Elderberry Oxymel for Immune System SupportSkip to Recipe
Our immune system is always in need of support, especially during cold and flu season. There are many natural ways to boost your immune system. Eating nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables, getting enough sunshine, making sure you get a good night’s sleep, etc. However, one of my favorite ways to boost my immune system naturally is by making and using an elderberry oxymel. Elderberries are packed with essential nutrients, vitamin C, and have been used for ages to boost immunity and treat cold and flu symptoms. The best part about making this recipe is it’s super simple and effective.
I first learned how to make an herbal oxymel in my herbalism studies through The Herbal Academy. What made me fall in love with the process of making oxymels was that they were so easy to make and had a variety of health benefits. Before I learned how to make oxymels, I made a variety of homemade tinctures. Although I enjoy making tinctures, I find myself reaching more and more for my homemade oxymels. I find they are more convenient, beneficial, and taste better. So, what is an oxymel?
What is an Elderberry Oxymel?
First, let’s start with what is an oxymel. According to Gaia Herbs, “An oxymel is a traditional elixir of vinegar (typically apple cider vinegar) and raw honey, often with complementary herbs.” Oxymels can be made using a variety of healing herbs. In this recipe, we are using elderberry.
The base of a homemade oxymel is your plant matter, apple cider vinegar, and honey. That’s it! So if all you have in your pantry is elderberries, apple cider vinegar, and honey you have enough to make an elderberry oxymel that your immune system will love.
If you are just beginning your herbal studies, I recommend starting with a simple recipe like an oxymel. Since the oxymel focuses primarily on one healing herb, this is a great starting point. Starting simple is also the recommendation from the Wise Woman Tradition. Making simple recipes will give you the confidence to make your own medicine without worrying about what herbs combine with others. Creating these simple medicines is where I started. From that point, I started to add in other plants that I felt called to and learned what plants worked for certain conditions.
How to make an Elderberry Oxymel
When making any oxymel you first want to choose your main plant matter to use. In this case, we are using Elderberries. If you are feeling called, and really want to keep it simple, you can just use Elderberries. For this recipe, we are going to also add in some Apple Cider Vinegar and Honey.
The first step is to gather your elderberries. Depending on the time of year and where you live, you can use fresh elderberries. However, you can always source organic dried elderberries from Mountain Rose Herbs. Make sure you get organic since you will be ingesting the oxymel.
Place Ingredients in Jar
I like to view creating oxymels as traditional folk art, passed down from our ancestors for generations. This means the instructions are more about ratios than measurements. To create an oxymel, you need to fill a glass jar of your choice 1/4th of the way up with elderberries. Make sure the jar you choose can be sealed easily. Once you have 1/4th of the jar filled, add 1 part honey and 1 part apple cider vinegar and mix. If you want the oxymel to be sweeter, add slightly more honey. For a slightly more acidic oxymel, add some more apple cider vinegar.
Seal Jar and Let Sit
After you’ve mixed up all of your ingredients, seal the jar with parchment paper or a plastic lid (or both) and shake well. You really want the ingredients mixed up so everything gets equally extracted and merged together. Place your jar in a cool, dark place for 4-6 weeks. Shake the jar often to ensure the extraction keeps momentum.
Strain the Herbs
After 4-6 weeks, you will need to strain out the herbs. I usually strain these herbs into a large bowl first, pressing down on the herbs to extract all of the moisture and healing properties. I then place the mixture into small dropper bottles so I can easily take a dropper daily and stay consistent on dosage.
While the mixture has to sit for a while, the actual creation of the oxymel only takes a few minutes and has minimal steps. Therefore it is accessible to really everyone. Even those with very busy and overwhelming schedules or are new to making oxymels. Since nothing needs to be cooked down, you can preserve the nutrients and benefits of your honey.
Where to Source Your Elderberries?
There are a few ways to source elderberries. During the late summer and early fall, I tend to forage for my own elderberries. With this recipe, I actually found the elderberries I used in the oxymel. However, during the winter months, I resort to using the dried elderberries I keep in my herbal apothecary.
One word of caution, whether foraging or purchasing dried elderberries, is to make sure they are organic. Your elderberries will be steeping in liquid to extract all of the essential nutrients. Any non-organic substances will make it into the liquid as well that you will eventually ingest. If I can’t forage for wild elderberries, I purchase them from a certified organic provider such as Mountain Rose Herbs.
Using an Elderberry Oxymel
To use an elderberry oxymel, you just need to take a couple of drops from the bottle. Personally, I take 1-2 full droppers every day as a preventative measure. If I’m feeling under the weather, I will take 1 dropper full every 2-3 hours to provide support for my immune system. The benefits of elderberries will assist your immune system when fighting off ailments. More information is in the notes section below regarding dosage.
