. Lectins in plants resist degradation in the stomach, meaning they don’t break down in the stomach. This causes the digestive system to try and get rid of them as quickly as possible. That doesn’t mean poisoning, that means holy crap, point the way to the bathroom! Not everyone is as strongly affected by the lectins as others may be. Think about this: plants need protection from predators. They can’t run away or call the police or a doctor, so they devise ways to protect them including bitter tasting polyphenols, poisonous glycosides, prickles and the like. Genius!!! For more information on lectins and heating elderberries, please read this study.

Personally, I use only fresh elderberries in my remedy making. Why heat the elderberries to lose even a small percentage of its medicine? I honor the plant giving itself to me by utilizing as much of the medicine as possible. Additionally, I microdose, so never have to deal with the possible lectin issue. I take only a teaspoon of an elixir, tincture or oxymel per dose and space each dose out a few hours in between.

Furthermore, be wary of those who will try to monetize our fears by claiming elderberry to be the be-all-end-all herb. It is not. We must not put all our eggs in one elderberry basket and think this particular herb is the only answer. Use common sense around cleanliness, avoiding contact with those affected by viruses, and using other immune and respiratory systems supportive herbs such as yarrow, lomatium, arrowleaf balsamroot, rosemary, oregano, and elecampane to name just a few. Fire cider is helpful, as are raw garlic and onions. Try paper thin slices of raw onion and garlic on nut butter toast.

Being a wildcrafter and steward of the land on which I harvest and teach, I profess that we must utilize the most effective menstrua and processes to ensure we get the greatest amount of medicine out of the plants we harvest in respect that we took plant material from nature that those who actually live on that land – animals, other plants, etc, – also utilize for their survival.

All this to say, sure, dried elderberries cooked into syrup may still be somewhat effective against influenza viruses, however, if processed lightly using fresh berries, the full complement of the medicine is available. In this climate of concern about contracting the coronavirus – and the influenzas A and B and colds that are still being passed around – people are looking for definitive answers. I would say go ahead and use the dried berries if that’s all you have, but steep in hot water for a short amount of time instead of boiling. It’s kind of a “we’ll take what we can get” scenario.

To note: While plants do have the ability to produce constituents that kill certain viruses, fungi, and bacteria, we don’t know for certain that those constituents will definitivelyΒ kill COVID-19 and subsequent strains. While this virus is being fully explored, there are still so many unknowns. Use critical thinking to make smart choices.

Well , there you have it. The truth about elderberries! Keep believing in herbal medicine – because it’s awesome – and be healthy!

  1. Tsao, Rong. (2010) Chemistry and Biochemistry of Dietary Polyphenols. pp 1231-1246. doi: 10.339/nu2121231
  2. Ruiz, Daniel Franco, et al ((2021) A Review of the Current Knowledge of Thermal Stability of Anthocyanins and Approaches to Their Stabilization to Heat. 2021 Sep; 10(9): 1337. doi: 10.3390/antiox10091337
Suzanne "Queen Bee" Tabert 🐝

Suzanne Tabert, bioregional herbalist, speaker, and author, is director of herbal education and herbal mentor at the Cedar Mountain Herb School. An herbal medicine instructor for 35+ years, Suzanne teaches with great passion and excitement, bringing her wealth of herbal knowledge to students in an engaging and vibrant manner. She is the primary instructor at CMHS and an adjunct faculty at Bastyr University. Taking students to wild places and giving them tools to engage and connect with flora, fauna, and the exquisite beauty of nature is the icing on the cake of life, and one way that Suzanne is making a difference in the world, one person, one group at a time. Cedar Mountain Herb School is a member of the American Herbalists Guild, Partnership in Education with United Plant Savers, and the American Herb Association.


  • Rachael says:

    Thank you for this- we are lucky to have a tree in our yard! I’m confused on the seeds- can you clarify what to do with them I the processing? Looks like the squeezing of the berry is meant to remove the seed (?) but that the seeds are also contained in a small sac that’s not meant to be broken? Do you remove these, separate, and then keep the remaining berry? Are there many seeds per pouch? Thank you!

    • says:

      Breaking open the skins of the berries allows the menstruum easy access to the medicine inside. We do not want to break the seeds, as they contain chemicals that are harmful. The seeds are strained out after the remedy is ready. Yes, there is “goo” around each seed. The goo is medicinal! The mentstrua will be able to dissolve the medicine in the goo surrounding the seeds.

      • Jon says:

        Hi and thanks for the great information and sprit.
        do you recommend making an alcohol extraction from dried elderberries ? I read about your alcohol extraction of fresh berries, but all the talk of dried berries is of heating in water. Thank you!

        • Suzanne Tabert says:

          Hi Jon,

          Good question! I use fresh plant material 99.9% of the time to make my tinctures and adjust the proof to bring out the alcohol vs water soluble constituents. I know many people make dried plant tinctures and get good results. Since I’m kind of a science geek, I always look up a new plant (or when doing further research on a favorite plant), on There I can look up the active constituents and their actions in the body, then ask Uncle Google to tell me what kind of constituent it is (antioxidant? glycoside?, etc) and then its solubility. Then I use the right proof of alcohol accordingly. That way I know exactly what constituents and actions I’m extracting and preserving. Sure, it takes work, but I can tell you that my remedies WORK! If people wish to make dried plant tinctures, using 100 proof alcohol will be able to pull out most of the alcohol and water soluble constituents that were not compromised by the drying process. Michael Moore suggested 1 part plant material to 5 parts alcohol with dried plants. When I did make dried plant tinctures years ago, I used 1 part plant material to 3 parts alcohol. Seemed to be a bit stronger for me. Hope this helps, and happy tincturing! Keep learning. I sure do!

          • Natalie Palmer says:

            Hey there, I’ve just dried some elderberries before coming across your blog..i may have dried them a little too much, and they have gone rather crispy.. do you think I could still use them for syrups etc? I will definitely be following your guidance and using fresh elderberries next, how long would an apple cider vinegar/honey solution keep? Thank you for all your great info

          • Suzanne Tabert says:

            Hello Natalie! I’m picturing the poor berries being too crusty to work with at this point. Hey, the mistakes are how we learn, and I can tell you I’ve made more than my share! I keep my oxymels on my apothecary shelves for 2 years, longer in the fridge. Stay tuned for online workshops this winter! xo

          • Lina Galiant says:

            I so badly wish I knew what you are talking about. Like, this is so above my head. I am getting 9 Lbs of frozen elderberries, I’m hoping to use medicinally . What would you do with them? Speak to me like I’m ten lol. Except I’m 27.

          • Suzanne Tabert says:

            Hello Lina,

            Please clarify for me what you want to know. 9 pounds of elderberries is a massive amount and will make gallons of remedies. Unless you’re making remedies to sell, and it seems that perhaps not as you’re still learning what to do with them (which is totally cool, we all need to start somewhere!), 9 pounds is too much to have on hand.

            I teach my apprentices to know what they’re harvesting, why, and what they will be making with the herb/s BEFORE any harvesting is done. I know that many herb companies are cashing in on the elderberry market right now. The more people buy, the less there will be available for the animals that rely on them for their food.

      • Jeff White says:


        Oh the goo. This seems to be the elderberry’s hidden skeleton in the closet.

        I have tried not to panic when I used white gloves to hand squish my berries only to pull my hands out and see them covered with GREEN GOO. That as described as impossible to wash off or disolve with soap and water becomes a bit, well scary.

        I have yet to find the answers to these specific questions anywhere online, While your post starts to answer them:

        1. What exactly is this Green Goo made from. Its the stuff around/protecting the seed, but what does it contain?

        2. If its good, great, if its not good how does one avoid activating it, or better how to separate it, only if it matters. As stated in another post, we use low speed vitamix blender and the goo, must come off in our sieved resultant juice. Last night the wisk I used to help the juice through was completely coated with goo.

        3. The simple version: Is the goo something to be worried about or not?

        • Suzanne Tabert says:

          Oh the goo! The goo contains mucilage, which is so soothing to irritated tissues, which is exactly what I’m looking for when I have a virus with sore throat accompaniment. No need to panic!

        • Theresa says:

          Hi Jeff,

          I had the same problem, and this is what worked for me. It is a waxy (oil based) goo — so I used vegetable oil as a solvent to break it down, and then I applied straight dishsoap the the oil/goo mixure to loosen it all up, and then rinsed it off with cool water. That worked really well.

          Good Luck!

      • Paula says:

        Hi! Thanks for the beautiful and thorough information.
        I’ve been making elderberry tincture for some years now, but this year I guess I didn’t shake my tincture (100 alcohol proof) enough the first days and today that I opened it I realized it had begun fermenting.
        Would it still work? or has the fermentation affected the active compounds and all around Elreberry magic?
        thanks for you help Suzanne!

        • Suzanne Tabert says:

          Hello Paula! Interesting question. I’ve never had elderberry ferment in tincture form. Honey, sure, but not tincture. I’ll need more info. How full was the jar with berries before adding alcohol? Did you break open the berries? What proof alcohol did you use? Was the jar completely full to the top with alcohol? How long was the steep? If you could get back to me with these answers, I’ll be able to better answer your questions. Thanks!

      • Jane says:

        Dear Suzanne, thanks for this interesting article. I have a few elder plants in the garden and the berries on them are ripening aren’t ripening at the same time. Some still have no berries at all. Should I harvest the berries and freeze until I have enough to make the elixir? Also, how should I harvest specifically? I know you say not to pick the berries fresh but to freeze first. Where on the plant should I cut to remove the berries? Thankyou

        • You are very welcome, Jane! Shall I assume that you are not in the US as your elders are already beginning to ripen? I always wait until the bulk of the elderberries are very ripe before doing any picking. Unripe berries are a no no due to their cyanogenic glycoside sambunigrin content. Better safe than sorry, love!

          I don’t say not to pick the berries fresh, but freeze first. I always pick the berries fresh..we all do! To clarify, I freeze them to make them easier to remove from the stems. I cut the berry clusters as close to the berries as I can, yet keep them in a clump. Easy to process. Freeze, garble them to remove the stems, give them a very quick cold water rinse (don’t soak!), then gently mash them.


    • Jessica says:


      We have a few elderberry bushes in our yard that my husband planted. I did not know they could be poisonous. I just picked them from the bush (dark purple) and are them one by one. Probably like 1/2 just guessing. My 11 month old was also eating them. Seeds and all, my 11 month old smashed a bunch and ate the skin mostly. We don’t eat them daily and had some yesterday as well. And then I wanted to see what I could make with them and saw that they may be poisonous. Should I avoid eating them and look into just jams and what not. You seemed to have a little more information then other sites so I thought I might send an email and get your thoughts.

      Thank you for your time,


      • Suzanne Tabert says:

        Hello Jessica!
        Thanks for reaching out, I appreciate your story and wanting my thoughts. I know I say very lightly that I’ve eaten a few elderberries here and there and have lived to tell the tale, but we do need to be careful really, don’t we? I’m not sure what you mean when you say, “like 1/2.” A half cup? A half tablespoon? 1/2 gallon? While the seeds will surely pass out of our digestive system, there is always the possibility of breaking open the seeds while biting down on them. I do the swirl and mash, swallow the juice, and spit out the rest. I never eat enough to make a quantity, just a few during my first harvest. Please make sure to read the part in the article about the lectins. The juice isn’t poisonous, but can cause digestive upset in quantity.

