Elderberry has become one of my very favorite plants on the planet. It’s not particularly pretty or anything, but the health benefits we’ve gotten from it are enormous!
What is elderberry?
Also known as Sambucus Nigra and Sambucus Canadensis, it’s a bushy plant that produces large clusters of white flowers in the early summer which turn into tiny dark black berries at the end of the summer. It grows throughout North America and Europe and thrives in ditches and along fence lines and roadsides.
Elderberries are one of the highest anthocyanin and antioxidant-rich foods known to man! This means they have amazing anti-inflammatory and antiviral properties! They are high in vitamins A and C, and are reputedly one of the best cold and flu fighting plants out there.
Elderberries have been used for centuries for immune support!
Just google “elderberry folklore” and you’ll get a whole host of traditional beliefs and folk legends about the elder tree. It’s fascinating how much it’s been used, revered, and feared throughout history! Mostly it’s been known as a plant of protection, but also of death (when not respected properly). Supposedly even Hippocrates and Pliny the Elder mentioned it’s healing powers.
Modern science still upholds elderberries as one of the most powerful plants known to man. Studies have shown them to be very effective in treating particularly Influenza A and B and in shortening the duration of the virus by several days. Elderberries are also great support for common colds, coughs, bronchitis, sore throats, other bacterial and viral infections, possibly certain heart troubles, and even bladder infections and UTIs.⠀
Here’s something I read: “Studies have found that elderberry eases flu symptoms like fever, headache, sore throat, fatigue, cough, and body aches. The benefits seem to be greatest when started within 24 to 48 hours after the symptoms begin. One study found that elderberry could cut the duration of flu symptoms by more than 50%.” (source)
We mix our elderberry syrup into juice to make it easier to dose and we each drink a small glass once a day. Our mixture usually contains organic apple juice, organic black cherry or grape juice, a bit of kombucha (whatever we have on hand), and 1/2 cup of elderberry syrup in a half gallon container.
I was blessed to find a TON of these berries growing wild near us, but if you didn’t get that chance you can purchase the dried organic berries online (I’ve found them on Amazon) for a fraction of the cost of the syrup at most health food stores.
Let me tell you how I make my elderberry syrup!
Black Elderberry & Lemon Syrup
- 2 cups organic dried, frozen or fresh elderberries (if using fresh please be sure all the stems have been removed as they are slightly toxic).
- 8 cups filtered water
- 1 cup lemon juice
- 1 cup raw local honey
Put the elderberries and water in a medium pot on the stove on low heat. Get it to a gentle simmer and then let simmer for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and strain into a tall glass bowl.
Let the juice cool slightly. While still barely warm add in the honey and lemon. You want it just warm enough to melt the honey without heating your honey too much and altering beneficial bacteria and enzymes in the honey. Stir until all combined. It will be very runny (I loosely call it a “syrup” as it is more of a juice. You could certainly add more honey to make it more syrup-y, but since we are adding ours to juice anyway I prefer to not sweeten it too much).
This should make about 4-5 16 oz jars. I like to can my juice in a water bath, but you could also freeze it (leave space in your jar so it doesn’t burst in your freezer!) or just refrigerate it. If you refrigerate you’ll need to use it up fairly fast so it doesn’t grow mold on top.
The recommended dosage for elderberry is a little ambiguous on the web, but average for a daily maintenance dose seems to be about 2 tsp for adults, 1 tsp for children once a day. When you are sick it’s recommended to take the same dose as normal, but more frequently, like every 3-4 hours.
**Just a note: Never consume raw elderberries or any part of the plant (stems, leaves… there’s debate on the flowers since they can be good for you, but, I wouldn’t harvest them yourself unless you know how!). These contain cyanide and can be toxic.
You can read more about elderberry in my post 15 Powerful and Natural Supports for Boosting Your Immune System!