Using Other Ingredients in Your Oxymel
Throughout the years, I have gotten more comfortable making my own oxymels. I’ve also learned how to use and integrate other ingredients to get the most benefit from the oxymel. Some other herbs I’ve enjoyed adding to the elderberry oxymel tend to be warming herbs to balance out the cooling properties of elderberries. Cinnamon, ginger, and clove are a few of these warming herbs I add. Especially during the cold and flu season which is during the colder winter months.
I’m personally someone who runs very cold, therefore these herbs help to warm my system. If you tend to run on the warm side, you might want to exclude these herbs and maybe find some more healing and cooling herbs.
In this specific recipe, I was aiming for someone who runs on the cooler side. However, if you run warm and don’t mind a few warmer herbs, then follow right along! In this recipe, I added elderberries, rosehips, honey, apple cider vinegar, ginger, clove, cinnamon, and echinacea. The core ingredients are elderberries, apple cider vinegar, and honey. From the elderberries and rosehips, you get the benefit of a high dose of Vitamin C. The honey is naturally healing and combined with the clove, you get the added benefit of a large number of antioxidants. Adding ginger gives you an anti-inflammatory boost. With this recipe specifically, the clove, cinnamon, and ginger are warming and help during the cold winter months. Echinacea is similar to elderberry, in the fact it helps support your immune system and dampens the symptoms of the cold and flu.
This recipe is a powerful, immune system supporter. It’s also very warming so you can get some internal comfort during the cold winter months.
Difference Between Elderberry Oxymel and Elderberry Syrup?
One question I get often is “What is the difference between an oxymel and a syrup?”. While they are very similar, especially with elderberries and their healing properties, there are a few differences. Since an oxymel doesn’t require boiling and relies on natural extraction, you keep the healing properties of the honey and other herbs. However, if you are more in a pinch, you might want to make a syrup. A syrup you boil the ingredients and you can have ready that day instead of 4-6 weeks.
I honestly, really love making oxymels. I think they are simple, accessible, and a great place to begin with or advance your herbalism studies. They are also super powerful and have a ton of healing properties. If you loved this recipe or have any questions, make sure to reach out on Instagram (@mytinylagunakitchen) or leave a comment below!
Safety when consuming elderberries
Please note, that some folks are sensitive to consuming raw elderberries, dried or fresh. Luckily throughout my years of study, I haven’t had any issues in my own experience. Yet I do believe it is better to air on the side of caution and to always be safe. Therefore you can simmer the elderberries for 10 minutes with 1/3-1/2 cup of water. Let the mixture cool, and then add the elderberries, with the juices into the oxymel.
- Place Elderberries*, Rose Hips, fresh grated Ginger, Echinacea, Cinnamon Sticks, Clove into a 32-ounce jar. (see notes below regarding taking precautions with raw elderberries.)*
- Pour honey in and mix the dry and fresh ingredients into the honey, pour apple cider vinegar to the top leaving 1-2 inch space at the top of the jar. When you use dried ingredients they will expand.
- Top glass jar with a plastic or glass (with silicone stopper) lid. As apple cider vinegar will cause a chemical reaction to a metal lid.
- Place the oxymel in a cool, dark place to let steep for 2-6 weeks. My favorite time is between 4-6 weeks but you can strain and use sooner if needed.
- Clean the sides of the jar if extra honey has dripped off the sides.
- Gently shake the jar every couple of days, but at least once a week.
- After 4-6 weeks strain the oxymel using a cheesecloth, and strainer.
- Using the cheesecloth squeeze the access liquid out of the material.
- Using a funnel pour the oxymel into a dark, glass dropper bottle.
- Label and date your bottle.
- If you have extra you can also store the oxymel in a mason jar.
- Store the oxymel in a cool, dark place, when stored properly oxymel will last up to 6 months.
- *Please note some folks are very sensitive to raw elderberries. To avoid any potential issues, simmer the elderberries for 10 minutes, let the elderberries and juices cool, then add the mixture to your apple cider vinegar, and honey.
- If you are using dried elderberries use 1 1/2 cups if using fresh elderberries you can use 2 or more cups.
- If you want your recipe to be sweeter, add more honey, less sweet add more apple cider vinegar.
- When you have strained out all of your plant matter and received the final elderberry oxymel, you the leftover plant matter to make tea! Just pour hot water over the mixture, steep, strain, and enjoy!
- Dosage Recommendations: If you are new to this oxymel start small 5-10 drops every day. If you start to have symptoms add in more drops every couple of hours.
Note: every human body is going to be different when processing herbal medicine, therefore, start small and work your way up, or better yet talk to a Clinical Herbalist, Naturopathic Doctor, or Functional Medicine Doctor. They can help you find the right dosage for you and what you and what body system you are experiencing symptoms.