Last weekend, my friends read “make syrup” on the whiteboard in my kitchen. They were intrigued, so when asked I informed them that I am using food as medicine to make elderberry lavender syrup. They were immediately concerned for my safety, inquired about cyanide levels, and thought these berries were not edible. 

These medicinal berries are, in fact, edible and one of my favorites to support the immune system against viruses found in colder weather months.  


Unripe elderberry parts contain low levels of a cyanogenic glycoside called sambunigrin. Only the ripe berries should be harvested. All stems and leaves are to be discarded. No need to worry, dehydrating and roasting ripe elderberries removes sambunigrin. 

Elderberries contain several polyphenols. Polyphenols are antioxidant plant chemicals that protect against viruses and free radicals. Quercetin and ruiten are a few of elderberries’ more popular medicinal polyphenols. 

Quercetin in elderberries has anti-inflammatory and antihistamine properties. The ingestion of elderberry may support the immune system against hay fever or seasonal allergies, not just viral infections.  


Adding lavender to the elderberry cough syrup provides taste and function. To research, elderberries reduce the duration, such as fever, headache, sore throat, fatigue, cough, and body aches. When coughing, the lavender helps relax the muscles, especially those surrounding the chest. 

Not sick? No problem. Elderberries’ antiviral polyphenols protect by supporting the immune system against contracting viruses. 

Elderberries can be enjoyed by steeping dried ripe berries for tea or juicing them for syrup. You can make gummies from the juice and freeze them to enjoy all fall-winter long. Also, you can freeze the elderberry juice or syrup. Add the syrup to foods or drinks for enjoyment. Some even make fruit cobbler with elderberries mixed with other late summer fruit such as pears or peaches. This allows you to make food as medicine available  any time.

Elderberry lavender syrup and ginger lemon tea is my powerhouse combination when I am sick. Cooking them over the stove is also medicinal because of the facial steam bath I receive. I grate the ginger and juice the lemons over simmering hot water. 


Like elderberries, ginger also contains polyphenols. Gingerols are the most abundant polyphenols found in ginger. Gingerols are unique to ginger and function as an antioxidant, anti-viral, anti-tumor, anti-emectant, and anti-inflammatory agent. 

As mentioned in the “Eat the Rainbow” fruit, vegetables, legumes, and herbs are more bioavailable and higher in antioxidants if mixed with a medley of produce verses by itself. Therefore, I combine my ginger with lemon to heighten the medical properties of each. 


Lemon is high in vitamin C, supports the immune system, and may decrease the duration of viruses. Make sure to wash and zest the lemon to obtain the lemon essential oil in the tea. 

I highly recommend the elderberry lavender syrup and ginger lemon tea as a preventative and support during cold and flu season. 

Other spices, herbs, fruits, and vegetables also contain unique anti-viral properties, such as berries. The most important note is to eat a diverse diet which means rotating different types of food items. 

For example, it is better to use elderberries in moderation and along with other spices, such as ginger, to promote the highest level of medicinal properties that support the immune system. Immune system support is vital during the colder weather months to prevent viral infections. 

If you are interested in the journey toward food as medicine, join our Fire Cider and Elderberry Lavender Syrup class. It’s just in time for the cold and flu season.

What are some of your favorite foods that also contain therapeutic properties? Try searching the internet for “constituents of” your favorite produce items.

  Does knowing medicinal properties exist, beyond calories in food, stimulate your appetite to try a new fruit, vegetables, herbs, and spices?



Leila is a wife and mom of two littles. She has a Masters of Science and is working toward completing a dietetic internship to become a registered dietitian. Leila has a enjoys using foods in their most natural form, along with herbs, to optimize the nutrients the body uses for day-to-day performance.