How to Make Bone-Building Shrubs

Updated: October 20, 2022

How To Make Bone Building Shrubs

Shrubs are delicious fruit-infused drinks made using a syrup derived from fermenting fruit and herbs with honey and apple cider vinegar.

Shrubs have been enjoyed since the 15th century! The syrups were popular as medicinal cordials, and were also used in the American colonies to preserve the fruit harvest, since the fermentation process produces a flavorful syrup that keeps very well.

Like kombucha, shrubs are excellent for digestion, but they don’t require an added starter culture and are much easier to make.

how to make shrubs infographic

[embed_infographic title=”How to Make Bone-Building Shrubs” alt=”How to Make Shrubs infographic” src=””]

My bone-building versions of traditional shrubs are made with syrups derived from the fermentation of organic fruits and herbs, raw honey, and organic unfiltered apple cider vinegar.

Organic fruits and herbs have a higher phytonutrient content than their conventionally grown cousins. Plus, organic produce does not contain pro-inflammatory, endocrine-disrupting pesticide residues.

Raw honey contains antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory compounds. And yes, while it is sugary honey, the fermentation process converts the sugars into carbon dioxide and give your shrubs a bit of fizz (bubbles).

You just add a tablespoon or two of shrub syrup to a glass of sparkling mineral water.

The result is a beautiful, tangy, low-calorie, mineral- and probiotic-rich, fruit-infused drink. Imagine, an elegant replacement for soda pop that builds bones!

The only drawback is that you must let your shrub syrup ferment in the refrigerator for 4-5 days to “develop.”

But the syrup you press out from the fermented fruits and herbs will keep in the refrigerator for a month (in the unlikely event you haven’t used it all up well before then!).

Following are recipes for a Citrus Ginger and a Tart Cherry-Anise-Hibiscus Shrub. Both produce beautiful syrups and are quick and easy to make.

Just add a few tablespoons of either syrup to sparkling mineral water, and you’ll have a visually beautiful, delicious, low-calorie, bone-building drink.

lemons, blood oranges and ginger on marble counter

Shrubs’ Bone-Building Benefits

You may remember that I taped a video discussing research showing mineral waters are a good source of calcium. If you haven’t seen it, here’s the gist of what I reported:

Calcium-rich mineral water is a surprisingly good, calcium-rich alternative to milk. (My favorite brands are San Pellegrino or Gerolsteiner).

Our ability to absorb calcium decreases with age. However, the 1200 mg per day (which is recommended for women 51 years and older) may be difficult to accomplish, particularly for those who are lactose-intolerant or allergic to dairy products.

Fortunately, a number of studies have now shown that calcium-rich mineral waters can provide an easy, calorie-free alternative to cow’s milk.

A meta-analysis of 4 studies evaluated the bioavailability of calcium from calcium-rich mineral waters and also compared calcium absorption from mineral waters with that from dairy products.

The results showed that calcium bioavailability from mineral waters was at least as good as, and possibly better than, that from dairy products. Not only did biomarkers of calcium absorption indicate significant absorption, but markers of bone resorption decreased.

Calcium from mineral water was also well absorbed in a study of lactose-intolerant men. In 8 of the 15 subjects, a higher level of calcium absorption was seen with mineral water than milk; calcium bioavailability was equal to that of milk in another 5 of the 15 men, and lower in just 2 of the 15 subjects.

blood oranges close up

Healthy women have also been shown to absorb and retain calcium just as well from calcium-rich mineral water as from milk.

This may be especially good news for people who are lactose-intolerant – particularly those of Asian, Hispanic and African-American heritage.

In addition, mineral waters may also provide another bone-building mineral, silicon, in amounts ranging from 3.44 to 7.23 mg per half liter.

And shrubs made with calcium-rich mineral water are certainly a much healthier alternative to sodas – especially for young girls and women. Data from the USDA’s Nationwide Food Consumption Surveys shows that milk consumption has decreased by 36% since the late 1970s, while consumption of soda has doubled! This is a particularly unfriendly-to-bone trend in young girls between the ages of 12 and 19 – the years during which bone density accumulation rates are supposed to be at their highest.

Plus, sparkling mineral waters are naturally calorie-free!

High-calcium mineral waters should, therefore, be considered a useful dietary source of bioavailable calcium – particularly given recently published research from Sweden, which I’ve discussed in an article titled Debunking the Milk and Osteoporosis Myth.