    • Kathryn says:

      What do you recommend using when straining for syrup?

  • I’ve been writing a book on elderberry foraging and recipes, and I’ve researched extensively on the subject of how heat will affect the medicinal properties of elderberries. I especially wanted to know about the high heat involved in canning, since so many herbal sites recommend canning the juice but I thought the heat might harm the compounds in it. This is the first time I’ve seen mention that even drying elderberries harms the compounds. Rosemary Gladstar herself recommends using dried elderberries for anti-flu syrup, and I’m pretty inclined to believe anything Ms. Gladstar says (big fan here). Are you saying that all those herbalists are wrong and elderberries can only be used raw for medicinal purposes? I would love to find some research either way, as I’ve read that some of the medicinal properties are actually increased through heating but now I’m seeing this. Do you know of any studies? Thanks!

    • says:

      Thank you for your comment and questions. I’ve never been one to debate what other herbalists say or do. There are many ways to make herbal medicine. Some are valid, some not. While some of the antiviral properties of the elder, as I stated in my article, are preserved with heat and drying, the bulk of the medicine is in the antioxidants. Antioxidants are a very large group of chemicals that have a wide variety of actions including antiviral, antiallergic, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, anticancer, and more. Science shows that many antioxidants are destroyed with heat and drying. Please feel free to do your research on this, and provide a book that is well written with valid info.

  • Brandi says:

    Do you have a site where you sell your stuff at?

  • Loreta says:

    What is your feeling on making elderberry syrup using an instant pot (pressure cooker)? The berries will spend less time β€œcooking” but at a higher heat than stovetop.

    • says:

      Any time with heat will destroy many of the medicinal bioflavonoids in the berries. The loss of so much of the medicine after the effort of harvesting and processing would be sad!

  • Jessica says:

    What should I do if I do not have access to fresh elder berries? It’s just my luck that I purchased dried elder berries moments before I found this blog and so cannot undo my purchase, but even so, I don’t have fresh anywhere. I am going to be planting my own tree somewhere down the road, but that will take some time to begin producing the berries. Could I help maintain as much of the good stuff as possible by using the alcohol with the dried berries instead of boiling them in water? Perhaps chopping the dried berries up first? Any thoughts on this would be appreciated. This is my very first foray into the use of home made herbal concoctions. I would hate to have spend $17 on berries without trying to get as many benefits as possible out of them. Thank you.

    • says:

      Hi Jessica!

      Drying and heat do destroy many, but not all, of the bioflavonoids.

      Sometimes we have to wait until the season for the part of the plant we wish to harvest is available again. We will see fresh elderberries in September. During the 27 years that I made herbal products for sale, there were times when I just did not have a product because I didn’t get the harvest done in a timely manner, or nature did her own thing and the plant was ready earlier one year than the next. My customers knew they would get the best quality products from me, because I paid such good attention to detail and only harvested plants when they were ready. I strove to be the best of the best with the medicine in my bottles and jars as this was (and still carries today) my reputation to create and sell quality herbal medicine that worked!

      It does a good service to you and those you wish to give or sell your ware to, to pay attention to the plants you are interested in harvesting in order to keep an eye on best harvest times. Consider finding a good spot for harvesting and freeze the elderberries to use as needed

      I hope this helps!

  • Samantha says:

    Is there any good use for dry elderberry’s?

    • says:

      Sure! The micro and macro nutrients such as sugars and minerals are still viable. Some other constituents may be as well.

      • Margarert Varner says:

        Found a recipe for elderberry vinegar that says place dry elderberries and filter water in saucepan, bring water and dry elderberries to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer, cook for 30 minutes. So my question is if I bring dry elderberries and filtered water to 100 degrees, cover pot with lid and let sit for 30 minutes would this reduce the loss of nutrients.?

        • Suzanne Tabert says:

          Hello Margarert! Well, you’ll get what you’ll get. Again, I’m not a fan of dried elderberries. Dried elderberries in 100 degree water would just rehydrate them, but much would have already been lost. If you’re looking for minerals, they (some) would be retained, for the most part. Some do get destroyed in processing, such as selenium.

  • Andrea says:

    I am a bit confused because many of the sites I’ve read say they are poisonous raw.

    • says:

      Thanks for asking! It’s the seeds that should not be eaten. The skins and juice are fine. Many sites simply copy and paste info from other places on the internet. Not always with either good or entire info.

      I process mine by gently breaking open the skins, but never crushing the seeds. The seeds are tough and will not let in menstruum if unbroken. I’ve been eating raw blue elderberries for years and am alive to tell the tale without a single issue. Granted, I swirl them in my mouth to get the juice and skins and spit out the seeds. I don’t put them in smoothies. We need to be smart!

  • Tracey Gray says:

    Thank you for that information. It was really useful and informative. Some sites say that eating raw elderberries can be harmful, especially if eaten in large quantities.. Do you have any thoughts on this?

    • says:

      Thanks for asking! It’s the seeds that should not be eaten. The skins and juice are fine. I process mine by gently breaking open the skins, but never crushing the seeds. The seeds are tough and will not let in menstruum if unbroken. I’ve been eating raw blue elderberries for years and am alive to tell the tale without a single issue. Granted, I don’t put them in smoothies or anything like that. That would not be smart. I’ll eat a few while I’m harvesting and processing them. I swirl them in my mouth to access the juice and skins, but don’t crunch down on them to break open the seeds. I spit the seeds out.

  • JJ says:

    Ok, I’ve read your comments and answers section Can you recommend any recipe that will make beneficial use of the dried elderberries that many of us have purchased before we became wiser through the information on your website? Thank you for sharing your research.

    • says:

      Sure JJ! Dried elderberries contain calcium, magnesium, potassium. Fiber, fructose/glucose/sucrose/levulose, iron, zinc. Malic and lactic acid. Tartaric acid, which, with malic acid, has an alkalizing and cleansing effect in the body. Malic acid is part of the ATP chain! Niacin, which is anti-histaminic, anti-dermatitic, anti-dementia, and anti-vertigo. Elderberries contain valerianic acid which is antispasmodic. Yes, valerianic acid, just like our local wild valerian! All the cool stuff!

      You can use the dried elderberries to make a heated syrup.There are 14,563,678,789.3454306 recipes out there and all are pretty much the same. In my case, if I’m using dried plant material to make a syrup, I use honey vs sugar. Honey is acidic and has its own benefits. I gently heat the honey in the strained dried plant decoction (check out my Plant Medicine Made Easy for instructions on decoctions) 2:1. 2 parts honey and 1 part decoction. I know that I will be able to more easily assimilate the iron and calcium with acidic foods and menstrua. Honey is acidic and is the perfect vehicle for transporting iron and calcium to our cells.

  • Pam Colonna says:

    Hi – how long do the dried elderberries last in the bag they were purchased in? Should they be stored in the fridge and for how long will they keep? Thanks!

    • says:

      It depends on how long ago they had been picked, the quality of the drying, and how long they sat around the warehouse before they were purchased. Whole berries should last for a year at the most, if they were processed and stored properly.

      • Karan Headley says:

        I freeze & vacuum pack most harvests- yet to have elderberries, will someday- have 12 starts to set out. I partially freeze delicate things til firm, then vacuum pack– and put back in freezer- wala no frost. I freeze part of my tomatoes this way for soups etc-works great, just use a fork to lift out skins {or leave in is no one objects}

  • david a knorr says:

    I used to make elderberry wine back in the 80s.Won ribbons at contests.Started making our own jelly . delicious. Got to thinking what else can i make? Saw sambucus products on shelves at pharmacy. Counter help said Amish people swear by sambucus , and pharmacy cant keep shelves stocked.
    So I started making my own elixer? a few years ago. We pick fresh berries and freeze until ready to work with them. Then thaw them out, run them thru a food processor? that separates seeds and skins, while pure juice comes out. No breaking of seeds.Use unflavored brandy 46 proof? along with some lemon zest, cloves, cinnamon. I also started adding a little aronia juice. Let sit for 8 weeks in fridge. No heating occurs. Strain off into brown bottles and refrigerate. Always was leery of heating any plant products. Any suggestions on improving my recipe would be appreciated.

    • says:

      Your recipe sounds super tasty AND medicinal all at the same time! I use the skins as they contain so many of the healthy antioxidants. You could try adding some fresh ginger as well. Glad you’re on the “no heating” bandwagon! It’s the smart thing to do, herbally.

    • Jeff White says:

      When you say food processor are you saying.
      Green Machine juicer? or
      Cuisart food processor?
      We have been using a vitamix blender on slow speeds. Then we use a medium mesh sieve to remove large pieces if skin and 99% of the seeds.
      The seeds seem to be in tact and I get about 70% juice and 30% pulp/seed throw out.

      BIG QUESTION: Using this method, or food processing otherwise, does this in somehow put too much seed content (broken or otherwise) in our product. We have done this for 2 years, still not dead, so that’s something????

      How we use this:

      We do this then freeze the juice in ice cube trays, then store. we use this juice to make coconut ice cream sweetened with stevia or put it in our 9 berry smoothie with black currents, aronia, cranberry, raspberry, blueberry, elderberry, honeyberry, blackberry, and a few strawberry.

      Note: We also use elderberry 3 cups berry 2 cups gin, to make our amazing Elderberry Gin and Tonics. We also make our own tonic water using a device uses Citric Acid and Baking Soda to made CO2.

      • Suzanne Tabert says:

        Greetings Jeff, thank you for your questions and for reading the article! People who wish to break open the berries use all manner of machines to do so, but it’s really not necessary with elderberries. In fact, the metal cutters of the machines have a much greater probability for crushing or cutting the seeds as well, which open them to let loose their constituents in the remedies. A gentle crushing with a jar in a bowl is really all that’s necessary for opening the skins, releasing the juice, and leaving the seeds intact, which will then simply be removed after macerating in the preferred menstrua. Incidentally, as I replied in a comment earlier, the skins have their own medicine and straining them out means lost medicine.
        It sounds as if you’ve worked/played with elderberries for a while. I love the sound of the coconut ice cream!!!

        • Lina Galiant says:

          Do you recommend using fresh elderberries in glycerine?

          • Suzanne Tabert says:

            Again, it depends on what you’re wanting to extract. I will be teaching an online Phytochemistry for Beginners workshop this winter. It’s so valuable – and crucial – to know the constituents and what each menstrua will pull out and preserve in order to make effective medicine. If you’re not signed up for our newsletter, I suggest going to the homepage of the website, scroll down to get the free herbal first aid eBook, and you’ll be on our email mailing list. You’ll get early information about what and when we will be teaching this winter. I suggest taking some herb classes, either from me (CHMS) or another knowledgeable herbalist before diving in on medicine making. Using the correct menstrua and processing means the difference between effective medicine and medicine that doesn’t work. I expect that you wish to make effective medicine!

