Oct 292009

immuneI don’t find the idea of magic bullets to be very effective in healing, and find that the most successful therapy always originates in tailoring the treatment to the individual person and situation. For this reason, you’ll rarely see/hear me recommending a set formula or list of herbs for any given diagnosis. In fact, my answer is almost always, “it depends” to any question asking about herbs to treat a disease or disorder. This is because I work with people, and with the unique ways a virus or pattern may manifest in each person.

For an overall tonic approach to modulating and enhancing the body’s native immune system though, I’ve seen Elderberry really shine, even in people with excess inflammation and/or autoimmune disorders. This elixir is one of only a few herbal preparations I would never want to be without. Although most people use it primarily to ward off or quicken healing from acute viral issues (influenza, primarily), I have found it useful in a variety of situations, especially chronic hyper or hypo immunity, extended illness and other depletion syndromes. The elixir is generally safe for children, pregnant women and nursing mothers taken in the moderate amounts suggested here.

Gentle, safe and very effective, Elderberry is one of our most important immune tonics, and is especially notable for its viability for children. Not only does it work extremely well, it also tastes good, which is certainly a plus when trying to convince your four year old to take her medicine. Elder Mother Elixir is safe even for small children, a food-like medicine appropriate for all ages. It’s also easy to create, making it a fun project for the whole family.

Elderberry does not simply stimulate the immune system, instead, it modulates the immune system to more appropriately respond to environs and circumstance. It also disarms the some cold and flu viruses and helps them flush through body quicker, while strengthening the mucus membranes, supporting the body’s natural fever mechanism without overheating, improves energy and stress handling AND last but certainly not least, it tastes great too.


For your elixir, it’s helpful to have on hand:

▪    A pint canning jar (or other glass jar that seals well)

▪    Fresh elderberries (dried can be used as well, simply use about a third of the amount, or about 2.5 oz to follow the 1:5 proportion method for dried plants).

▪    Several large pinches to a handful of dried Elder flowers (or a few ounces of Elderflower tincture added to the mix), this is optional, but my experience indicates that it makes the elixir more effective.

▪    About a pint of high quality brandy (the better the brandy, the better your elixir will taste), depending on whether you’re using fresh or dried berries.

▪    Appr. 1/3 pint of raw honey (or to taste, as you prefer)

▪    A good stirring spoon

Step by Step Instructions

•    First, fill your jar all the way to the top with fresh elderberries.

•    Now, pour the honey in slowly, stirring as necessary, until the berries are well coated.

•    Next, fill jar with brandy, stirring as you go, until all air bubbles are released.

•    Now cover the jar with a tight fitting lid, and shake carefully to finish the mixing process.

•    Let macerate in a cool, dark place for four to six weeks (or as long as you can stand to wait.

•    Strain, reserving liquid. Store in an airtight container in a cool, dark place.

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

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

Optional Additions

▪    Warming spices such as fresh Ginger, Osha, Calamus, Orange peel, Cinnamon powder/sticks or Cardamom pods can add flavor and zing to the elixir.

▪    Rosehips make a very helpful addition, I usually add a small handful or more of fresh Rosehips per pint of elixir.

▪   Soothing lung herbs such a Licorice root, Peony root or Mullein can be extra helpful for people with a propensity towards lung weakness.

  33 Responses to “Elder Mother Immune Elixir”

  1. oh, yum. i have elderberry syrup, but my next elderberry concoction is definitely going to be this elixir. i can hardly wait!

  2. I just went through a bout of the flu, and part of my immunity arsenal was Elderberry extract. Other people around town had the same flu, but much worse than mine. I got over it in a pinch while others were out of commission for a week straight. I LOVE ELDERBERRY! Plus they grow wild all over the place here in Montana – so they’re free too!

  3. thank you kiva for another wonderful entry. i really love your elixer recipe and the add in suggestions rock:) i appreciate all you do very much.

  4. Kiva, thanks for another timely post on elder!

    1.) I’ve been wanting to add some elderflower tincture to my elderberry elixer. I was thinking of adding 20% flower tincture to the berry elixer, but I’m just guessing. Please advise as to an appropriate proportion.
    2.) Is the addition of the flower tincture useful mainly for cold and flu season preparations, or do you also recommend it when using elder year round as an adaptogen?
    3.) How does the addition of rose hips help? I’m assuming they contribute bioflavonoids to the mix, but are they also calming and centering the way rose petal/leaf elixer is?
    4.) Can fresh rose hips be used instead of dried?
    5.) If so, since I’ve already made a berry elixer and a flower tincture (both of which are ready to use) could I make a fresh rose hip tincture—or elixer (which?)—and add that to the blend in a few weeks?
    6.) If the answer to #5 is yes, what proportion of rose hip tincture/elixer would you recommend adding to the elder blend? 7.) Or, could either fresh or dried rose hips be added to the completed berry/flower blend and set aside for a month or so before using?