In sum, the researchers found that drinking 3 or more glasses of cow’s milk daily might promote bone loss due to the galactose sugar derived from the lactose in cow’s milk. That is, unless you choose lactose-free cow’s milk, which is what I recommend for those who wish to drink several glasses of cow’s milk each day and are not allergic to dairy.

Lastly, drinks made with shrub syrup are really gorgeous!

The Tart Cherry Shrub is a deep red/violet. The Citrus Ginger Shrub is a lovely golden/rose color, a tropical sunset in a glass.

You can add a wee bit of vodka or gin if an alcoholic drink is desired, but these drinks taste wonderful alcohol-free.

For even more calcium and anti-inflammatory phytonutrients, plus some vitamin K2, shrub syrups can also be poured over organic, full-fat plain yogurt from pastured cows. Then, you can top them off with a handful of berries and a tablespoon or two of homemade gluten-free granola – this is Joe’s and my favorite dessert.

shrubs being poured into a glass

Fermented Shrubs – 2 Ways

Tart Cherry-Anise-Hibiscus Shrub

1 tablespoon contains 26 calories, 7 grams carbohydrate, 6 grams sugars, 0 grams fat, fiber, protein.


  • 1 cup organic, unfiltered apple cider vinegar
  • ¾ cup raw honey (Manuka honey has the greatest anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory effects)
  • ¼ cup dried hibiscus flowers
  • 3 drops anise essential oil
  • 1 cup pitted frozen sweet cherries, cut in halves or quarters
  • ¼ cup dried tart cherries, diced


  1. In a 2-quart wide-mouth jar with a lid, mix the honey and apple cider vinegar well with a spoon until the honey is dissolved in the vinegar.
  2. Add the hibiscus flowers, anise oil, frozen sweet cherries and dried tart cherries.
  3. Stir well to combine, seal the jar and place it in the back of one of the shelves of your refrigerator. Leave for 5 days, taste, and if you’re happy with the flavor, it’s ready to use. If you prefer a deeper flavor, let sit an additional 2 days.
  4. Strain the shrub, pressing down on the fruit solids to remove as much liquid as possible. Store sealed in a clean, glass jar in the refrigerator for up to 2 months. The flavor will only get better as it matures.
  5. To serve, add 1-2 tablespoons of shrub syrup to a glass containing 6-8 ounces of Pellegrino. For a cocktail, add an ounce of dry sherry, Lillet or vodka.

citrus ginger shrub with blood oranges

Citrus-Ginger Shrub

1 tablespoon contains 19 calories, 5 grams carbohydrate, 6 grams of sugar, 0 grams fat, fiber or protein.


  • 1 small/medium organic pink grapefruit
  • 2 organic blood oranges
  • 2 organic Meyer lemons
  • 1 cup organic, unfiltered apple cider vinegar
  • ¾ cup raw honey (Manuka honey has the greatest anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory effects)
  • Organic ginger root, frozen


  1. In a 2-quart wide-mouth jar with a lid, mix the honey and apple cider vinegar well with a spoon until the honey is dissolved in the vinegar.
  2. Wash the citrus fruits well under running cold water. Using a paring knife or vegetable peeler, remove the outermost layer of the peel on each of the fruits. Try to minimize the amount of white pith removed; it’s bitter. Add the peels to the honey-vinegar mixture.
  3. After peeling, cut the citrus fruits in half and juice them, which should give you ~3/4 cup of juice. Add this to the peels, honey and vinegar mixture.
  4. Grate the frozen ginger until you have ~2 tablespoons of freshly grated ginger. Since the ginger is organic, there’s no need to peel it first. Add the grated ginger to the vinegar, honey and citrus peel mixture.
  5. Stir well to combine, seal the jar and place it in the back of a shelf in your refrigerator. Leave for 5 days, taste, and if you’re happy with the flavor, it’s ready to use. If you prefer a deeper flavor, let sit an additional 2 days.
  6. Strain the shrub, pressing down on the fruit solids to remove as much liquid as possible. Store sealed in a clean, glass jar in the refrigerator for up to 2 months. The flavor will only get better as it matures.
  7. To serve, add 1-2 tablespoons of shrub syrup to a glass containing 6-8 ounces of Pellegrino. For a cocktail, add an ounce of gin or vodka.

Have you tried bone-building shrubs before? Let me know in the comments below!

Article Comments

Add New Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. Julie

    March 4, 2017 , 10:32 am

    What if you have SIBO and digestive Candida?

