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Traditional Medicine: Elderberries

It’s cold and flu season – so give your immune system a boost with a traditional medicine of elderberry syrup. The red elderberry (th’iwuq’) is native to Vancouver Island and has been harvested by the Coast Salish people for millennia. Huy ch q'a to Kristin Thomas (Halalt) for her recipe!

Parents with young children should know that uncooked elderberries (and also the leaves, seeds and flowers) can be toxic to humans (and pets!) so please be mindful. Cooking the berries destroys the toxin.


  • 3½ cups water

  • 2/3 cup dried elderberries (or 1 1/3 cups fresh or frozen)

  • 2 tablespoons fresh ginger (grated)

  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon

  • ½ teaspoon ground/whole cloves

  • 1 cup raw honey


  1. Pour the water into a medium saucepan and add the elderberries, ginger, cinnamon, and cloves.

  2. Bring to a boil and then cover and reduce to a simmer for about 45 minutes to 1 hour until the liquid has reduced by almost half.

  3. Remove from heat and let cool until it is cool enough to be handled.

  4. Mash the berries carefully using a spoon or other flat utensil.

  5. Pour through a strainer into a glass jar or bowl.

  6. Discard the elderberries and let the liquid cool to lukewarm.

  7. When it is no longer hot, add the honey and stir well.

  8. When the honey is well mixed into the elderberry mixture, pour the syrup into a mason jar or 16-ounce glass bottle of some kind.

  9. Ta-da! You just made homemade elderberry syrup!

Store in the fridge and take daily for its immune boosting properties. Some sources recommend taking only during the week and not on the weekends to boost immunity.

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