Have you heard of the elderberry? The elderberry is an ancient berry tree/bush that has recently been brought back to the attention of the public eye due to its potential as a remedy for cold and flu. Elderberries are native to North America, and commonly grow in both the Northeast and Northwest (but not in the south, boo). In fact, the elderberry tree is actually a relative of the honeysuckle plant.
Tip: Let’s talk about edible wild food and foraging
The berries are quite juicy, and look similar to tiny, dark blueberries. Elderberries that are green or red can be toxic and should never be eaten. Additionally, even blue elderberries should never be consumed raw as they contain a chemical similar to cyanide. Many doctors also recommend that women who are pregnant or breastfeeding stay away from elderberry. If you are pregnant or nursing, consult with your doctor/midwife before consuming elderberries.
Healthy Ingredients in Elderberries
Elderberries contain a wide variety of healthful ingredients that make them a powerhouse of nutrients much like other superfoods. Elderberries contain a large concentration of antioxidants, similar to blueberries. Just one cup of elderberries contains:
- 87 percent of recommended intake for vitamin C
- 17 percent of vitamin A
- 13 percent of iron
- 6 percent of calcium
- 17 percent of vitamin B6
- 12 percent of potassium
- 7 percent of vitamin B1
The Health Benefits of Elderberries
According to popular legend, it was an American sailor in 1899 who first discovered the possible healing benefits of elderberry when he drank port wine flavored with elderberry and his arthritis was relieved.
Some research suggests that elderberries have strong anti-inflammatory and anti-viral properties, and some accounts even suggest that elderberries may also fight cancer thanks to their high number of antioxidants.
A study in 2010 conducted by Gaziosmanpasa University in Turkey found that of all the berries, elderberries had some of the strongest free radical scavenging abilities.
In 2009, researchers from HerbalScience Group in Florida examined the effect of elderberry fruit extract against the H1N1 flu virus in vitro tests. The results showed that elderberry could reduce total flu symptoms by 50 percent and shorten the duration of the virus by up to 3 days. Best results were seen when the elderberry was used within 24 to 48 hours of contracting the virus.
Although no studies have been conducted specifically on normal cold viruses (that I could find), these studies suggest that elderberry may have positive results against these viruses as well.
How to Take Elderberry for Colds and Flu
The University of Maryland states that there are two official “treatments” for cold and flu that contain elderberry combined with other herbal remedies. These are Sinupret and Sambucol. The University of Maryland recommends taking 2 tablets three times a day of Sinupret for bacterial sinusitis and 4 tablespoons of Sambucol a day for three days for colds and flu.
You can also take regular elderberry syrup or steep elderberry tea for similar benefits. If you choose the tea version, steep 3-5 grams of dried elder flower in 1 cup of boiling water for 10 minutes. Strain out the flowers and drink 3 times a day.
If you take regular elderberry syrup, take 1 teaspoon or tablespoon 3-4 times a day for three days from the day you first start to notice symptoms.
Consult with your children’s doctor before giving them elderberry syrup.
Elderberry: Great for Colds and Flu
Elderberries can help provide a general health boost if eaten cooked on a day-to-day basis, and elderberry syrup can be an effective remedy against regular viral infections. Do you keep elderberry in your medicine cabinet? How do you use it?