    • Lina Galiant says:

      You wouldn’t care to share your ratios of ingredients, would you?

      • Suzanne Tabert says:

        Hello Lina, Thanks for your question! On the left of the article, you’ll see clear directions for making an elixir, oxymel, and tincture including ratios.

  • Amy says:

    The elderberries that grow in Missouri are a red/purple variety, not blue. I have been harvesting them in August and freezing them. In winter I boil them with blackberries, mulberries, and strawberries to make a delicious juice. I add a can of frozen grape concentrate to my juice to sweeten it. I strain out the seeds after I have cooked them. Is this a safe way to prepare them or does the heating release the toxins in the seeds? We drink large quantities of this juice especially when we have a cold going around.

    • says:

      As long as the seeds are not cracked open, you are safe. Just as a heads up, boiling the berries will destroy a portion of the medicine.

  • Anna says:

    I am deeply appreciative of this nuanced and fully-informed article. I have a huge number of frozen elderberries and have been trying to decide whether to make syrup or tincture. I was worried about the presence of the seeds and the alcohol extracting the toxins. This article allayed those fears and I will go with the tincture (although I may make a little syrup and combine the two for tastiness).

    • says:

      Thank you for reading the article. I’m so glad you found value in it! I will be bringing frozen elderberries to my Bastyr students next month for them to process into an elixir. xoxo

  • Katie says:

    Does freezing fresh elderberries destroy the flavonoids like heating does? I’ve found a source for fresh, frozen wild elderberries and wondering if this is a better choice than dried. I’m assuming I could thaw and use following your recipes, however please advise if that won’t work. Thanks in advance!

    • says:

      Freezing for short periods of time do not destroy the flavonoids. Freezer burn is certainly something to avoid, however, so no longer than 6 months in the freezer, well wrapped.

  • Jeff White says:

    We love elderberry pie. Which cooks the berries and seeds? Should this also be avoided? Or does cooking the berries in pie also make the seeds less toxic?

    • says:

      Hello Jeff,

      Thatβ€˜s a good question! Elderberry pie sounds wonderful. I know that there are people who bake the blue elderberries whole in the pie, thinking that they will poop out the seeds unbroken. Iβ€˜m not so sure about this, myself. While the seeds do have a hard seed covering, they can be broken when chewing or during the digestive process. Iβ€˜m trying to think how to separate the seeds from the berries for a pie. Iβ€˜m kind of stumped, to tell you the truth. Has anyone out there made elderberry pie and can jump in with comments? Thanks!

      • Jeff White says:

        Suzanne, Thanks again for a great discussion forum.

        About pies: The black elderberries are cooked on stovetop first, then baked for 55 minutes. We eat about 4 pies a year and its only for fun, not for health tonic. Everyone (aka no one) says the cooking kills the bad stuff, we assume most of the good stuff, is gone, plus all the other pie things. Its more of a celebration of Elderberry pie, show the berries we love them.

        We grow about 60-80 lbs of berries a year, so the pies are a small sacrafic to the berry gods. πŸ™‚

        As you say, we’re still alive to tell the story.


        • Suzanne Tabert says:

          Hi again! When we eat berries baked into pies or galettes (my favorite!), guess where the seeds come out? Yep, out the exit shoot, intact. Our digestive system isn’t that great at breaking open/dissolving the seed coats, luckily! It’s when we eat them when they’ve been broken open via machines or pounding that we get into trouble. To be safe, we need to keep the amount of berries we eat intact to a minimum…just in case! Glad you’re still hear to tell the tale! PS….I love a good pie…..hint hint!

        • Suzanne Tabert says:

          P.S. Sure heating kills the cyanogenic glycosides, but they’re only released if the seed coats are broken.

  • Naj says:

    After I make the elderberry exilir and tincture, do they need to be stored in the fridge or can they be stored in a cabinet? If so, how long?
    Thank You!

    • says:

      Hello Naj! I store elderberry elixir in the fridge and the straight up tincture in my apothecary cabinet. Doing so with both can keep the medicine viable for about 2 years. I prefer to make fresh elderberry elixir and tincture every 2 years, just to keep on top of the good medicine. xxoo!

  • Cyd Renz says:

    Hi Suzanne,
    I am still a bit confused on the seeds? Would I strain the seeds out prior to adding my alcohol/honey. Of course if I add them in my husband will eat them. LOL The separation seems obvious, but since you didn’t give a specific extracting procedure, I thought I would ask. Thank you for the time and effort you put into sharing!
    I sooo appreciate your gift of knowledge.

    • says:

      Hello Cyd,
      I break open the skins of the elderberries and utilize the skins, juice, and seeds to make my remedies. The seeds are NOT broken open, but I do put them in the menstruum with the rest of the berry matter as the seeds have a nutritious gel that encompasses the seeds. That way, I’ll get all the goods! At the end of the masserating process, I’ll strain out the whole shebang and be left with the medicinal/nutritional remedy. No seeds will be in the remedy if strained well. Let me know if you need more info!

  • says:

    I have been studying constituents in plants and the science/chemistry of them for many years. Included in my studies are menstruum – which is best to pull out a certain type of constituent, such as a polyphenol group, and preserve them for a certain amount of time. I have utilized many correct and reliable sources including Dr. Duke’s phytochem website and PubMed.
    Some plants, such as elderberries, may have toxic substances in the some plants parts, but not in others. There are no toxins in the “juice,” gel around the seeds, or skins. None of these contain toxins, although the seeds do. So….we don’t crush the seeds when preparing our remedies and we make sure to completely strain them out after the plant material has been in the menstrua for the time it takes to extract the constituents we want. I eat the berries raw when picking them, but not more than a few, and I always spit out the seeds.
    There is so much information on the internet and I understand that it can be confusing. That many people source one particular story says to me that there is a lot of copy and paste going on. I have found over the years that much information is bandied around that is not quite the truth, stretched to prove a point, or just plain untrue for dramatic effect or financial gain – if a website can scare a person off using their own common sense and get them to buy a product, then the company/person has won buyers. When enough people copy and paste a topic or bit of info, it begins to look like the truth.
    There is a story that is copied and pasted profusely about a group of people who apparently drank copious amounts of elderberry juice and were poisoned. We don’t really know the truth about the people who were poisoned. What does poison mean, actually? Drinking copious amounts of elderberry juice can give a person diarrhea and gastric upset. Is that poison? No, that’s gluttony, or falling into the “if a little works, then a lot should work better” syndrome. Lots of fructose in elderberry juice. Were there seeds in the juice? Did they drink red or blue/black elderberry juice? So many questions to ask before believing a story, in my never humble opinion.
    If eating raw elderberries straight off the bush poisons people, then I should have been dead many years ago. That being said, I’m smart about how I consume plants and make sure to do my research by using reliable sources.
    Yes, I do add dried cinnamomum verum and cloves and sometimes fresh lemon rinds/pulp and ginger to my oxymel and elixir. I’ll even throw in a bit of fir or pine needles in the mix for added medicinal terpenes. I find both oxymel and elixir to contain much medicine and nutrition and benefit those with whom I wish to share the remedy. Oxmels, being alcohol free, are good choices for those who wish to refrain from alcohol.

  • Melissa Pitchford says:

    Hey there, I’m new to the elderberry community. So I noticed you mention how much to fill a jar with the elderberries and the apple cider vinegar, but how much honey do you put in with it? And can you only add it to a cup of water or can you just take a teaspoon of it each day without adding it to water?

  • Melissa Pitchford says:

    Hey there, I’m new to the elderberry community…. I am curious how much honey you put in your jars? You say how much to fill it with the elderberries and the apple cider vinegar, but no exact amount of honey. And do I have to add a tsp to water or can I just drink the tsp?

    • says:

      Hello Melissa and welcome! Fill a jar 1/2 of the way up the jar with fresh squished berries. Fill the jar with 2/3rds full with either brandy or apple cider vinegar, then top off (to the top of the jar) with honey. Brandy and honey make an elixir, apple cider vinegar and honey make an oxymel. Also, since we utilize elderberries when sick or when those around us are sick, it’s best to stay hydrated. Put the 1/2 to full tsp in a glass of warm water.

  • Becky says:

    So….if it accidentally ferments in 100 proof vodka, is it no longer viable?

    • says:

      It certainly is viable. Just more fun. Signs of fermentation is fine. Signs of mold, no bueno. I would keep it in the fridge. xxoo. PS…I went to your store yesterday, but didn’t see you!

  • esther greenfield says:

    WOuld freeze dried berries be a good choice for protecting the antioxidant content? Which brand of tincture would you recommend that is processed properly?

    • says:

      I will freeze the elderberries for up to 2 months. I can then use them in my workshops. I prefer to always process directly after harvesting, however. As far as brand of tincture, what you like is up to you. Are you talking actual brand or alcohol proof?

  • esther greenfield says:

    Also wondering the difference in health properties between a tincture and an extract and how these compare in effectiveness to making your own with frozen berries.
    Thank you!!

    • says:

      What do you mean by extract, exactly? There are many ways to make an extract. Some require heat, some do not. I always make my medicines with plants I harvest myself. That way, I can see the health and size of the stand, can look for signs of herbicide spray, know that I’m harvesting at the right time for the constituents I’m looking to extract and more. With purchased herbs, none of that is guaranteed.

  • Meghan says:

    I take homemade syrup I buy from others right now but looking to make my own. I found fresh flash frozen berries i can buy. I can buy local honey right near me. Wondering if I can add ginger,clove,cinnamon to the jar while maserating? Thanks for all of your info!

    • says:

      Greetings Meghan!
      Homemade herbal remedies, done correctly, have so many more advantages than when purchased. To go further, harvesting the plant at the right time adds even more advantages. Local honey, if raw, adds value to remedies as well. Of course, add the spices. I do that all the time! Cinnamomun verum is the cinnamon you want to use. This particular cinnamon aids in the reduction of blood sugar, which is a benefit to those with prediabetes. Most cinnamon in the stores is cassia, which does not serve the same purpose. Happy medicine making!

  • Debby says:

    I cook berries will it matter if some of the green berries got in to mix

    • says:

      Hello Debby!
      Thank you for your question. It’s an important one! I always remove the green elderberries before processing the ripe ones for safety. My students often pick green berries with the ripe and I have to talk about not only safety, but who else, meaning birds and other wildlife, will want to feast on them once they are ripe.

  • Amber says:

    Hello. Thank you for your informative site. I made cooked elderberry syrup today with dried elderberries and did not know to pick out the few little dried stems–some went into the pot. Since it was cooked and well strained, no seeds or stems ended up in the syrup. Is there any danger in consuming the syrup?