  2. Lara Pizzorno

    March 6, 2017 , 10:20 am

    Sorry, but the vinegar and honey or maple syrup used to make a shrub syrup may cause problems for someone with either small bowl bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) or Candida overgrowth.
    Anyone suffering from either condition should read Elaine Gottschall’s book Breaking the Vicious Cycle. The diet she recommends is highly effective in clearing either condition.

  3. Tammy

    March 4, 2017 , 5:08 pm

    Very interesting. I like that this drink has a history that is being revived.

    The recipes sound so refreshing. I will be bookmarking this with the intention of trying this Spring and Summer.

    Thank you!

  4. Monica

    March 6, 2017 , 8:26 am

    It is so refreshing, Tammy! I think it’ll be a go-to for Spring and Summer. Hope you think so too 🙂

    – Monica @ AlgaeCal

  5. Carrie

    March 5, 2017 , 10:10 am

    This recipe reminded me of the Bone-building calcium rich vinegar recipe in Laura Kelly’s “The Healthy Bones Nutrition Plan and cookbook.” She uses a mixture of herbs like nettle, alfalfa, horsetail, etc. and ferments it in apple cider vinegar. She says it has 350-400mg of calcium per tablespoon. She also has a fruit shrub recipe and adds the calcium vinegar to it. I’d appreciate hearing your take on the calcium vinegar recipe, if you’ve seen it.

  6. Lara Pizzorno

    March 6, 2017 , 10:28 am

    Hi Carrie,
    I haven’t seen Laura Kelly’s recipe, but fermenting calcium-rich herbs in vinegar and then using that vinegar in a shrub syrup sounds like an excellent idea! Thanks for sharing this; I’m experimenting with a blueberry shrub syrup and can try making it with an herb-infused, calcium rich vinegar. Actually, it would be easiest to just add some horsetail or nettle to the ingredients for the shrub syrup. The only issue here will be how it affects the taste. I’ll experiment with a blueberry shrub syrup and let you know how it turns out.

  7. Kim Todd

    March 6, 2017 , 5:14 pm

    When you mention adding the shrub syrup to mineral water, could you also add it to well water that has been “fizzed” in a soda stream device? I have never gotten a good answer as to whether this fizzy water is good or bad for your bones

  8. Monica

    March 7, 2017 , 10:43 am

    Hi Kim,

    In terms of taste, it would probably be quite similar to mineral water. Although I don’t think it would be the same as Pellegrino or some other mineral water as it would not contain the calcium and other minerals Lara discusses. She does talk about the benefit of mineral waters for bone health above in this post.

    – Monica @ AlgaeCal

  9. Susan Di Santo

    April 17, 2017 , 12:06 am

    I have read that prunes & figs are very high in calcium. (Prunes are higher but also, acidifying…pls correct me if I’m misinformed)
    Can one use dried fruit in shrub brewing?

    I make water and milk kefir daily. A
    fruity Shrub might mix welĺ with the latter.

  10. Monica

    April 18, 2017 , 8:32 am

    Hi Susan,
    Definitely. The tart-cherry shrub recipe shown above uses dried fruit.

    It’s true that prunes are acid-forming, but their calcium benefits definitely outweigh that negative if you are eating well as a whole. Bone health is about balance and moderation. This study showed that just 10 prunes per day can decrease bone breakdown.
    – Monica

  11. Monica

    July 20, 2017 , 3:57 pm

    Update: we just published a recent post where newer research shows a lower dose of prunes per day (~4-5 prunes) may be just as effective as 10 prunes per day. See here: 🙂

    – Monica

  12. Dagmar

    June 13, 2017 , 8:52 am

    I’m delighted about the shrubs drink supporting calcium intake you guys posted! In general, I love to read and implement your informative guidelines!

    Thank you all at algaecal for your wonderful job!

  13. Charlotte thornton

    June 19, 2017 , 3:58 pm

    Wonder if you could use xylitol instead of so much honey? Also what is calcium rich mineral water?

  14. Lara Pizzorno

    June 20, 2017 , 11:33 am

    Hi Charlotte,

    No Xylitol will not work as honey does. Xylitol is a sugar substitute, contains virtually no calories, so cannot provide the probiotic bacteria that will develop in a shrub with any nourishment.

