With the turn of the fall right around the corner and the kiddos back to school, it’s that time of year again where colds & flus abound. One of the best ways to support yourself and your family is to keep your immune system strong and healthy, minimizing the likelihood of getting sick in the first place. If you do get sick, bolstering your immune system will help to shorten the duration and severity of illness.
One of my all time favorite herbs for supporting the immune system naturally is Elderberry! European elderberry (Sambucus nigra), also known as black elder, has a long-standing reputation for its ability to help the body combat colds and flus and for good reason. It tastes absolutely delicious (hello, Elderberry syrup!) and has some pretty impressive medicinal properties to go along with it.
Elderberry is Highly Antiviral
Yes, this tiny purple berry packs a serious punch when it comes to fighting off viruses (am I the only one who just pictured an elderberry wearing boxing gloves?). In vitro studies have revealed it to be effective against 10 strains of Influenza virus! (1) The way it works seems to be multi-faceted, acting on various stages of illness including “suppressing the entry of the virus into the cell, modulating the post-infectious phase, and preventing viral transmission to other cells.” (1) Not only that, but it contains Vitamin A,C & P! Vitamin P, also known as flavonoids, are essentially plant-based antioxidants that help to decrease inflammation and quench free radical damage.
Should I Use It Preventatively or Only When I’m Sick?
According to the Journal of Natural Medicine, it was found that elderberry’s action against the Influenza virus is “strongest when used in pre-treatment, during infection and post-infection, rather than when used solely during infection.”(1) So it seems to get the best results, elderberry is an excellent herb to be taken as a preventative measure. If you're already sick though, it's not too late! In one study, 15ml of elderberry syrup given 4 times a day for 5 days at the onset of illness was found to reduce the total duration of illness by an average of 4 days. (2)
Pro Tip: Elderberry taken along side Echinacea is one of the most effective ways I've found to reduce the severity and duration of cold & flu symptoms, especially if you catch it right at the onset and take it religiously until symptoms have completely disappeared.
Delicious Elderberry Syrup Recipe
This syrup is rich in anti-oxidants, is anti-viral and supports the immune system in fighting off infection and illness. Can be used daily to prevent illness or used acutely to fend off colds and flus. Great for adults and children. Tastes delicious!
2 cups dried elderberries
1 Tbsp dried rose hips
1 cinnamon stick
2 tsp licorice root
1-2 tsp ginger root
(1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper, optional)
4 cups water
1 cup local honey (Can add up to 2 cups of honey if desired to preserve longer. However, this will make it REALLY sweet! You can also add up to 1 cup of brandy or vodka to preserve it longer. For infants under the age of one, avoid honey and use maple syrup or glycerine instead).
- Mix herbs with water in a large pot and bring to a boil.
- Turn down heat to simmer for 20 minutes.
- Then turn off the heat, put the lid on and let sit for 1 hr.
- Strain herbs from liquid (you can line your strainer with cheesecloth to catch any little bits that are small enough to escape through your strainer). Careful it may be super hot! You can let it cool slightly if needed.
- Mix in sweetener of choice until dissolved.This is when you would add in your alcohol as well, if you choose to do so.
- Let cool completely before bottling and labeling. Will keep in the fridge for 6-8 months.
½ - 1 teaspoon for kids and ½ - 1 tablespoon for adults. If the flu does strike, take the normal dose every 2-3 hours instead of once a day until symptoms disappear.
Take 1.5 cups boiling elderberry syrup and add 2 packs gelatin
Pour into moulds (that hold approx. 1 tbsp of liquid per mould) and let set overnight.
Follow same dosing as syrup equivalent
Credit: Gummy Recipe inspired by www.LearningHerbs.com
Cautions and Contraindications:
Safe for pregnancy and lactation 😊(“food-like” in dosing); Caution with hypertension (Licorice); Caution advised in peptic ulceration, reflux and gastritis (ginger); Do not exceed 2g per day in pregnancy (ginger); Elder berries eaten raw can cause nausea and vomiting in humans (that’s why we cook them!)
There you have it my friends! An absolutely delicious remedy to keep the illness at bay for your whole family to enjoy.
With Wild Love,
- Elderberry’s Antiviral Activity: An Update. Retrieved September 3, 2021 from https://www.naturalmedicinejournal.com/blog/elderberry%E2%80%99s-anti-viral-activity-update
Randomized study of the efficacy and safety of oral elderberry extract in the treatment of influenza A and B virus infections. Retrieved on September 3, 2021 from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15080016/