    • says:

      Hello Amber,

      I’m so glad you’re finding value here at the Cedar Mountain Herb School! To answer your question, I would prefer zero stems in the finished product. When you say a few, how many is a few, actually? 5? 10? More? What is the volume of the syrup? How long did you cook the dried elderberries? The longer the cook and the more stems, the less I’d want to use the syrup. As far as the seeds are concerned, as long as they are strained out and the protective shell has not been compromised in any way, I don’t see an issue. If they have been compromised, I wouldn’t use the syrup. To be clear and to reiterate, cooked dried elderberries will not have the potency of fresh uncooked ones. If you can get back to me with the answers to my questions, I can better help you with this issue. Thanks so much! Suzanne

  • Susan says:

    I am trying to decide between making elderberry syrup or fermented elderberry honey. Are there significant pros and cons?

    • Suzanne Tabert says:

      Hello Susan,
      Thank you for your question. I took a mental health day yesterday from all media including social media, emails, tv, and radio. Best day I’ve had in a long time!
      To answer your question, either one is fine, although I’ve never made fermented elderberry honey from dried berries. Remember when making a syrup – no more than 10 minutes in hot, not boiling water. Can you tell me your process for doing a fermented honey with dried berries, please? Thank you!

  • Briana says:


    Thank you for your very informative article.
    So the dried berries that are purchased still contain the seeds?
    And what if a person soaks their dried berries in water over night instead of boiling?

    • Suzanne Tabert says:

      Hello Briana,

      Thank you for reading the article! Dried elderberries contain the seeds, yes. Dried berries are dried berries. Meaning, soaking the berries isn’t going to make them fresh again. If I were to use dried berries, which I wouldn’t, but if I were to use them dried, I’d steep them in hot water for about 10 minutes and then let them sit for a few hours before straining. That’ll bring out the medicine that wasn’t destroyed in the drying process.

      • Shelly says:

        Good morning…this is one answer to my question of “reconstituting” the dried berries. What is the process for drying elderberries? I also heard recently that “North American” berries contain more healing properties than their European cousins. Most dried berries are from Albania and Croatia, from what I’ve seen. I use my own fresh berries, but this year the birds and deer were extra hungry! I now have some dried berries purchased to fill the gap: how would I use them in an elixir or oxymel? Or is it even worth the effort?

        • Suzanne "Queen Bee" Tabert says:

          Hello Shelly,

          Good afternoon! Thank you so much for reading the article and reaching out with your questions. It’s interesting what people will say about plants and their medicinal strength. It can come down to nutrients in the soil, if the plants are getting what they need to thrive, etc., etc., etc. I wouldn’t say, “blanketly,” that US berries are stronger medicinally than those in other countries as they are growing on the bushes. I will say, however, that processing and length of time – and how they are stored – between picking and using do affect the quality of medicinal value. Good on ya that you left the berries for the animals! They can’t use Doordash to order food like we can and must forage. I don’t use dried berries to make elixirs or oxymels, but you can use them to make a straight tincture, if you’d like. Granted, some medicinal value will be missing, but you will still get something. While most herbalists quote “5 parts alcohol to 1 part plant material,” on the rare occasion that I do make a dried plant tincture, I use 100 proof alcohol – that’s 50/50 alcohol and water. I fill the jar 1/3 way with plant material, then fill the jar completely with the 100 proof alcohol. Allow to sit 2-3 weeks, then strain. Be well, love!

          • Shelly says:

            Suzanne, Thank you for replying! I will try the tincture, but want to be sure: 100 proof alcohol [vodka? brandy?] in whatever amount matched with same amount of water? Very interested to see how this turns out!

          • You are most welcome, Shelly! To reiterate, fill your jar 1/3 of the way with the dried elderberries, the fill the jar all the way up to the top with 100 proof alcohol. As 100 proof means 50% water and 50% alcohol, there is already sufficient water in the jar and no extra water must be added. Adding extra water will greatly reduce the longevity of the tincture. What type of alcohol you use it up to you. It’s all in the proof, baby!
            Please consider taking my phytochemistry for beginners workshop. I believe your understanding of menstrua will be greatly improved. It’s all about making the most effective medicine from the plants we harvest!


          • Shelly says:

            Hello Suzanne.
            I just put up my first Oxymel and Elixir following your recipes and using my own fresh elderberries! All my cuttings are growing, and my original three plants have provided more than enough berries for my kitchen as well as the furred and feathered friends residing here. No more dried berries here!

          • Yay!!! Look at you go, making your own medicine! Good on ya, dear.

  • Brandi says:

    Hi there. Thank you for this. I wanted to ask..
    Would it be alright to pick the fresh berries and have them sit in vegetable glycerin and without refrigerating? Most of the medicine I’m making this season is/will be done this way. In the past I cooked my elderberry syrup and other medicines. I got to thinking ..all this heat can’t be good ..and as you habe stated, it’s not. I want to keep my medicines as simple as possible. Thank you so much so sharing your know how.

    • Suzanne Tabert says:

      Hello Brandi!

      Glycerin is a champ at extracting tannins and other water soluble constituents, however, it is very weak at best at extracting most alkaloids and other constituents. You might get a some medicine from the elderberries, but it will not be very effective. The shelf life of a glycerin tincture is short, as well. Thanks for your comment! xo

  • Shunta` says:

    I came across your website and article on dried elderberry (it would you let me post this as a comment).
    This was a wonderful and very informative article. I am so glad I stumbled across when researching dried elderberries. I am a bit disappointed that I have been using dried elderberries to make my syrup all these years when I should have been using fresh ones.
    I recently decided to try my luck at elderberry powder and then placing the powder into a vegan capsule to take daily as a pill. I used a herb and spice grinder to grind the dried elderberries, they came out not as fine powder, but the texture reminds me more of coffee beans that have been placed in a grinder. I placed the powder into capsules, after having it in an airtight container with an oxygen absorber pack, but have yet to take any of the capsules – fearful that I am not supposed to consume them like that (read that dried elderberries are poisonous if not heated).
    What are your thoughts and/or suggestions on using dried elderberries to make a powdered capsule or how would you suggest making elderberry powder? I have read that any herb in its rawest form was best so I thought a powder would be good for keeping it on a raw form. Would consuming dried elderberries in this way (no heat) be okay…safe for consumption? I have even thought about using some of the leftover powder in my four years old’s smoothie, but again, did not want to risk it….hence my research of dried elderberry powder/dried elderberries.
    Any response you could give would be so greatly appreciated! Please keep giving all this wonderful information! It is very helpful! Thank you for your advice and time!

    • Suzanne Tabert says:

      Hello Shunta! Thank you so much for you questions. You know what? We are all on a learning curve. I’ve been learning about and using plants as medicine since I was a little pea in my Great Aunt Mary’s garden! The plants give us a bit of wisdom every time we spend time with them. I’m so glad that you are as interested in the plants as they are in you!

      To answer your questions: The thing I’d be concerned with is that in grinding the dried berries into powder, the seeds are also a part of that powder. A bit here and there may be ok for some people, but ingesting the seeds in any real quantity is generally frowned upon.
      I wouldn’t say dried elderberries are “poisonous” per se, although we do want to practice moderation and caution.

  • Mark W. says:

    Are you using the Sambucus nigra or Sambucus canadensis for your medicine recipes? Is one better than the other in your opinion

    • Suzanne Tabert says:

      Hello Mark! Our wild blue elder here in the Pacific Northwest/Inland West is Sambucus nigra ssp. cerulea. I see no reason why you couldn’t use the canadensis. A website that I use frequently to find the constituents in plants is Dr. Duke’s phytochem:
      Plug the plant in the search button, then click on the correct one from the list. You’ll see a list of constituents. Click on “chemicals with activities,” and the list will narrow. As you click on the carot next to each constituent, you’ll see a list of the actions with science back up. Here’s the one for Sambucus canadensis:

      Happy researching!

  • Gordon Chustz says:

    In harvesting ripe elderberries, there are always some green ones. How do you suggest removing these in processing?

    • Suzanne Tabert says:

      Hello Gordon! From my perspective, if there are green berries on a bunch of elderberries, then I would suggest that the “ripe” ones may not be fully ripe and need a few extra days to become fully medicinal. I always go for the fully ripe ones. If you find one or two green ones on the bunch, fine, pick them out. If there are more than a few green berries on a bunch, I leave that bunch to fully ripen. Thanks so much for reading the article!

  • Stephanie says:

    Hi Suzanne,
    I’ve read the article and read through the comments and am so intrigued about using fresh elderberries instead of dried. We have a ton of elderberry trees on our property bc birds love them. We have always used elderberry syrup to keep us healthy but just recently have wanted to make our own. I’m curious : how long do you think fresh elderberries will last at room temp? I picked a giant crate full on Friday and only got about half off of the vines and left the rest out to keep working. I’m smelling a little bit of fermentation smell, but my husband doesn’t think it’s safe to use for elderberry and thinks I should pick fresh and start over. Any thoughts?

    • Suzanne Tabert says:

      Hello Stephanie! Great question! I process my plant matter immediately after harvesting to preserve all the benefits that can be gleaned. Once a plant sits for a while, decomposition starts to happen and we lose some benefits. While fermented berries may be safe to use, once we smell the fermentation, mold may also be forming, which would be a detriment to the remedy and the health of the person taking it. Hope this answers your question to your satisfaction! I love that you have elder trees for the bees!

  • Sandy says:

    Hello Suzanne,
    Thank you for your teaching and sharing it here. I was all ready to begin preparing to make elderberry syrup (berries picked fresh and frozen), by heating them with other ingredients, when I discovered your article and insight. Timing is everything! I have prepared a β€œfirst batch”, and will use both brandy with local unpasteurized honey as an elixir and organic apple cider with local unpasteurized honey as an oxymel. My challenge… It hasn’t been easy to take out all the tiny stems. My query is whether it is safe to allow some stems In/to remain during the month of macerating in the fridge (BEFORE the final strain and addition of cinnamon, and ginger), or not. Fingers crossed that some stems can remain, to be removed completely during the straining process. With gratitude.

    • Suzanne Tabert says:

      Hello Sandy,

      Thank you for your question! It all depends on how many stems are in with the berries. I remove the bigger stems after picking, then freeze the lot. I take out the berries and give them a quick 10 second soak in water to allow the smaller stems to rise to the surface of the bowl to be scooped off before processing. I can’t tell you if your remedy will be safe as I do not know how many stems are in the jar. Of course, none to least amount is preferable. Thanks!

  • Laura Bergner Owens says:

    LOVE your article! Thank you so much for sharing your experience and life-long learning. I just started making my own medicine about a year and a half ago. I use pure grain alcohol for tinctures, but want to try your oxymel! I have a lot of homemade apple scrap vinegar(with shiny new mothers n the jars) with a pH around 3.5 to 4.0. Do you think that is OK to use or should I use normal(store-bought) ACV?

    I also have way more blackberries than I can handle this year. As I read about preserving the fresh compounds in elderberries, I thought about mixing blackberries and elderberries together. What do you think? Is that good medicinally, or should I just chuck the he extra blackberries in the freezer and enjoy them in the dead of winter?

