By: Gabrielle Hall of www.eatyourearthtones.com
Are you seeking alternative, functional solutions aside from the typical yet limited conventional options?
Are you looking for a tried and trusted natural remedy that has a rich history of medicinal use?
Take the leap of faith to reclaim your health with something as common as the cold.
Elderberry is one of the most widely used medicinal plants in the world and is most often taken as a supplement to treat cold and flu symptoms. Elderberry refers to the vast canopy of varieties of the Sambucus tree, which is actually a flowering plant (1). But, for educational purposes, when we refer to elderberry, we are referring to the Sambucus nigra, also known as black elder, blue elder, American elderberry, or European elderberry (2).
- nivea grows clusters of small white- or cream-colored flowers known as elderflowers with round, dark violet-black berries found in glossy bunches (2). Elderberries taste sweet and sourish with a characteristic aroma, that of cough syrup, and must be cooked to be edible. Unripe elderberries contain toxic constituents, such as cyanogenic glycosides, and should be avoided in preparation (2). However, elderflowers can be eaten raw or cooked.
Did you know there were elderberry-based prescription medications dating back as far as Ancient Kemet (or Egypt)? Historically, various parts of the elderberry tree (roots, leaves, stems, flowers, and fruit) have medicinal and culinary purposes. For example:
- Tea made from the inner bark and root bark is diuretic, emetic and a strong laxative
- Juice made from the cooked berries has been used to treat sciatica, headache, dental pain, heart pain, and nerve pain.
- Elderberry syrup used against catarrhal conditions, especially in the upper respiratory tract such as cough, fever, and colds.
Benefits of Elderberry
Elderberries are naturally high in vitamin A, vitamin B6, vitamin C, dietary fiber, iron, and potassium. For example, there is 35 mg of vitamin C per 100 grams of fruit, which accounts for up to 60% of the recommended daily intake (5). Elderberries are rich in anthocyanins, the compounds that give the berries its characteristic dark violet-black color. Based on human clinical trials, it has been shown that anthocyanins contribute anti-inflammatory and anti-carcinogenic activity resulting in cardiovascular disease prevention, obesity control, and
diabetes alleviation (3). In fact, elderberry medicinal properties are associated with counteracting oxidative stress (4). When ingested within the first 48 hours of the onset of symptoms, elderberry syrup has been suggested to help relieve and shorten the duration of the common cold and influenza symptoms (6,7).
If you know me, you know that I am super passionate about homemade, DIY products that empower us to reclaim our bodies and health. I can’t begin to think of all the advantages, but for one, you’ll save a lot of money making your elderberry syrup. Several natural elderberry syrups are available at many local health stores and online retailers and typically cost around $15 or more for 4-8 ounces. This homemade recipe makes a quart, 32 whole ounces!
What is fantastic is you can fully customize this recipe based on your needs and flavor preferences. We love ginger in my household, so we loaded up on the ginger. But, if you don’t have ginger, turmeric also works well. Some have used ACV or garlic depending on the desired immunity power.
That said, if dried elderberries are not accessible at a local health food store or apothecary, these dried elderberries are at a great deal to make your own. If you’re quick for time, there are some great family-friendly elderberry gummies and elderberry syrup that work well but cost more.
Homemade Elderberry Immunity Syrup Recipe
The standard dose is:
½ - 1 teaspoon for children
½ - 1 tablespoon for adults
1 cup dried elderberries
1 cup local, raw honey
1/2 cup dried rosebuds
1 cinnamon stick
2 Tbsp. freshly grated ginger
2 Tbsp. dried orange peel
1 Tbsp. cloves
1 Tbsp. rosehips
1 tsp. allspice
fresh lemon juice (2 lemons)
4-6 cups filtered water
- Makes one quart.
Add all ingredients to a medium saucepan (excluding the lemon and honey). Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 40 minutes.
Remove from heat and strain into a mason jar or clear glass container. Squeeze the lemon juice and add the local, raw honey. Mix thoroughly.
Store in a sealed glass container in the refrigerator. The syrup will last 2-3 weeks, depending on ingredients.
Please note, the raw berries, bark, and leaves of the plant are also known to be poisonous and cause stomach problems.
Because of its powerful effects on health, elderberry could potentially interact with several medications. If you currently take any medications, you should have a conversation with your health care provider before using an elderberry supplement or any other elder plant products.
- Ulbricht, C., Basch, E., Cheung, L., Goldberg, H., Hammerness, P., Isaac, R., … Wortley, J. (2014). An evidence-based systematic review of elderberry and elderflower (Sambucus nigra) by the Natural Standard Research Collaboration. Journal of Dietary Supplements, 11(1), 80–120. doi: 10.3109/19390211.2013.859852.
- Committee on Herbal Medicinal Products (HMPC). (2014). Assessment report on Sambucus nigra L., fructus. European Medicines Agency, 12(1), 1–25. Retrieved from https://www.ema.europa.eu/en/documents/herbal-report/final-assessment-report-sambucus-nigra-l-fructus_en.pdf
- He, J., & Giusti, M. M. (2010). Anthocyanins: natural colorants with health-promoting properties. Https://Www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/Pubmed/22129334, 1, 163–187. doi: 10.1146/annurev.food.080708.10075
- Sidor, A., & Gramza-Michałowska, A. (2015). Advanced research on the antioxidant and health benefit of elderberry (Sambucus nigra) in food – a review. Journal of Functional Foods, 18, 941–958. doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jff.2014.07.012
- USDA National Nutrient Database. (2019). Elderberries, raw. U.S. Department of Agriculture. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/171727/nutrients
- Porter, R. S., & Borde, R. F. (2017). A Review of the Antiviral Properties of Black Elder (Sambucus nigra L.) Products. Phytotherapy Research, 31(4), 533–554. doi: 10.1002/ptr.5782
- Zakay-Rones, Z., Thom, E., Wollan, T., & Wadstein, J. (2004). Randomized study of the efficacy and safety of oral elderberry extract in the treatment of influenza A and B virus infections. Journal of International Medical Research, 32(2), 132–140. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15080016