    Mineral waters are so called because of their mineral content. A number of mineral waters, including sparkling Pellegrino, my personal favorite, contain calcium as well as other minerals. In one of my videos, I discuss research showing the minerals in mineral waters are highly bioavailable, rendering them a good dietary source of calcium for us. Here’s a link:
    – Lara

  15. JoAnne Kelly

    July 26, 2017 , 7:13 am

    Is there any reason why the ginger is frozen? Could one use fresh ginger instead? Regarding fruit, is there a reason why some fruits are dried as opposed to being fresh, or frozen as opposed to being fresh?

  16. Lara Pizzorno

    July 26, 2017 , 9:14 am

    Hi Joanne,
    I freeze my ginger now after my daughter, an MS, RD (nutritionist), suggested this for 2 reasons: (1) the ginger keeps for several months in the freezer, but just a couple of weeks in the refrigerator. (2) Frozen ginger is much easier to grate, and since it’s organic, you don’t have to remove the skin.
    If you prefer to use fresh ginger, that will work just as well — but either way, be sure it’s organic.
    Regarding the use of dried rather than fresh cherries, they are used because the flavor is concentrated in dried fruits. If you decide to try fresh cherries, you’ll want to use at least double the amount given in the recipe.

  17. Moriyah Piasetzki

    July 26, 2017 , 3:17 pm

    That is a very wise answer. Elaine Gottschall’s work, study and research can save a couple million lives each year.

  18. Susan

    July 26, 2017 , 5:39 pm

    So, I am confused. I thought carbonation in any form was not good for bones. Is it just soda drinks that are a problem? What about champagne? I have given up every type of bubble in drinks – would love to know if I can still drink some types like sparkling water and/or the occasional champagne.

  19. J

    March 8, 2019 , 1:50 am

    I am a little confused too. I have been told that any carbonated drink leaches calcium from bones. I used to drink Pelligrino and stopped due to the carbonation. These recipes mention adding the shrub to bubbly mineral water. Would you please explain further? Thanks

  20. Jenna AlgaeCal

    March 14, 2019 , 9:16 am

    Absolutely, J! I’ve actually reached out to Lara Pizzorno about this topic before. Lara clarified that the bone-destructive components in sodas are sugar and phosphate additives – even ‘sugar-free’ carbonated beverages contain sweeteners that may promote cancer and brain dysfunction, and phosphate additives which can promote bone loss.

    Unsweetened sparkling water (i.e., carbonated water) does not contain these components and is not harmful to bone health! In fact, Lara mentioned that several studies show sparkling mineral waters are highly beneficial for bone health. 🙂

    – Jenna @ AlgaeCal

  21. Debby

    June 29, 2019 , 5:20 am

    Would a fermented drink like sweet potato fly, that uses sweet potato and egg shells add calcium to the diet?

  22. Blaire AlgaeCal

    July 3, 2019 , 11:27 am

    Yum, a sweet potato shrub would be delicious! Maybe even add some rosemary in there for extra flavor. 😀 You’ll get a healthy dose of calcium if you mix it with mineral water like Pellegrino. Let us know how it goes, Debby!

    – Blaire @ AlgaeCal

  23. Lorraine Cunningham

    May 17, 2024 , 3:01 pm

    I would love to make either one of these recipes. Where can you purchase the ingredients? So hard to find some of the foods and drinks suggested.

  24. Yoori AlgaeCal

    May 17, 2024 , 3:43 pm

    Thank you for your interest in our recipes, Lorraine! We’re thrilled to hear that you want to try them out :). Most of the ingredients should be easy to find in your local groceries, but you are welcome to try specialty grocery stores (ex. Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s), or online retailers (ex. Amazon) to find those hard-to-find ingredients.

    We hope this helps, and happy cooking! If you have any other questions, feel free to ask.

    – Yoori

This article features advice from our industry experts to give you the best possible info through cutting-edge research.

Lara Pizzorno
MDiv, MA, LMT - Best-selling author of Healthy Bones Healthy You! and Your Bones; Editor of Longevity Medicine Review, and Senior Medical Editor for Integrative Medicine Advisors.,
Dr. Liz Lipski
PhD, CNS, FACN, IFMP, BCHN, LDN - Professor and Director of Academic Development, Nutrition programs in Clinical Nutrition at Maryland University of Integrative Health.,
Dr. Loren Fishman
MD, B.Phil.,(oxon.) - Medical Director of Manhattan Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation and Founder of the Yoga Injury Prevention Website.,
Prof. Didier Hans
PHD, MBA - Head of Research & Development Center of Bone Diseases, Lausanne University Hospital CHUV, Switzerland,