    • Laura Bergner Owens says:

      I forgot to ask β€” why doesn’t the alcohol or vinegar extract the cyanoide(?) extracted from the seeds? I tried Googling, but everything no comes up saying to cook elderberries πŸ™

    • Suzanne Tabert says:

      Hello Laura,

      Thank you for your kind words! I’m curious to know why you’re using pure grain alcohol. Are you saying 190 proof? You won’t extract any of the polyphenols or other antioxidants as they are water soluble. Normally, vinegar is 5-6% acetic acid, so 3.5-4.0 may not be enough to pull out and preserve what you’re looking for. Making herbal remedies with low acetic acid would mean short shelf life. Blackberries and elderberries make a good combo, just know that one would be using that more for tasting good than strong herbal medicine as the blackberries would displace room in the jar. You would certainly get some medicine and blackberries contain their own complement of antioxidants and sugars, but if I wanted to have pure elderberry medicine on hand, I would make that remedy with just elderberries.

      As far as your question about the seeds, the strong outer covering would prevent alcohol or vinegar from extracting anything from inside. The seeds don’t contain cyanide per se, but a cyanide inducing glycoside. Glycosides are part of plants’ defense systems and are either medicine or poison in us. It takes a quantity of elderberry seeds to be toxic in a person. Please refer to the article for more information.

  • Petar Jovanovic says:

    Dear Suzanne,
    How to make syrup from sambucus nigra berries and honey and can sambucus ebulus berries be used to make syrup?
    Best regards

    • Suzanne Tabert says:

      Hello Petar, thank you for your question! I appreciate that you asked on the comments section. If you go to my Plant Medicine Made Easy article, you’ll find full instructions on how to make an herbal syrup. To note, I don’t use elderberries, either dried or fresh, to make elderberry syrup, preferring to make either an oxymel or herbal honey. Those instructions are on the article as well.

      As far as your question about Sambucus ebulus, check out what Dr. Duke’s Phytochem database says about it: I personally would not use it until I had the time to research it more thoroughly. I would offer that you do some research. I’d be happy to talk more about it with you.

  • Barbie says:

    Do you have a video on how you prepare the elixir?

  • Brenda says:

    Hi Suzanne,

    We have just moved to the PNW and I am pretty excited about the abundance of elderberries to forage. Our daughter is a strict vegan and I am wondering if there is a honey alternative that would work for making this? Is the honey an integral part of the elixir? Also the recipe I used the past few years with dried berries also included echinacea, is that not really necessary?
    Thank-you, it is very kind of you to answer all of these comments!

    • Suzanne Tabert says:

      Hello Brenda! Welcome to the neighborhood! To answer your question about honey, we’ll refer to my Plant Medicine Made Easy article –
      “Honey is hygroscopic which means it draws water to it. What I appreciate about honey is its ability to pull both the alkaloids plus the nutrients from a plant’s cells. To note: other sweeteners are not advisable. Honey is acidic and this acidic nature is what preserves the syrup (and elixir). It also allows the iron and calcium in the decoction to easily enter our cells. Other sweeteners such as molasses, cane sugar, corn syrup (gack), maple syrup, and agave (processed to resemble corn syrup in its action) are alkaline and neither preserve the syrup nor act as a vehicle for calcium or iron to enter our cells. Herbal syrups made with these will keep for only a few days at best and must stay in the fridge.”

      What you add to your elderberries is up to you. I’m not completely sure what you’re asking, however. Echinacea is a fine complement to elderberry’s medicine, although I always use fresh, fresh, fresh elderberries and echinacea purpurea roots. Spilanthes would be an excellent alternative to echinacea as their medicines both work similarly.

  • Adrienne says:

    It’s difficult to get all the stems out before cooking. Is it okay to leave some of the stems there and then strain well after cooking?

    • Suzanne Tabert says:

      Good morning Adrienne! I recommend removing the stems before cooking as what is in the stems could easily end up in your end product. How I do this is freeze the berries overnight, then do a quick 10 second swish in a big bowl of cold water. The stems rise to the surface and can easily be poured off.
      Happy medicine making! I’m hearing that in some places, elderberries are just about ready to harvest. They’re coming early this year….I’m convinced they know we need them! xoxo

  • Elisa says:

    When looking up Elderberry Syrup recipes online many indicate that they drink a teaspoon or more every day to boost their immune system whether sick or not. Do you recommend this as well or should it only be consumed when one is showing symptoms of an illness coming on?

    • Suzanne Tabert says:

      Hello Elisa! Now that’s a question for the ages. No matter who you talk with, everyone will have a different opinion. My thoughts are this: If one of elderberry’s superpowers is that it stimulates the immune system, do I want my immune system to be yelled at to go go go! to work all the time? Nope. Everything and everyone needs to rest. If not allowed to rest, the body breaks down eventually. What would be MUCH better is to do what can be done to STRENGTHEN the immune system. Stress relief, good food vs sugar and processed crap, proper sleep, less time on tech, Vitamin D3 AND time in the sun, etc, etc. Perhaps adding medicinal mushrooms. And the second I say add medicinal mushrooms, many people will say, “Screw healthy lifestyle habits, I can just take mushrooms and that’s all I need!” Heavy sigh. Good luck with that in the long run.

      Personally, I take elderberry medicine when I feel the first inkling of a virus. That’s just me, though.

      I will be offering a twice a month herb lab starting in December for $30 a month. Cheap cheap! Questions just like this one and all the others here can be answered there in greater detail. Sign up for my eNewsletter to get all the updated info!

  • Jenni says:

    While I get that you don’t like using dried fruit πŸ˜‰ if you were to chose between – gently heating fresh berries and freezing the juice or dehydrating berries and heating them later what would you choose? Thanks for all the information! I’m about to harvest a small amount from a neighbor and want to save what I have for later in the year.

    • Suzanne Tabert says:

      Hello Jenni,

      Thanks for tuning in on this article and bringing your questions here! Given the choice, I would pick……neither. I never heat my berries. You can easily juice the berries and freeze the juice for later, or freeze the berries themselves. Please go ahead and read down on the comments to learn how I make sure there are no stems in the remedies. Thanks!

  • Sarah says:

    Finally an informative article on elderberries! Thank you. I really want to make a syrup and not use alcohol and would like to know what process I can use to preserve as much of the nutrients as possible? I was thinking maybe to run the raw berries through a food mill therefore removing the seeds and then mixing with honey and ginger on really low heat till lukewarm for maybe 5 minutes just to melt the honey in? or perhaps heating slightly to lukewarm first to get the skins open and then run through a food mill?
    Also to then preserve my syrup over winter would you suggest freezing the readymade syrup and taking out as needed? I was thinking of canning for 10 minutes but then i’d lose some of the nutrients.
    Thank you for your expertise on elderberries!

    • Suzanne Tabert says:

      Hello Sarah! Thank you for your thank you! πŸ˜‰ I like your thought process with the fresh berries. You know what? The skins have nutrients including a ton of polyphenols, so putting the berries through a food mill might hold those back along with the seeds, I believe, depending on how small/large the holes are. The berries put out quite a lot of juice, so you wouldn’t need to heat them to get the honey and ginger to fully incorporate with the juice. Let me think, let me think, let me think. I’m a fan of getting the gel that envelopes the seeds into my remedies as well, so I mash them bit with my Grandma’s wooden berry masher that my Grandfather made for her a zillion years ago. It takes a lot of gusto to break open the seeds, so gently mashing is fine. I think the food mill may serve the same purpose as you turn the handle. Check to make sure you aren’t getting seeds through. Then put the juice and the honey/ginger…and maybe some cloves and/or citrus peels???… together and stir. That’s all you’ll need to do! You can easily freeze the elderberry honey in small containers such as 4 ounce “gladware” or similar, or even ice cube trays. When freezing in ice cube trays, make sure to take them out when frozen and put them in freezer containers so they don’t get freezer burn. Still don’t know how to get the skins in with that, as I always make my elderberry honey by mashing them, putting them not over halfway up the jar along with my other herbs and then filling the jar with honey. The jar goes in the fridge to macerate for 6 weeks, then I strain out the seeds and skin. No toxins, and the honey has pulled the polyphenols and other water solubles from the skin. Ta da! I keep my elderberry honey in the fridge, always. xo

  • Ellen says:

    I just wondered if elderberries are collected fresh can they be stored in the fridge prior to use or must they be frozen? If they can be stored in the fridge prior to use, how long can they be kept. Thank you very much.

    • Suzanne Tabert says:

      Hello Ellen!

      Excellent question! Elderberries do better frozen than put in the fridge. You get at best a day in the fridge before they start molding. They’ll be fine for 2-4 months in the freezer.

  • Susan DeMarco says:

    Suzanne – Thank you for all of your information. I have long believed in the immune support of elderberries. My son and I scored a 5 quart basket of fresh elderberries at our local farmers market. We added them to a mead we were making and was a little freaked out by everything on the internet saying that they were poison if not cooked for 20 minutes!!! (especially since we had already added them to the magic mead- gently smashed of course). I was so glad to read all of your posts. Everything you said was what I had always thought. I am using the remainder of the elderberries to make the elixir recipe you have at the top of this page. It actually reminds me of the sour cherries elixir my mother used to make which she affectionately called cherry bomb (one sip with a cherry and your cold was gone!! Thank you!!

    • Suzanne Tabert says:

      That’s wonderful, Susan! Scoring the elderberries, I mean. I make a sour cherry elixir as well – it’s packed full of Vitamin C. Thanks for the reminder; I’m going to go find it on my shelves and take some right now. xxoo

  • Michael says:

    Is there a way to make elderberry syrup without heat? Can I treat the berries as I would when infusing other types of herbs in oils, glycerin or alcohol?

    • Suzanne Tabert says:

      Hello Michael – thanks for your question! I don’t make the syrup, I make either the elderberry honey and/or elixir. The directions are on the article plus in comments below. Elderberry honey has the same consistency as a syrup, with all the nutrients and medicinals intact. I don’t know how you process your other herbs into oils, glycerin, or alcohol, so without more info, I can’t effectively speak to that. FYI for everyone, glycerin tinctures are limited to water solubles and have a short shelf life. Thanks!!!

  • Jeff White says:

    I am hearing three schools on elderberry toxicity and beneficial attributes.

    1. The seeds contain the toxins so keeping it raw/frozen then removing seeds before consuming make the most beneficial use of elderberry’s (no with seeds).

    2. Cooking or steam juicing removes the toxins from the berry/seed, but also no real details about what exactly other amazing parts of the berry are destroyed. Seems we kill the berry to make the seeds less toxic, why not just remove the seeds?

    3. Other forms of extracting the amazing with Alcohol or vinager magically only takes the good stuff and leaves behind all the bad stuff. Seems like a miracle, except to say the seeds do not release toxic materials until they are broken or crushed?

    4. Blossoms / Blooms stuck to end of berry. Maybe only us in Montana have this problem, but even when the berries are full and dark, many of the flower ends remain. We work hard to clean many off, but probably 25% remain. Any others experience this? Are these parts making the berry product less healthful?

    Does anyone have access to hard factual research about all three aspects and the gain/loss of each approach. Seems like a ton of opinions and tons of Old Wives tales. But just hoping there are better research done and published.

    Again, thanks for being such a great conversations about a berry we hope keeps us healthy and happy through thick and thin times.


