With the cold and flu being a yearly thing we all want to avoid if possible, it’s great to have a few homemade remedies on hand.
There are a variety of things we love for herbal cough and sinus help, but our very favorite thing is to grow for our herbal medicine cabinet is elderberry.
What Are Elderberries?
Elderberry is a fruit from a plant called Sambucus, it is also commonly known as elderflower or elder. Elderberries are primarily found in the Northern hemisphere and they grow very well naturally here in Missouri.
Elderberries are typically dark blue or black and usually have a sweet and sharp flavor, sometimes almost tart. This is what makes them useful in a variety of ways.
What are the Benefits of Elderberry?
Because elderberries contain vitamins A, B, and C, they naturally stimulate and wake up the immune system. This makes it a great remedy for seasonal illnesses such as colds and the flu. Boosting your immune system when the weather begins to change can actually help you fight off those germs.
Elderberries have health benefits including aiding in digestion, supporting cardiovascular health, enhancing respiratory health, boosting immunity and controlling diabetes. They have even been shown to help in weight loss, preventing cancer and a remedy for constipation.
Traditionally used by Egyptians and Native Americans to treat infections, improve their complexion, and heal their burns, elderberry is and has always been one of the most commonly used medicinal plants in the world. Historically, the flowers and leaves were used for pain relief, inflammation and swelling.
Today there are many reported and scientifically proven benefits of elderberries. It is widely accepted and agreed that elderberries fight cold and flu symptoms, support heart health, fight infections, fight inflammation, fights harmful bacteria, supports and boost the immune system, lessen stress, and much more. Many experts recommend elderberry to be used as a treatment for:
Joint and Muscle Pain
Minor Skin Conditions
HIV and AIDS
With benefits like this, growing Elderberries is a no-brainer for our farm.
High in Nutrients
Elderberries are high in vitamin C containing 6 - 35 mg of vitamin C per 100 grams which accounts for up to 60% of the recommended daily intake. They are high in dietary fiber containing 7 grams of fiber per 100 grams which is also over the recommended daily intake. They are a good source of phenolic acids that help reduce damage from oxidative stress, flavonols, and anthocyanins. The exact nutritional composition of elderberries depends on the plant, ripeness, and environmental and climatic conditions, therefore, servings can vary in nutrition.
How Elderberry Helps with Cold and Flu Symptoms
Black elderberry extracts and flower infusions have been shown to reduce the severity and length of the flu. Commercial preparations of elderberry for the treatment of colds come in various forms including gummies, capsules, lozenges, liquids, and syrups. One study, participants with the flu found that those who took 15 mL of elderberry syrup four times per day showed symptom improvement in two to four days whereas the remaining participants who did not take the syrup took seven to eight days to improve. You can find many of these studies with a quick, online search.
High in Antioxidants Reactive molecules accumulate in the body after they are released during normal metabolism. This can cause oxidative stress and lead to the development of diseases like type 2 diabetes and cancer. Antioxidants are natural components of foods that are able to remove these reactive molecules and research suggests that consuming high amounts of antioxidants may help prevent chronic disease.
Helps with Heart Health Studies have shown that elderberries may reduce the level of fat in the blood and decrease cholesterol. Containing high amounts of anthocyanins, this gives elderberries the benefits of reducing the risk of heart disease. Elderberry can also increase insulin secretion and improve blood sugar levels. Given that type 2 diabetes is a major risk factor for heart and vascular disease, elderberries can help prevent these conditions.
Ways to Consume Elderberries
Elderberries must be cooked properly to ensure they are safe to consume. Eating the berries or leaves raw can cause stomach upset.
There are many ways to reap the health benefits of elderberries AND get to enjoy their delicious flavor at the same time. Some of the ways elderberries can be used include:
Our Favorite Way to Use Elderberry
After growing large quantities of our own elderberries and quite a bit of research, and trial and error; we believe we have found the best elderberry syrup recipe that is the easiest and most delicious way to reap all the amazing health benefits locked up inside this tiny berry.
After preparing this syrup you can add a small amount of it to flavor tea or kombucha. We ramp up the immune boosting properties by adding beneficial herbs and spices.
What are the side effects of elderberry syrup?
The leaves, stems, raw and unripe berries, and other plant parts of the elder tree contain a toxic substance. If elderberry is not properly prepared, it may cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. It would likely take larger quantities of the berries or stems to have this impact. But we do not recommend eating any elderberry parts raw.
Our DIY syrup kit is ready to cook and the finished syrup will cause none of the dangers of the raw berries, stems or leaves.
Why Make Your Own Elderberry Syrup?
There are many reasons to make your own elderberry syrup. Some of the most common reasons are:
You will save some money verses purchasing the pre-made syrups in the health food stores or online. Buying at the stores can easily cost over $15.00 for just a small, 4 ounce bottle. Our recipe will make a ½ pint for only $8.00.
You have control over the ingredients you use.
You can keep the packets on the shelf until you really need them; then in just a few minutes have the finished product.
It's so easy to do!
If you do not wish to make your own syrup, we sell a shelf-stable version that will last 1-2 years unopened.
Elderberry Syrup Alternatives
Not a fan of taking elderberry syrup? That’s OK! There are many other ways to get all the health benefits of elderberry without having to take it in a syrup.
Many people find that turning their elderberry syrup into elderberry gummies is a delicious and fun treat (especially for kids). All you need is some gelatin and fun little molds and you’re set!
How Long Does Elderberry Syrup Last?
Once prepared, our elderberry syrup should last in the refrigerator for 1-2 months. It’s possible for it to last even longer with the raw honey and lemon juice, but you’ll want to keep an eye on it for any signs of mold and discard immediately if you find any.
Can You Take Elderberry Syrup Daily?
Yes! Because elderberry is an immune system “supporter” it’s fine to take a small amount daily. If you’re currently fighting off a virus you’ll want to take a larger dose, more frequently until symptoms are gone. (See dosing recommendations below.)
How Much Elderberry Syrup Should I Take?
Wondering what is the dosage of elderberry syrup? Our preferred dosage for daily immune support during cold and flu season is as follows:
Adults take 1 teaspoon daily.
Kids (6-12 years old) take 1 teaspoon daily.
Kids (2-5 years old) take ½ teaspoon daily.
Our preferred dosage when fighting off illness (until symptoms subside) is as follows:
Adults take 1 teaspoon up to 1 Tablespoon every 3 hours.
Kids (6-12 years old) take 1 teaspoon every 3 hours.
Kids (2-5 years old) take ½ teaspoon every 3 hours.
Not recommended for kids 2 years old and under if honey is used. You can substitute other sweeteners for the honey if desired. See below.
Substitutions for Honey in Elderberry Syrup
For an elderberry syrup recipe that’s safe for children under 2 years old, you’ll want to omit the honey and use one of the following substitutes:
However you decide to take your elderberry syrup, it is an excellent habit to get into year round!