Elderberry Syrup: Nature’s Cough Medicine

Temperatures are dropping fast around Grand Rapids this time of year. In the past, I would normally get anxious. Not because the holidays are approaching, but tis the season for colds and flu. I have a son who has asthma and even a small cold can begin to constrict his lungs. That leads to coughing and if left unchecked can send him to the emergency room with a full-blown asthma attack.

While a healthy diet goes a long way in building a strong immune system, it isn’t a bulletproof vest. I debated with myself for years if over-the-counter cough medicine and prescription drugs were the only solution to help our son through the colder months. I knew there were alternative answers out there but I didn’t know what they were.

Then I stumbled across Wellness Mama and she challenged me to think outside the box. Perhaps the medications we need are not at the pharmacy but in our backyards. Using plants and herbs as natural remedies was the answer I was looking for – enough with the steroid treatments and daily medications. I began a new journey making elderberry syrup for problems with asthma, colds, and flu.

Just this past month, my son’s entire preschool class came down with a terrible cold. When he woke up with a raspy cough I began giving him two teaspoons of elderberry syrup every two to four hours. In two days he bounced back! For the first time ever we avoided steroid treatment and a trip to the doctors.

elderberry syrup

Elderberries medicinal benefits are simply outstanding. The bioflavonoid in the berry juice destroys a viruses’ ability to infect a cell. People with the flu report less severe symptoms and speed up recovery when consuming elderberries while sick. The anthocyanins enhance the immune function by boosting the production of cytokines. What does that mean? These unique proteins send messages to the immune system to regulate an immune response by increasing antibodies to defend the body against the offending agent.

Local Honey

Local raw honey has anti-viral, anti-bacterial, and anti-fungal properties. Honey strengths the immune system, is a powerful antioxidant, and alleviates allergy and asthma symptoms. When the throat is irritated from raspy, dry coughing and the bronchial tubes are inflamed – honey soothes.

Elderberry Cough Syrup Recipe


  • ½ cup dried elderberries
  • 2 cup water
  • 1 cup raw honey


1. In a saucepan, combine elderberries and water. Bring to a boil then simmer over medium heat for 30 minutes. Remove from heat and cool.

2. Strain off the berries from the liquid then stir in the honey to create a thin syrup.

3. Bottle the elderberry syrup in glass mason jars with a lid. Refrigerate for up to three months.

Where to Find the Ingredients

If you live in the Grand Rapids Metro, check out one of Harvest Health’s locations or Elder and Sage for quality ingredients. Otherwise, Mountain Rose Herbs is a premium herbal company that supplies all these ingredients on-line.

Everyone is more susceptible to coming down with an illness this time of year. Why not make a batch of elderberry syrup ahead of time to be prepared? Who knows, it might just be the solution you’ve been waiting for.

Plantain and Vinegar Tincture

Plantain, a “weed” that grows in most of our yards, coupled with apple cider vinegar can make for a long-lasting skin remedy.

Plantain has many medicinal uses and you can often times find it in skin salves at the health food stores.

  • it creates a cooling and soothing effect on the skin
  • pulls out toxins from bee stings and bug bites (astringent)
  • often used for skin issues like eczema, dandruff, and sunburn
  • contains allantoin, an anti-inflammatory phytochemical that kills germs, speeds wound healing, and stimulates the growth of new skin cells (source)

The easiest way to use plantain is to pick it from the yard, chew it up, and use the plant to place on bee stings and bug bites – it will help to pull out the toxins and lessen the pain and itch.

If you’re foraging, there are two types of plantain, english (the thin leaves like I have in my yard) and common plantain, one with a much broader leaf.

But what if you don’t have any in your yard? (like the guy from True Green would like to see our yard….void of plantain) Or what if you’re going to be camping or traveling and you don’t want to run around looking for a weed while your friend or loved one sits painfully waiting? And a tincture can also be used throughout the winter, when your plantain sits under many inches of snow and ice.

Making a tincture is one of the best ways to always have a herb on hand when you need it. And with just two ingredients, plantain and apple cider vinegar, it’s simple to make and both ingredients help heal the skin.

plantain tincturePlantain and Apple Cider Vinegar Tincture


  • Plantain, dried or fresh
  • apple cider vinegar, the one with the ‘mother’

Method of Preparation

1. If you are using fresh, wild plantain it’s best to pick before they send up the seed heads, but anytime will work. And you can also use the seed heads in the tincture. Use plantain from areas where you know that not pesticides have been used and wash it lightly….just in case a dog used it as it’s bathroom.

2. With fresh plantain, you’ll want to bruise the leaves a bit. So either roll them between your hands, use a mortar and pestle, or even just chop them up a few times with a knife. With dried plantain, you don’t have to worry about it.

3. Fill a jar approximately 2/3 full of fresh plantain or about 1/2 full of dried plantain and cover with apple cider vinegar. With skin preparations I don’t feel the need to weigh and measure the herbs…..but do what you’re comfortable with.

4. Cover and put the jar in a cool, dark place. Pull it out once a day or two and shake it.

5. Let sit for 2-3 weeks, strain out the plant matter, and keep the tincture in the cupboard or in a dark-colored bottle. (sunlight will damage the medicinal benefits.)

To use, you can apply to bites and/or stings with a cotton ball. Some people also use this as a facial astringent (diluted 1 part tincture, 10 parts water). (also be aware that it can make your skin sensitive to the sun)

Have you ever made or used a plantain tincture before?

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This blog is for educational purposes only. The information provided by Donielle, or any contributor, is not intended to diagnose, treat, or cure any condition. If you are seeking medical advice, please search out a qualified health practitioner.