    Thanks for you help!

  5. Hi Phoebe

    1) That’s about right, what I do is add the elderflower tincture to the menstruum so that it macerates with the elixir rather than adding it in later so that it doesn’t dilute the elixir.

    2) I think the flowers simply make for a more complete medicine, and add a relaxant nervine quality… they are more cooling than the berries though, so it may also depend on the individual.

    3) Rose hips are indeed a relaxant nervine (especially wild rose hips), packed full of bioflavanoids and just like most of the rose family plants, anti-viral and excellent for hyper-immune responses.

    4) Yes.

    5) Yes, you could, but you will somewhat dilute your Elderberry elixir, so you may need a larger dose in order to get enough of the actual elderberry.

    6) If you’re going to do it that way, I would suggest about 5-10%

    7) Yes, you could definitely do that. That’s probably what I would do at this point… and then next time make it all together. Usually I make all my herbs tincture separately and formulate later, but for this particular recipe I’m fond of the synergy created by macerating it all together.

  6. This is good to know.

    20 percent of school kids in this area have one flu or another. Friends have been sick for weeks. I’ve just got the sniffles.

    This is a link I am passing along.

  7. Thanks for the Eldermother info. This has been a staple in my life since I was a child picking these berries and flowers with my mom and grandma. We made a juice and canned it to use later for soup and syrups. It brings back happy memories when ever I work with her.

  8. Thank you so much for this! I have been a gourmet natural cook for years and now branching out into more wild food that grow on my land and nearby. I was about to pick the elderberry this year but the bird beat me to it!

  9. I prepared a batch of Elder Mother Elixir today, adding rose hips and elderflower as suggested. It smells fabulous and it’s going to be torture to wait a whole month to taste some.

  10. Thanks, Kiva. This was REALLY helpful. I hadn’t thought of the dilution or synergy aspects. I found some flowers I forgot I had dried after making fritters last summer. I’m going to experiment.

    I learned so much from your 07/26/09 post “Terms of the Trade: Stimulating and Relaxing.” I’m hoping that you will write a similar article to demystify the topic of ‘Warming and Cooling.’

  11. You’re welcome, Phoebe, I’m glad it was helpful and happy elixiring!

    I have actually already written articles on both warming and cooling and drying and moistening…. but they might end up only in my forthcoming book rather than on the blog, or maybe on the blog after the book comes out, not sure yet.

  12. Hi Kiva, I’m looking forward to the book!

    After straining my 10-month-old elderberry elixer (before adding the aforementioned additional ingredients) I decided to taste the marc, which consisted of fresh elderberries, raw honey, and 95% alcohol. It was delicious!

    In Michael Moore’s Herbal Materia Medica, he states that the remnant moisture in the marc is full strength tincture. In your 06/01/09 post, “Sweetbriar by the River” you refer to eating strained rose petals which have lots of medicine in them. So, I’d like to know if I can eat tiny spoonfuls of this rather alcoholic berry treat and add them to desserts. Or, will the seeds make me sick? I’m totally confused about whether the seeds are toxic or not. It seems a shame to throw it out. I think it would be like jam if I added some more honey…

  13. Will the dried elderberries reconstitute in the brandy? I find they do not in honey. I only have dried to work with and would like to make this elixir. Do they need to reconstitute for the elixir to be potent?

  14. Pheobe, the seeds are only toxic when ground up… I’ve eaten large amounts of raw whole berries with no problem and I also turn my berries used to make sryup into a jam. If it tastes good, it’s fine to eat it in moderate amounts.

    Karen, if you mean reconstitute in the sense they turn back to yummy, chewy berries, then no. But if you’re asking if dried elderberries extract well into elixir, then the answer if yes, they work perfectly.

  15. Because of your blog, I prepared a month ago alot of eldeberry elixir with and without spices and honey in an excellent”marc de champagne”. So many thanks… it tastes so good!

  16. Great post. I also make an ‘elixir’ based on the German Rumtopf. In a ginger jar that used to house Biscotti from Costco, I have about 2 lbs of goji berries, couple handfuls of raisens, organic grape alc, brandy, rum, dried elderberries about 2 cups, ginseng pieces. I think that’s all, but not sure. It’s been stewing for 2 years. it is POTENT. I also added water, but it’s still pretty potent.

