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I consider Elder Berry the queen of herbal medicine for children over the age of one. Each year in early fall, it seems, the children start coming in with runny noses, some with coughs, and I think of Elder. It has been used all over the world for thousands of years for many ailments and is still very effective now for treating colds and flu. It tames viruses, clears chest congestion, sooths sore throats (among many other things) and the syrup is unbelievably yummy.

I was first introduced to Elderberry syrup through Cheryl Fromholzer at Gathering Thyme. Her syrup blend of Elder Berries, rosehips, ginger, orange peel and cinnamon added to honey is the favorite item in her herb shop in San Anselmo.


The basic recipe is:

1 cup dried Elderberries

4 cups water

6 whole cloves

2 cinnamon sticks

4 ½’ slices of raw ginger

2 cups raw honey


Put the dried berries in a pot with the water and soak overnight then:

Add  all other ingredients except the honey  and:

Boil 35 to 45 minutes until the liquid is reduced by ½

Allow to reach room temperature before straining through a muslin or cheese cloth

Stir in the honey and mix well.

Pour the syrup into a glass jar, cover, and keep refrigerated. It lasts about one month.


Please note: children under the age of 1 should NOT be given honey, as their digestive systems are too immature. The dose for children one and older is ½ to 1 teaspoon every 2 to 3 hours at the onset of symptoms, or ½ teaspoon daily during cold and flu season as a preventative.

In class, the children examined the berries, and then put them in the pot with our other ingredients. The most memorable thing for them, I think, was the fragrant aroma that wafted through the classroom.  While they were cooking they had the choice of coloring in a lovely drawing of the Elderberry, leaf, and flower provided by A Kid’s Herb Book.  They took this and other drawings home to share with their families and to add to their own herb book of information we worked with over the summer.

Of all the herbs I’ve looked at, studied, and made into a variety of applications, Elder is at the forefront of my remedies. As with other plants, it is a powerful and highly effective yet gentle and natural aid in the treatment of ailments that children suffer from yearly. I believe there is a general understanding that antibiotics have been over used, and, fortunately for us, there is simultaneously a resurgence of interest plant allies that are available and have been available for thousands of years, that we can turn to as a first line of defense. Cook some Elderberries with your children- they will love it and you will too!

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