    • Suzanne Tabert says:

      You are correct. There are as many opinions about elderberries as there are people who copy and paste. I’m a big fan of Dr. Jim Duke’s phytochem website, where anyone can research constituents in plants. Here’s the site:

      You’ve posed many a good question and I encourage you to do some research beyond what a weekend herbalist may have posted on their blog. There are many excellent herbalists with great reputations out there: Matthew Wood and Paul Bergner are two. My own knowledge comes from sources of good repute and 30 years of experience, however, I do not have the time to go above and beyond what I’ve answered so far. I do encourage others to chime in with their research. We’re all in this together, as they say.

      Cedar Mountain Herb School will be offering a 3 tiered membership starting in November. Depending on the membership, people will have access to my podcasts, articles, videos, and more.

  • Rosa Landry says:

    πŸ™ Thank you so very much for all of the information that you have shared in this article as well as in the comment section. ( You have the patience of a saint).
    I have signed up for your newsletter and as a Canadian look forward to your online studies for 2020.

    Can you tell me if rose hips can be treated in the same manner as elderberries. I’m hoping to make a quality Vit C syrup but like elderberries everyone’s directions are to murder the fruit, killing all the Vit C, through excessive cooking.

    • Suzanne Tabert says:

      Hello Rosa!
      You are most welcome! I am a teacher at heart and love to share what I know. Thanks for signing up for the newsletter! We have sooo much in the works!

      I love your comment about murdering the fruit. When I read that, I thought, “Here’s a girl after my own heart!” Yes, I treat rose hips just as I do the elderberries, and always process them fresh. I’ll write an article with more info and get it up on the new website within the month.

      • Rosa Landry says:

        Thank you Suzanne. Our rose hips are ready now so I really appreciate your quick response! ❀️

        • Suzanne Tabert says:

          My pleasure, dear. Here’s an herbal tidbit from the article I’ll write soon:

          One of the coolest application for rose hips that I know of is how it strengthens the membranes of our vein, arteries, and capillaries, and promotes good circulation to our extremities!

          Rosehip harvesting and processing tips ~

          1. Leather gloves are a good idea for picking because of reaching through thorns.
          2. Kitchen or exam gloves. You’ll cut the rosehip in half, and scoop out the irritating hairs and seeds.
          3. Drop the rosehip flesh in a bowl of water. The residual hairs left on the hips will float to the top, and you can pour them off. This will take several washings.
          4. Chop up the flesh and process into your desired menstrua. I’m a huge fan of rosehip elixir.

  • Barb R. says:

    Hello Suzanne,
    Loved reading all the comments and your advice. Started some Elderberry wine with mashing the berries with a potato masher, are the seeds hard enough to not get damaged? Added some hot water, sugar and yeast (after cooling off). After 5 days discarded the must and now left to do the fermenting. By not cooking the berries beforehand is it still safe to consume the wine as is?
    Would appreciate your input if you can.
    Thanks, Barb R

    • Suzanne Tabert says:

      Hello Barb, Elderberry wine! I’ve never made it, but have had a few glasses over the years. I used to go to a barter faire in Tonasket, Washington a few decades ago, when it really was a barter faire. There was a hippy gentleman who attended regularly and brought all kinds of herbal wines – Oregon grape, dandelion, elderberry, I can’t remember what all he brought. He was very popular! It’s since turned into an all night party and flea market, sadly. Since I don’t know how to make wine, a question for you: does it involve cooking? I would think not, but am not sure. Depending on how vigorous you were in your mashing, would depend on whether you broke open seeds. As long as you didn’t reef on the berries like you would be pounding a nail into a wall, you would be fine. Do you need my address for where to send a bottle???? πŸ˜‰

  • Julie says:

    I can’t remove all the small little stems after dehydrating my elderberries is it still ok to make my syrup.

    • Suzanne Tabert says:

      Hello Julie! Have you had the chance to read all the comments and answers? I don’t use dried elderberries to make syrup and don’t recommend it. Fresh elderberries in honey become as thin as a syrup and so medicinal! Removing stems from dried plant material is as easy as blowing in the wind, really. Roll the berries around in a bowl and blow off the stems using the low and cold settings on a blowdryer.

  • Gail says:

    What about worms in elderberry in the past on my a couple didn’t bother me this year as many as berries totally grossed me out so much I threw out whole batch.

    • Suzanne Tabert says:

      Hey Gail! I would have thrown out the wormy elderberries as well. In all my travels, I’ve never found a single worm in a berry. That bush is having some issues and is best left alone. Happy hunting for healthy elderberry bushes!

  • Janie says:

    1. When I aggressively chinois-ed the daylights out of my elderberries yesterday — before reading this — did I also unleash the poison from the seeds into the juice?
    2. Is commercially canned Elderberry Juice Concentrate devoid of nutritional benefits?
    3. Thank you πŸ™‚

    • Suzanne Tabert says:

      1. I laughed out loud when I read this! The seed coats are pretty sturdy. You’d really have to hammer the berries to break them open. I bet you’re ok.
      2. I can’t speak to this as I don’t know anyone else’s process. Xo
      3. You are most welcome! πŸ™πŸ’‹

  • Carie says:

    So happy to have found your page, very informative! We just purchased some acreage, much of it wooded and I realized yesterday that we have gobs and gobs of elderberry trees/shrubs. Unfortunately, it appears that many of the berries may be past their prime, approximately 25% of them have slightly wrinkled skin and Look more like raisins. Is it bad if few “raisins” end up in the mix? If so, it might be a little too labor intensive for me to pick them all out, but there’s always next year!

    • Suzanne Tabert says:

      Thank you, Carie, for your question! I’ve been teaching and working on the new website that will be launched soon. Thank you, and everyone else, for your patience! One of the many things I stress with my apprentices is that we harvest the plants at the right time for best quality medicine. Not doing that can result in poor results/actions. Then the herb gets a bad rap, which is unfortunate. I tell them, “Do you want to be known for making half assed medicine or quality medicine that really gets the job done?” Personally, I’d pick only the viable berries and leave the others to drop or be food for a bird or other animal.

  • Corinne says:

    This is very good. Thank you. I picked so many fresh elderberries and didn’t get to them for three days… now they are a major stink. I guess they will have to go to the compost. I found my answer here as to whether I should or should not use them. Sadness to lose so many!

    • Suzanne Tabert says:

      Hello Corinne, it’s always the best practice to process the plant material immediately after harvesting. That is respect to the plant/plant community and the animals that thrive in the area, which may have had an opportunity to eat that harvest. Sadly, we learn sometimes with the mistakes we make. One of my pastors says, “When we know better, we do better.” Don’t beat yourself up, but do make sure to plan ahead to process your future harvests immediately. Xxoo

  • yurika says:

    Hi Suzanne! I can’t wait to try making the elixir and the oxymel, I always wondered if cooking would somehow degrade nutritional benefit while making syrup.
    I make a lot of fruit leathers for my kids snacks becuase we grow many types of fruit. I thought of maybe adding the elixir or the oxymel in some of them but am afraid of putting too much in.
    **How much elixir/oxymel would be a good amount per quart of fruit leather mix? I would make sure that the kids would not eat too much of the leather with elixir/oxymel in it per day.
    Also for the oxymel,
    **how much honey should I put in? is it more taste preference or does it need certain amount for the macerate process?
    Thank you so much!

    • Suzanne Tabert says:

      Hello Yurika! Cooking does degrade to destroy a portion of the nutritional content of plants. Selenium, for instance, helps to slow aging, and aids in healthy hair, nails and teeth Selenium gives our cell structure, prevents cellular damage, increases antioxidant capabilities, helps the body to resist disease, boosts immunity, regulates thyroid function, defends against heart disease. A trace mineral, we need only small amounts, however, it can be destroyed in food processing and high heat. That’s just one of the many nutrients in plants. Each nutrient has its limit as to heat and processing.

      To answer your other questions: There are many no cook fruit leather recipes on the web. It seems that the acid in the lemon (in many recipes) is used to keep the fruit from browning. Perhaps you could swap out the lemon juice portion with oxymel. Please try that and let me know! If it turns out……I’ll give you my address to send me some! πŸ™‚

      If you use an oxymel, you could decrease the honey content to taste.

      Have fun and let us know how it turns out! I love experimenting with “Getting the medicine to the people in ways that they’ll delight in taking, so that healing can occur!” I call that win/win. Family and friends are happy and willing to take herbal medicine that you’ve snuck into tasty treats, and you know you’re giving them something healthful.

      • Yurika seko says:

        Thank you for your reply! I have started the process, and right now we have apples in our orchard in abundance, so surely, you will receive some πŸ™‚ Please send me your address! I will cook the apples to sauce first, then add the elderberry before laying it out in the dehydrator. that is my plan!

  • Wendi Adams says:

    After a Kabor Day harvest of the beautiful blue berries I spent the next day making jelly and liqueur. Part of the processing required milling the seeds from the berry. Following that, in a mindless moment, i made the mistake of rinsing the food mill in the sink and down the garbage disposal….yikes! Much to the chagrin of my husband, our old house’s plumbing has not been the same since. Pipes are backed up in the kitchen and he adjacent bathroom. Snaking has been unsuccessful, as well as liquid plummer, or dish soap and hot watercress! Help! Any suggestions on how to break up or dissolve the notorious elderberry goo from the pipes???

    • Suzanne Tabert says:

      Wendi! Yikes! Was it gallons and gallons of seeds? It would seem that a cup or less of berries wouldn’t cause something like that. I suspect there were issues that were waiting for the last straw to become problematic. Are you on public sewer or septic? If public, you could try a couple tablespoons of lye down the pipe, although you did say you used liquid plumber. I don’t recommend that with a septic system. Let me know the outcome!

  • Nicole says:

    First I would like to say thank you for taking the time to educate us. I have small children at home would this be safe for them? Would you adjust the amount given due to their size? Obviously with small children at home I will be utilizing vinegar over alcohol. Can I use apple cider vinegar with the mother in it?

    • Suzanne Tabert says:

      Thank you, Nicole! I love teaching. It depends on the age of the child, their constitution, needs, current health issues, etc. Of course they require much less volume dosage than adults. I can’t give dosing advice, as I could easily be shut down by our lovely government and would rather be able to keep on keepin’ on. I know that’s not the answer you are hoping for, and thank you for understanding.
      Of course, raw, organic acv is the acv of choice at the Cedar Mountain Herb School!

  • Amenda Reid says:

    Hello, I made my very first batch of elderberry syrup harvested from our land. When I got the berries ready I took days actually picking through them to get rid of green and tiny pieces of stems. There may have been a few left of green berries or stems that I didn’t get but it wasn’t much at all. My husband and I taste tested it once it was all finished- boiled, simmered with Ceylon cinnamon, cloves and then local honey added. We were fine. Then I let my children ages: 15 down to 4 taste test. They were all fine. Then the other night I took a tsp. The next day I ended up in ER. I had all the signs of elderberry poisoning. ????? Could have been a bug or something else most definitely. But is there a chance it was my syrup? I have explained everything to you in detail, leaving nothing out.
    I had severe cramping, diarrhea, nausea, sweating, and a little bit of stupor. I couldn’t help myself nor could he So my husband called an ambulance. They did a CT scan, blood work, urine test. All came back perfect.
    I’m so upset thinking it could be my syrup. I really am so excited to have this wonderful harvest on my land and now I’m not even sure I can have any or did I do something wrong??? Thank you for your opinion.

