Treating the cold and flu naturally

elderberry syrup for natural cold and flu reliefEvery parent knows how it begins…

Your previously happy and charming child turns into a crank at the slightest provocation, flushed cheeks, a cough here and there, and after a quick temperature check in the ear (with or without a struggle) – a fever.

What to do?

As of two years ago, I found my husband or myself trekking out into the night to the local drug store to pick up some cough and cold formula. But after drug manufacturers agreed to withdraw from the market all over-the-counter cough and cold medicine products sold for children under two in 2007, I was seemingly left with no options to treat my children when they got sick.

Around this time, I was in the middle of a personal natural health transition that had begun when my son was born in 2005. I had started removing all high fructose corn syrups, trans fats, sugar-loaded fruit juices and the like from our home. No more Gerber Graduates (I’ll get to the part where we ditched our microwave on another post) or other pre-packaged meals marketed to toddlers.

One transition I had yet to make was in the cough and cold section of our cupboards. I relied heavily on the syrupy pink formulas to rid my kids of the evils of germs gone wild.

After doing some research, I realized that there were many natural remedies out there that can treat a cough and cold without relying on the pharmaceutical industry. One that has been a favorite in our home is elderberry syrup. Many formulas containing elderberries can be found in any health food store but they cost upwards of $14-16 per 6 oz. No thanks!

Leslee Dru Browning, sixth generation Medical Herbalist and Nutritionist, shared with me this simple recipe for making your own elderberry syrup that is very cost-effective.

What you’ll need:

  • 2 cups distilled water
  • 2 oz of dried elderberries (preferably organic)
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried ginger root
  • 4 oz of food grade vegetable glycerin
  • 2 cups of honey


Simmer the first 4 above ingredients in 2 cups of water for 30-60 minutes until berries have broken down. Let stand for 1/2 hour. Strain through a sieve pressing well. Add enough water to the simmered ingredients to bring the volume back up to 2 cups of liquid.

Add the honey along with the vegetable glycerin and gently heat to dissolve in the hot liquid. Allow to cool and then pour into dark bottles and keep in refrigerator.


Children’s Dosage: 1 teaspoon a day – if ill take 1 teaspoon every hour until well. It may be taken in warm water if preferred. This recipe may be doubled, tripled, etc. Adults, too, can benefit from this syrup. Adult dosage:1 tablespoon a day – if ill take 1 tablespoon every hour until well. It is not recommended for children under the age of 2 to consume honey.

Have you ever made your own cold and flu remedy? What’s your favorite concoction?

[Photo: eatgarlic/Flickr]

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About Julie Hurley

A married mother of two young children, Julie Hurley is a freelance writer with a strong interest in natural living and is the Director of Public Relations at Principia Media. Visit her personal blog at:

  • Samantha Mackay

    How about this for a flu rememdy: in a tea strainer put 1/2 a teaspoon of grated root ginger, 1/4 teaspoon garlic, a wedge of lemon and orange, pour boiling hot water over the strainer into a mug and leave to steep for about 5 mins, add honey to sweeten and a bit of whisky if you’re old enough, drink a few of them and you’ll feel much better :) )

    • Julie Hurley

      Um….YUM! Definitely going to try that sometime. :)

      • Lisa Bashert

        My favorite remedy (chiming in a little late) is sage-goldenrod tea.  If my nose it itchy, then I add in some hyssop.  When ill, I drink this non-stop.  If I feel congestion or a scratchy throat coming on, I take goldenrod tincture (30 drops or so) every hour.  This can ward off infection in about 75% or more cases.  I’ve caught just one cold this winter and none at all last winter.  

    • kiwimeg

      Try adding a dash of cayenne pepper to really help clear the sinuses!

      • Jeffrey Davis

        Nice tip Meg! thanks for the addition!

  • Mjalley

    I am a big fan of elderberry also. I need to try making my own!

    • Jeffrey Davis

      Very cool! Let us know if you make your own and what recipe you use!

  • Lanna

    I finally had a chance to make this syrup in the fall, and we’ve been using it on and off when we remember (yes, I’m a space cadet sometimes).  But here’s my question – do you know if this syrup can be canned after putting it all together?  To make it fairly easy to grab-and-go so to speak.  (Well, and I’m lazy and would prefer to do a giant batch at once to put up for a while than have to come back and make it once a month or more, I’ve got a lot on my plate.)  But I’m not sure if any of the healing-type properties of the syrup would go away with water bath canning…

    • Jeffrey Davis

       Good question Lanna. Let me check and we’ll try to get back to ya.

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  • Dbakeca Italia

    It’s perfect for cold winter nights.