As we approach the new school year and continue to fight through the COVID-19 pandemic, we’re looking for natural ways to strengthen our immune systems. Over-the-counter syrups laden with sugar and colored dyes are being replaced with nature’s sweet and earthly syrups as first-line defense and treatments—namely from a dark-purple berry from the elder tree.
Elderberry (Sambucus nigra) doesn’t have loads of scientific research supporting its use for immune support. Still, its centuries of anecdotal evidence are enough for us to make it a must-have antiviral herb. In this article, we’re diving into the top immune-boosting benefits of elderberry and sharing our favorite products for you and your family.
- Galactagogue (milk production)
- Sudorific (sweating)
What are elderberries?
Elderberries come from the Sambucus tree variety. The berries and flowers from the black elder tree or the Sambucus nigra are edible, but the berries must be cooked before consumption. If elderberries are eaten uncooked, they can be toxic and cause nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting.
Historical Use of Elderberry
Elderberry extract has been used medicinally for centuries to boost immunity, fight infections, and support skin health. Ancient Egyptians used elderberries to improve skin complexion and heal burns and scars. Many Native American nations have extensive knowledge on the uses of elderberry for fever, sores, eczema, and as a tonic, insecticide, and herbicide. Hippocrates (460-370 BC) even noted elderberry’s medicinal properties. In folk medicine, dried elderberries were used for cough, bronchitis, cold, fever, flu, inflammation, and more!
Benefits of Elderberry
Cold and Flu Relief
Elderberries are a powerhouse when it comes to general immune system boosting. Overflowing with anthocyanins, chemical compounds known for their immunostimulant effects, research shows that elderberry extracts can act as a safe, cost-effective, and efficient treatment for major colds and flu symptoms.
Several studies have shown that the flavonoids in elderberry extract bind to both H1N1 and H5N1 influenza viruses. One randomized study looked at elder extracts’ effectiveness in mitigating flu-like symptoms. Researchers split participants into two groups: one group was given four doses of 175 mg proprietary elderberry extract daily, while the other group received a placebo daily for two days. The elderberry group showed significant improvement in most flu symptoms, while the placebo group showed no improvement or an increase in symptom severity.
The Journal of International Medical Research published a study that found that when elderberry extract is used within the first 48 hours of onset symptoms, the flu’s duration and symptoms are shortened by an average of 4 days!
Sinus Infection Aid
A sinus infection means inflamed nasal cavities. Elderberry’s antiviral, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties offer promise as an effective natural remedy for treating sinus issues.
One study conducted by the Institute of Complementary Medicine’s Department of Internal Medicine at the University Hospital in Switzerland looked at the use of Sinupret, a proprietary blend containing elderberry flowers, to treat bacterial sinusitis. The researchers combined Sinupret with an antibiotic and a decongestant. The results found that those who took the combination did better than those who did not take Sinupret at all.
Beyond treating cold and flu symptoms, elderberries are known to be an effective herbal allergy remedy. Allergies are typically an overreaction of the immune system and chronic inflammation. Elderberry’s potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties can help boost immunity and calm inflammation for natural allergy relief.
Lowers Blood Sugar
Elderflower and elderberry have been historically used to treat diabetes. Research shows that elder extracts encourage glucose metabolism and insulin secretion, helping to reduce blood sugar levels.
The Journal of Nutrition published research that looked at black elderberry’s insulin-like and insulin-releasing actions. The study found that elder extract significantly increased glucose oxidation, glucose transport, and glycogenesis—the process by which excess sugar is cleared out of the bloodstream.
One animal study published in the International Journal of Molecular Science suggests that elderberries contain bioactive compounds that can be used for formulations that manage diabetes. The study found that elderberry extracts lower insulin resistance in rats with type 2 diabetes.
Supports Heart Health
Elderberry may also support healthy heart markers and blood vessels. Research has shown that a diet high in anthocyanins can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
While we learned that elderberries can have positive effects on blood sugar, more research needs to be done to see its effectiveness on heart health.
DIY Elderberry Recipes
- 1/2 cup of dried elderberries
- Three cups of water
- One cup of raw honey
- 2/3 cup of apple cider vinegar
- Boil the elderberries in the water for half an hour.
- After that, mash the boiled elderberries and strain the extract in a clean bowl with a strainer.
- Add raw honey and apple cider vinegar to the elderberry extract for the syrup.
- When the syrup is ready, stir well and store it in a clean glass bottle.
- The shelf life of the syrup is two months. So, finish your syrup in time and make a fresh batch for future use.
You can take elderberry juice as is or mix it in water to make sherbet of the same. Daily adults can take a tablespoon of the syrup and kids a teaspoon. Increase the dosage during illness, flu, and symptoms of allergies. However, you can consume the syrup regularly to prevent allergies as well.
- 3/4 cup dried elderberries
- 3 cups water
- 1 teaspoon dried cinnamon or 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 teaspoon dried cloves or 4 whole cloves or 1 drop clove essential oil
- 1 tablespoon fresh ginger or 1 teaspoon dried ginger or 1 drop ginger essential oil
- 1 cup raw honey
- In a large pot, bring the elderberries, water, cinnamon, cloves, and ginger to a boil.
- Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer until the liquid has reduced by half, about 40-45 minutes.
- Allow the liquid to cool, and then drain the liquid using a fine mesh strainer or cheese cloth
- Press all liquid out of the berries using the back of a wooden spoon.
- Add the raw honey and mix well.
- Store in an airtight glass container in the refrigerator for up to two months.