    • Suzanne Tabert says:

      Hello Amenda,

      Going to the ER is never a fun experience! Reading through, I’m seeing that you took days to pick through the berries, you boiled the syrup, then simmered it. Neither your children nor your husband had any bad reaction. Shall I assume you strained out the plant material after boiling and simmering? My thoughts: Days to pick through the berries are more than one sitting too long. We always process the plant material completely the same day as harvesting. Were the berries in the fridge or freezer at any time, or left on the counter? There could easily been unseen bacteria or fungi flourishing during the long processing time. Boiling then simmering could have broken down/destroyed the fungus, however I have no idea how long your cooking process was, so can’t speak for certain.
      All tests came out negative. Does this include tests for Influenzas A & B, covid, and other viruses or bacteria? While covid is the big “rockstar” at present, there are many other cold and flu viruses going around, any of which might have been the culprit. As can talking ourselves into being sick due to anxiety and stress. How many times have we gotten sick and panicked? I’m not saying you talked yourself into being sick, neither am I discounting your symptoms and distress in any way. I’m throwing out all possibilities. There is so much fear and anxiety going on with most people these days, which can lead to a depressed immune system.
      All that being said, I’m not a doctor and can’t tell you what happened. I’ll say it again; I’ve been utilizing fresh elderberry remedies as have my apprentices and students for years, and I’ve never once heard of a toxic reaction within my circle or the circle of my immediate peers.

  • Jessica says:

    Hi there, i picked a great batch of local elderberries and froze them overnight, the nexr day i let them thaw out while taking out any green/red berries and stems. I realised that i must have been a fee days too early as id say i had about 20-30% red berries the rest were completely ripe. I picked out for so long all red berries and stems but as they continued to thaw the juices were making them all look black!!! I know there was a fee left but as i had a mountain of them i had the mentality it’ll be graaand. I put them in my large jar with apple cider and raw honey and theyve been in a dark cupboard since the 5th September now. Since then i looked up red berries and shocked about cyanide and am really nervous now as obviously im not boiling them. I really dont want to throw out so many good berries so much time and love, and good honey etc. Please share your thoughts !!!! Very grateful!

    • Suzanne Tabert says:

      Hello Jessica,

      Thank you for your question! Have you read all the comments? We’ve discussed this a few times. I suggest scrolling down and reading them all, as there is a wealth of information within. We only harvest the ripe berries. I keep my mashed elderberry remedies in the fridge while they are macerating and after straining as there is so much juice that we don’t want the remedies to spoil. In fact, I only fill my jars 1/2 to 2/3s with the mashed berries in order to have enough menstruum to extract and preserve the medicine and nutrients. You didn’t say whether you mashed the berries or left them whole. You won’t get jack out of whole berries as there are no entrances for the menstruum. There is no actual “cyanide” in elder. People confuse cyanide with the cyanins which is the blue pigment in the berries. You might also be confusing red elder, Sambucus racemosa, with blue/black elder, Sambucus nigra.

  • Wendy Garbe says:

    Hi! I’ve been gathering elderberries and making tincture for several years but this year I had picked one batch that looked fairly ripe, they had turned powdery blue, but just barely. They were not hard at all, had begun to soften for sure. We had early frosts and I didn’t want to lose the wild crop.

    I used them anyway and can see in the jars that some of the berries have a very slight greenish caste to them. Will this tincture still be safe? Still be potent? Maybe not quite as potent as fully ripe berries?

    Thanks so much in advance!


    • Suzanne Tabert says:

      Hello Wendy,
      I know what you’re talking about. Firstly, I always wait until the plant part that I wish to harvest is ready to ensure effective medicine. It sounds like your berries were on the cusp of being ready and I understand not wanting to lose the crop. I’ve not gathered plants before, because they just weren’t ready and didn’t have that product or remedy that year. It is always so imperative to me, if I’m making medicine for anyone, whether myself, friends, family, or in the past, my customers, that I offer – again – the best medicine possible. Sometimes we have to let go and see how nature reigns beyond our wants and desires.

      If you broke the skins and are seeing the greenish cast on the berries, that could be the mucilage that protectively surrounds the seeds.

  • Lisiane Welch says:

    Hello! I know this question is not really related to the post but I just made my winter tonic which is a combination of elderberries, ginger root, echinacea and other herbs and they have been brewing for about 4 weeks now if a half glycerine and half wishky concoction. I just got a note form where I buy my elderberries that they can be possibly be contaminated with Salmonella. Do you know if alcohol would kill Salmonella. I am so confused and I hope I don’t have to throw the whole thing away. I appreciate your feedback since you are so knowledgeable. Thank you in advance!!

    • Suzanne Tabert says:

      Hello Lisiane,

      Your question is very appropriate to this post and I’m thankful you asked it. It raises a few questions and thoughts. It’s unfortunate that your remedy may be tainted with salmonella. I would toss the whole thing out, unquestionably, and make sure to receive a refund for full price plus shipping costs from the company. Not knowing the proof of the alcohol you used, it may not be strong enough to kill the bacteria. Also, glycerin is a fantastic medium for growing “things.” It’s one menstrua that I do not use.

      A question that I would want to ask this particular company is how they are handling their harvests that salmonella would possibly be present. While things do happen, I personally would not purchase from this company again. This is one of the many reasons that I teach folks how to harvest and properly process plants for medicine. You know what you’re getting!

  • Amy Hohon says:

    Susan, I actually juiced my berries. What is a good ratio of alcohol to juiced berries? I had no idea what to do with them but now would like to make a tincture without heating them. Is that possible? We also have an apiary and would like to add honey to the mixture. I have about 3 quarts of juiced berries. Thank you for your help.

    • Suzanne Tabert says:

      Hello Amy! Have you read my article Plant Medicine Made Easy? That may be helpful to you. Also, we will be launching our Herb Lab in January and these are exactly the kinds of questions that folks will be able to bring to be answered.
      In the meantime, a succus is herb juiced with 20-25% 151 proof alcohol added. This is not a tincture, but a preserved juice. A succus usually keeps for a year in the fridge. I’m not sure what you’re asking regarding adding honey to the juice. What do you wish to achieve with that?

  • Kim Scott says:

    Suzanne, my first time making an elderberry tincture, I used fresh berries, froze them first and then removed them from the stems. I filled a half gallon bottle 2/3’s with berries then top off the bottle with organic vodka. I put it in a cabinet and gave it a shake once a day for a couple of weeks then about twice a week for 2.5 months. Did I leave it go too long with the berries in the vodka? What’s too long?

    • Suzanne Tabert says:

      Hello Kim,

      I have so many questions before I can give you a solid answer. Did you mash the berries or put them in whole? Whole berries will get you diddly. What was the alcohol proof of the vodka? I won’t go farther with my answers until I hear back from you. Thanks!

  • Angela says:

    Hi i had a few questions regarding making elderberry tincture. My partner let it sit in a cupboard for 2 months and it is now off gassing. Is it harmful to consume if it has been fermenting? Also he strained the tincture into a jar taking out the berries then he pressed the berries down in the sieve to drain out extra juices, do you think the seeds will have remained in their seed coats and kept the tincture safe to consume?

    • Suzanne Tabert says:

      Hello Angela,

      I’m hoping to give you a good answer, however, I have some questions. How full was the jar with the elderberries? Were they mashed first? What proof alcohol was used? This all has bearing on my answer.

      The “seed coat” you’re referring to…the gel? You want the gel in the tincture. Just pressing the berries in a sieve will not crush the seeds.

  • Nicole says:

    If you did not have access to fresh berries what would you reach for, freeze dried or dehydrated? I can only find a powder for freeze dried.

    • Hello Nicole! I wouldn’t use either freeze dried or dehydrated. When commercial herb producers process their elderberries, are they removing the seeds first? The answer is most probably not. Furthermore, if the dehydrated or freeze dried berries – with the seeds – are then ground into powder and are taken into the body, the cyanoglycosides will be in a much higher concentration than if left whole. Even left whole, people will use a higher volume of the berries than fresh due to not thinking through the volume of water or alcohol to plant material.

      There are SO MANY effective anti-viral plant alternatives to elderberries!

      Remember also that elderberries – and all herbs – are adjunct to creating health. Diet, Vit D and magnesium levels, water intake, tech use, stress levels and more contribute to the the health of a person. It’s far more prudent to build immunity vs waiting until sick and expecting herbs to strong arm a virus or bacteria.

      I’d love to see you and others commenting on the articles to head over to our forum. There you’ll find others chiming in with their experiences and questions.

  • Hello! I loved reading your article. I found it to be informative and exactly what I was looking for. Could you please recommend some trusted places to purchase berries and seeds? I’ve been interested in growing my own plants for years and with everything that’s going on, it seems timely to act now. But I don’t want some β€œlook alikes” that will benefit me nothing! Keep informing people the way you have been. You are truly a blessing

  • Dee says:

    You mentioned elderberry honey in one of your responses, that sounds wonderful! I would love to know how to make it and what you would use to strain the berries out of the honey with.
    I learned a lot just reading through all of the questions and love how you respond to each one. Thank you!

  • Audrey says:

    Hi there! Great article! I read through the study and noticed it was in regards to elderberry species that weren’t relatively native here. Does this apply universally to all the elderberrie species. I used this method last year from the Anerican Elder plants and I lived! Lol Just wanted some clarification, thank you!

    • Hello Audrey!

      Thanks for reading the article ~ I much appreciate that you did and got value from it. The berries of the American Elder, Sambucus canadensis, can certainly be used, but you already know that! What we need to be careful of is knowing the species of the plant in question and making sure the plant is edible/medicinal, and not harmful. Case in point, we would not use the berries from Sambucus racemosa, the elder that grows in Western Washington.

      Carry on!

  • Faith says:

    I just purchased an elderberry syrup from a company called Riverhills harvest it’s 100% pure premium elderberry juice not from concentrate with minimal processing I took it on two separate occasions 1 tablespoon mixed up and juice and both times I felt super nauseated to my stomach. Is there anything I can do since I’m just purchased two bottles of this to make it where I can tolerate it without feeling nauseated to my stomach I’ve never had this issue with the Tincher or dried elderberry tea. Thank you so much!

    • Hello Faith,

      I can’t speak about the company’s practices as I don’t know them. It sounds like perhaps you ingested more than your body was able to tolerate. I can’t tell you what is the right dosage for you; you’ll have to try reducing the dose greatly and see how it goes. I would not add it to juice as juice is normally acidic and doesn’t sound like it’s doing you any favors, either.

      A shout out to everyone ~ Please post questions on our forum as I will go in greater detail there with my answers and comments.

  • caroline says:

    You may have answered this somewhere, but I’m wondering what is wrong with the berries fermenting? Does elderberry wine maintain efficacy?