    I will add some manuka honey to it, it will definitely make it more palatable. I wish I had not added the dried elderberries. I didn’t know about grinding up the seeds. I would prefer to whir it in the vita-mix with the honey.

    I made it to have ‘just in case’. But it’s SO potent, it’s a bit much. Hopefully the honey will help it. I have not strained it, nor will I. Eating the fruit is enough to make me tipsy. LOL

    I will add some ginger and cloves, and real cinnamon, as opposed to the cassia that is normally found in the grocery stores.

    I’m looking for the free book you said is on this site. I can’t find it. Point me in the direction?

    • Hi Janine, thanks for reading 🙂

      Which book might you be referring to? The blog’s been going for several years now, so I don’t necessarily remember every post…

  17. Ok I cannot find the post I am looking for.. I was wondering about the brandy. I am looking to make more of a syrup with just the honey and elderberries. Do I need to add the brandy to make it more effective? I thought I read a response to this somewhere but cannot find it 🙂
    I would like to give it to my children and not sure on the alcohol (incase I need to give it to my baby again) Is there a recipe more suited for children or will this be fine??
    Thanks:) I am having so much fun reading these posts I wish I had found this site long ago!

  18. Dee, if you’re using dried berries you do indeed need the brandy to extract the medicine.

    The alcohol is likely to be less of a problem than the honey for the baby really… in a large dose of regular tincture there’s less alcohol than in a ripe banana, so there will be a bit less in elixir.

    The recipe was specifically made with children in mind, so I consider it to be fine for this purpose.

  19. That’s right.. the ripe banana:) see I remembered you posted that somewhere. Ok Thanks so much:)

  20. I love the idea of an elderberry elixir! I have been making syrups and adding brandy…why not cut to the chase with an elixir?!? Thanks for the inspiration, Kiva:)

  21. Dear Kiva,

    First time I’ve been on your site and it is quite wonderful. Thanks for the elderberry recipe as just this year, after living here 4 yrs., I found some (presumably) wild elderries growing in my rural yard. I have had lots of things come up for the fist time this year, maybe from having a record breaking cold winter, I don’t know. Anyway, if I’m lucky enough to beat the birds I will be making this and I’ll let you know how it goes. Thanks again!


  22. dear kiva,
    Just came across your website which is amazing.Instantly went out to collect my elderberries to discover the birds had got there first.I will now have to hunt further a field.The only thing im gutted about is that i should have done it weeks ago as we are all quite run down.Do you know if there is anywhere i can purchase such a good elixir while mine is doing its magic.living in wales the health shops are quite limited and highly overpriced.thank you.
    love & light cree

  23. I’m heading out to pick elderberries for the first time this week and I’m excited to try your recipe. Can you please tell me what kind of dropper you’re referring to for the dosing? or can you give me dosing in kitchen measurements (teaspoon, etc)? Thank you so much for all the wonderful information!

  24. Hi Kiva,

    Does freezing elderberries reduce or destroy the benefits the berry has to offer? I have some in the freezer from last years harvest. I’d like to make this elixer and wonder whether it would still be effective.


  25. I followed your instructions 6 weeks ago and made 2 jars of your Elderberry Elixir. Tomorrow is decanting day! I can’t wait to taste the results!

    • It’s DONE! I’m excited about having completed my first homemade herbal elixir. it took hours to press the liquid out of the macerated material. The third pressing/filtering method I used was to press all material through a ridiculously small garlic press. Some of the seeds passed thru back into the liquid so I filtered through a fine-mesh sieve a final time. All the additional pressing yielded another 1/3+ cup, even after the final filtering. It tastes great! Thanks Kiva for providing the instructions for a beginner! I think my next project will be the Wild Rose Elixir. I have dried Rose Petals (red & pink) and Rose Hips from Mountain Rose and a full bottle of E&J Brandy w/lots of raw local honey from the farmers market ready to go. :0)

  26. Made your Elderberry Elixir using frozen elderberries, and adding cinnamon chips and cardamon pods. Pressed it yesterday, and am having everyone I meet try it – its that good! Going to make some more for gifts!! What a delicious medicine!! So glad I don’t have to be sick to taste this, or I’d be wishing for a cold!

  27. Hi,

    Could you please tell me how much a pint canning jar is?
    I live in Europe, and we dont really have mason jars and such.
    Maybe you know the size in ml. or tablespoons or something?
    I’m hoping you can help me out, I would love to try out this recipe!

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