The elder tree (sambucus nigra) has been prized as a “medicine chest” for centuries because of its versatile applications. Black elderberries (sambuci fructus), the fruit of the elder tree, have been used both to prevent and treat the flu, common colds, coughs, sinus pain, back and leg pain, nerve pain, arthritis, inflammation, chronic fatigue, hay fever and have been shown to help prevent cancer and to significantly reduce the risk of dementia/Alzheimer’s.
Elderberries are a natural anti-inflammatory and are particularly high in flavonoids (plant-based antioxidants) – higher than blueberries, cranberries, blackberries and goji berries – and these flavonoids are known to help prevent damage to the body’s cells and boost the immune system. They’re also high in vitamin A and with the exception of rose hips and black currants are thought to have the highest levels of vitamin C.
Numerous studies have shown elderberries to be particularly effective in treating colds and the flu. Below is a summary of just two of them.
From Pharmacy Times: “Are there natural ways to protect patients from the cold and influenza viruses? One potential remedy, elderberries, have been used for thousands of years as both medicine and in food….The results of some studies show that elderberries do indeed have significant benefits against cold and influenza symptoms.
“In one placebo-controlled, double-blind study conducted by Israeli virologist Dr. Madeleine Mumcuoglu, 93.3% of the people taking an elderberry preparation reported significant improvement in influenza symptoms within 2 days of starting it, compared with the 6 days it took for the placebo group to see improvement.
“In another randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study performed in Norway, researchers gave either a placebo syrup or elderberry syrup to patients who reported having flu-like symptoms for less than 48 hours. The results were similar to Dr. Mumcuoglu’s results. On average, the patients who received the elderberry syrup saw relief of symptoms 4 days earlier than the group that received the placebo syrup. As an added benefit, the patients in the elderberry syrup group reported taking significantly fewer over-the-counter medications in hopes of symptom relief.
“Researchers also have found that people who have taken elderberries have higher levels of antibodies against the influenza virus, showing that not only may the berry be able to treat flu symptoms, it may also be able to prevent influenza infection.”
Growing up my mom would regularly brew up natural home remedies when my brother and I had colds and coughs and they always served us well. Elderberry syrup was one of them. While conventional drugs certainly have their place, I’ve always been one who turns to them as a last resort, after I’ve first tried more natural, holistic options.
Elderberry syrup is an age-old elixir that has been used for thousands of years for both treating and preventing the illnesses that commonly accompany the cold weather: Coughs, colds, and the mild flu.
This homemade elderberry syrup also incorporates therapeutic doses of ginger, cinnamon, clove and raw honey for added fighting power and protection. Ginger has been used for centuries to relieve sore throats, alleviate congestion, soothe upset stomachs, and to promote sweating to eliminate toxins in the body. Cinnamon is an antioxidant-rich warming spice that helps fight infections and viruses and boosts the immune system. Cloves are a natural antiseptic and analgesic, which help eliminate and prevent the spread of germs and provide relief for sore throats. Cloves also act as an expectorant, making it easier to cough up phlegm. Raw honey has antimicrobial and antiviral properties that inhibit the growth of microbes and fight bacterial infections as well as inhibit viral activity. It’s also an effective cough suppressant, soothes sore throats and is a natural sleep aid, especially in children. If you can find it, raw buckwheat honey has the highest level of antioxidants.
HOW TO TAKE IT: There is no standard dose for elderberry syrup. Adults trying to prevent a cold or flu can take 1 tablespoon 3-4 times a day and increase it to 2 tablespoons 3-4 times a day to treat a cold or flu until the symptoms disappear. Decrease the dose for children. If giving it to children it’s always recommended to first consult your pediatrician. Note: The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends not giving raw honey to infants under 12 months.
DRIED ELDERBERRIES: The easiest form of elderberries to use for making syrup is dried. They store well and you can conveniently grab them as needed to make small batches of syrup that will remain fresh and potent before you need to make another batch.
I use and recommend Frontier Organic Whole Elderberries.
Let’s get started!
Place the dried elderberries, diced ginger, ground cinnamon and ground cloves in a small saucepan.
Add the water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a low simmer and simmer uncovered for approx. 30 minutes or until the liquid is reduced by about half. Use a fork or potato masher to mash the berries.
Let the mixture steep for a few minutes and then strain the liquid through a fine sieve or cheesecloth and mash or squeeze the solids to release as much liquid as possible. Let the liquid cool until room temperature (no hotter than lukewarm) and then stir in the honey. Makes about 3 cups.
Store in the refrigerator. Will keep for at least 2 weeks.
Here’s to good health!
Homemade Elderberry Syrup (for colds, coughs and flu)
- 1 cup quality dried elderberries
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh ginger, peeled
- 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
- 4 teaspoons ground cloves
- 4 cups water
- 1 cup raw honey, local if possible (use raw: non-raw is simply sugar with no health benefits) (raw buckwheat honey has the highest levels of antioxidants)
- Place all of the ingredients, except for the honey, in a small saucepan. Bring it to a boil then reduce the heat to a low simmer and simmer uncovered for approx. 30 minutes or until the liquid is reduced by about half. Use a fork or potato masher to mash the berries.
- Let the mixture steep for a few minutes, the strain the liquid through a fine sieve or cheesecloth and mash or squeeze the solids to release as much liquid as possible. Let the liquid cool until room temperature (no hotter than lukewarm) and then stir in the honey. Makes about 3 cups.
- Store in the refrigerator. Will keep for at least 2 weeks.
- There is no standard dose for elderberry syrup. Adults trying to prevent a cold or flu can take 1 tablespoon 3-4 times a day and increase it to 2 tablespoons 3-4 times a day to treat a cold or flu until the symptoms disappear. Decrease the dose for children. If giving to children it's always best to consult your pediatrician.IMPORTANT NOTE: The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends not giving raw honey to infants younger than 12 months.