    • Hello Caroline! Very good questions to ask! Nothing is wrong, per se, with fermenting elderberries. They do then have positive effects on the gut, which is part of the immune system. There is a problem, however, when the remedy goes from fermented to molding. That we throw away.
      Elderberry wine does have some medicinal properties, for sure. Perhaps some of the constituents may be destroyed in the process, but with little heat, much of the antioxidants are intact!

  • Abigail Buehrer says:

    Can vinegar be substituted with lemon juice in an oxymel. Lemon juice is more acidic so it would still be safe right?

  • Deneil Carnahan says:

    Can I make Oregon grape honey the same way elderberry honey is made? Or, do I need to cook the Oregon grape?

    • Hello Dahlink! You can make Oregon Grape honey the same way as elderberry honey. Please do not cook the oregon grapes! Mash the grapes and fill your jar halfway, then to the top with honey. After 3-4 weeks, strain. You’ll love it!!! AND… can juice the grapes and add chia seeds and a bit of honey to make freezer jelly. No need to cook!

  • Shelly says:

    Hello Suzanne.
    I don’t see mention of freezing the fresh picked berries, except overnight to remove from stems. My beautiful bounty will be well over 40 lbs this year, and I was considering freezing. I made oxymel and elixir, plus a couple of pies and lots of jam. But for the healing/immune support should I be concerned with loss of efficacy? I have been using only fresh since I discovered your science.Nary a boiled berry in this house!
    Thank you!

  • Jeff says:

    Hi, sorry if this already been asked. I only have access to dried elderberries. Would it still be beneficial to make a syrup using the boiling/simmering method? Or, can you make a tincture just by soaking them in alcohol (and would that be better)?

    Or, can you just eat the dried berries for the same benefits?

    Thank you!

  • Edrianna Stilwell says:

    I loved The Truth About Elderberries. I harvested 5 cups of Elderberry this year – a huge amount for me. I decided to make the elixir and the syrup. One clarification about the syrup…as I’m turning the container right side up and up side down every day — the container is on my counter and not in the refrigerator? And then I put the container in the refrigerator for 3 – 4 weeks and then strain out the berries and seeds? Right. I wasn’t quiet sure if the turning happened while the berries were in the refrigerator. Thanks!

    • Hello!
      If you’ll be turning the berries in the honey, make sure the lid is tight. I keep my elderberry honey in the fridge the whole time, from the day I pour the honey over the fresh mashed berries to during the entire maceration and beyond to after straining. We want to guard against any mold occurring. I don’t really shake or turn my jar more than three or so times as it is not necessary.

  • StaceyE says:

    Just strained my 1st living elderberry syrup this week per your instructions here. It is DIVINE!!! A game-changer for me, as I have be taught by so many other herbalists over the years to use dried berries. Yes, those have worked, but this??? This is something different, in a VERY good way! I sensed the aliveness in this syrup that I had previously missed, I just didn’t know that I’d been missing anything! Always been a fan of using whole, fresh plant material, which is why I was attracted to your classes when I had seen/heard you speak at Bastyr’s Herb & Food Festival. THANK YOU for this valuable education, Suzanne!

  • Lacey Palumbo says:

    I’m trying your oxymel recipe using berries I grew myself. I harvested and gently washed my berries and froze them as recommended. I jostled the berries away from the stems and then gently broke open the skins with the back of a spoon in an effort to not break open the seeds. My questions-
    1. Once the berries thawed while I was breaking open the skins, they produced a lot of natural juices. Do I use the juices as well as the mashed berries when filling my mason jars halfway?
    2. Do I shake or turn the mason jars at all during their month long stay In the refrigerator before straining?
    3. What do I use to strain the plant material at the end of the month? Cheese cloth?
    4. I removed 90% of the stems before mashing but there were still some baby stems left over, is that OK?
    Thank you so much for all the helpful information and recipes! You were so thorough and I loved all the information regarding no heat!!

    • Hello Lacey!!!
      Thanks for your fabulous questions! Yes, use the juice as well as the rest of the plant material. There is a lot of medicine in the skins and the mucilage around the seeds. I fill the jars halfway with the plant material, then add the menstruum to the top of the jar. You can shake during the month if you choose. I tend to do that the first week and then leave it alone, but you do what seems best for you. I strain the plant material with a nutbag. It’s a very fine mesh bag that is used for straining nut milk. You can also use a fine mesh metal strainer. 90% is pretty good. When I’m cleaning the stems from the frozen berries (and do this while the berries are still frozen), I pick off as much of the stems as I can, and then pour water over the berries to let the rest of the stems rise to the top of the water. Then I gently pour off the water and stems and process to mash the berries. I’m sending love and snow from Sandpoint! Suzanne

  • Julie says:

    Loved this article! I’ve been making elderberry syrup for years and the heating process always disturbed me! I am going to try your method. I have frozen berries. Do you thaw them before putting in the jar? Thanks for the article and help!

    • Thank you, Julie! I’m glad that the article brought a peace to your elderberry medicine making. I do thaw my elderberries before squishing them as it makes it much easier to break open the skins, but not the seeds. Happy medicine making! xo

  • Robin Campbell says:

    Greetings, Ms. Tabert.

    Thank you for your insight. I was wondering if you could direct me on using herbs for my grandson who is 17 months. He has several symptoms of a parasite infection with allergies, teeth grinding and Aiken tonsils. He has had no testing specifically so as a nutritionist consultant, I’m only going by symptoms. I don’t want to be agressive with an approach as I know you can understand. I appreciate any input you can provide. Thank you so much for your time and consideration. I was looking at Bioray kids parasite cleanse. Woukd elderberry syrup and honey be a gentle approach?



  • Susan says:

    I accidentally boiled my dried elderberries for 30 minutes on high. Is it any good now or should I throw it out and start over?

    • Hello Susan,
      I would say you would still have some minerals intact, but I wouldn’t think there would be much of the medicine you’re looking for at all.
      This is how we learn! Don’t be hard on yourself and start over with fresh berries. I’m taking my apprentices elderberry picking soon. We ALWAYS use fresh berries for the most intact and effective medicine.
      Queen Bee

  • Debra says:

    Ugh. I’m a newbie. I picked a bunch of elderberries a week ago. Started pulling them off and putting in a bowl of water to clean and find the green ones. I didn’t have time to finish and left three big bowls for two days. This morning they smell fermented and have a whitish mold on them. Toss, boil or alcohol tincture? I’m a squirrel and need to stop doing so many projects at once.

    • Oh goodness. Those poor berries going to waste. I always entreat my apprentices to process their harvests immediately after picking for many reasons: 1. the medicine will be most effective, 2. not having the harvest sit and mold or become “unmedicine-y” and 3. it’s just good plant stewardship. I understand being a newbie – I didn’t always do it right at the beginning either and can still make mistakes. We all do!
      I would say, however, to make sure to harvest only ripe berries as the unripe berries contain the cyanogenic glycoside sambunigrin. Leave the unripe berries on the bush so that animals can eat them when they ripen. We are not just harvesting for ourselves, but also thinking to the stewardship of the animals as well. They love ripe elderberries and the bushes are their grocery stores. I took my apprentices elderberry harvesting a week ago and showed them how to harvest just the ripe berries. I also taught them to harvest only enough for their needs and no more. Big bowls of berries might have been too big of a harvest – remember the deer, elk, moose and birds.

      Incidentally, there is a whitish bloom on the ripe berries that isn’t mold, however, 3 days in a bowl probably equals mold. Toss them, love. πŸ‘ΈπŸ

  • Raphaela. says:

    Hi, I have made your elderberry oxymel. I appreciate your information on how to use raw elderberries!

    My question: I left the crushed elderberries in the vinegar and honey for almost 2 months longer than you suggest, before straining out the seeds. Is it still fine to drink?
    Many thanks, Raphaela.

    • Hello Raphaela! Thank you for your patience. Somehow your comment slipped by me, I apologize! Your oxymel should still be fine. For next time, just leave them in for just a month. Any longer doesn’t pull out more medicine and in some cases, long soak times could cause the herbs to begin to decompose. If it smells fine and tastes fine, you’re good to go!

  • amber says:

    I froze the berries, destemmed and then made a tincture, but I blended the tincture. WHY? I DONT KNOW. It was whim, and now I am wondering if blending the tincture ruined it? I will strain once all done, and get the seeds and berries out. BUT, what do you think??

    • Hello Amber ~ thank you for your patience! When you say you blended the tincture, was that in an actual blender or vitamix? Are the seeds broken or still whole? What we have to look out for is inside the seeds. If the seeds are intact, then you should be fine. If there are any broken seeds, it’s a throwaway and now you know for next time. xxoo

  • Danielle Alexis Davis says:

    Thank you for this wealth of knowledge! I foraged my berries, freezing them and desteming, gently simmered in water and strained. I left the juice in the fridge and it molded white and green. Can I heat it again? I wanted to make syrup with honey. Do you think I have to throw it out? Thank you! It’s over 1 gallon of juice so would be such a shame.

    • Hello Danielle! Thanks for reaching out with this question. Once an herbal remedy molds, there’s no recovering it. I know that there are some on the internet that says that heating will kill the mold, which is *may,* but the heating will destroy much of the medicine as well. We are all on a learning curve. You have more tools in your herbal toolbelt now with which to move forward and that’s a good thing! xx

  • Lynn says:

    I appreciate all the helpful information and discussion here regarding elderberries. I am wondering if you or your readers have a similar
    reference for aronia berries which are similar (although I don’t believe they have the toxicity issue).?
    I am very interested in tincturing or preserving them – not so much as a food source, but more to preserve the amazing healthful
    plant constituents?
    Do you cover aronia in any of your publications or if not, a helpful source? much appreciated.

    • Hello Lynn,
      Aronia, Aronia melanocarpa, in the rosaceae family, has a reputation of having beneficial actions on the heart and other systems due to their high antioxidant activity. It doesn’t have toxicity, although some people experience dry mouth when eating the berries as they are high in tannins. Sounds like a wonderful bush to explore, hey?
      I always tincture fresh as the full complement of antioxidants will be extracted and preserved. Consider using 100 proof alcohol.

  • Lynn says:

    I just thought of another question (maybe I am slow here lol)….if we steep fresh elderberries in the appropriate alcohol (or any liquid I guess) , once the appropriate amount of time has passed and we strain them such that all we have is liquid left and no plant material – even though the liquid is made from fresh and not cooked berries, we should be able to retain the original healthful components, no? yes?

    Sorry if this is basic…I just want to make sure. Thanks.

  • Kayla says:

    You say you refrigerate your Oxymel to avoid fermentation but when reading about it, it seems the majority don’t refrigerate when making them.
    As someone very intrested but hasnt done this yet i’m a little confused. Do you refrigerate due to the berries added?

    • Hello Kayla! There’s a lot of copy and paste out on the internet, with not all of it sound info. I come from decades of experience making and using herbal medicine. I’ve found over the years what best extracts and preserves the medicine and nutrition of plants. As elderberries (and other berries) are super juicy, the oxymels, vinegars and honeys can ferment or mold if not kept in the fridge.

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