I planted a couple of elderberry bushes in my yard two years ago, so this year should be my bumper crop of delicious sweet purple berries that are powerful immune system boosters. I just have to fight off the birds or net the bushes so I get my share to put up for next winter’s syrup. I can’t wait!
What’s not to love about these little berries, rich in immune-system stimulating vitamins A, B and C and minerals? Research shows elderberry syrup not only prevents colds and flu, but shortens their duration if the bug knocks you down.
The research backs up Grandma’s remedy: In one major study, elderberry syrup relieved flu symptoms for 93% of sufferers in two days and completely cured them in three days. In other research, elderberry was found effective in treating the H1N1 swine flu virus. As you’ll remember from last week’s newsletter, the predominant flu viruses change and mutate frequently, so elderberry’s magic is that it keeps your immune system healthy so you don’t need to worry about which virus is circulating this year—you’re protected.
Probably the most interesting study on elderberry and actually validated influenza viruses came from Israel, where researchers gave patients just three teaspoons of elderberry syrup four times a day for five days. Their flu disappeared four days earlier than those who got a placebo and they had dramatically reduced need for “rescue” drugs like antihistamines, pain relievers and cough medicines, leading researchers to conclude that elderberry is “an efficient, safe and cost-effective treatment for influenza.”
Here’s more that elderberry can do for you:
Slash stress and increase stamina: When Austrian researchers gave volunteers elderberry extract for 10 days and then put them through a series of stress tests, the results were so remarkable they checked them over and over. Elderberry showed an amazingly strong impact against all the physiological indicators of stress, making it effective against physical and psychological stress.
Elderberry contains anthocyanins, among the most potent anti-oxidants known to science, it appears that they help reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol, literally relieving every cell from the effects of stress. It also helps increase physical stamina, probably because your entire body is more relaxed.
Protect your heart: Tufts University researchers report that the anthocyanins in elderberry may prevent artery damage that leads to heart disease by absorbing these disease fighters amazingly quickly – getting into red blood cells within 6 hours – faster than any known antioxidant. It makes the blood less sticky, making it less likely to clot and we think it also actually strengthens blood vessels and helps keep the arteries cleaner overall.
Elderberry’s superior antioxidant capabilities have wide ranging effects against heart disease, the #1 killer that claims the lives of more than 500,000 women each year.
Shore up your immune system: Elderberry anthocyanins boost the immune system by increasing the production of cytokines, unique proteins that signal the immune system to defend your body against infection. Beyond protecting you against colds and flu, scientists say further research may show elderberry can offer protection against all kinds of viruses, from cold sores to HIV.
How to make elderberry syrup
I like to sip a little elderberry syrup or elderberry juice every day to keep my immune system strong. You’re not likely to find elderberries for sale in your supermarket, but elderberry syrup is widely available and you may find dried elderberries or bottled elderberry juice.
Check your seed catalogs. It’s almost a sure bet you can buy elderberry (sambucus nigra) plants and grow your own.
Here’s a simple and inexpensive way to make your own syrup:
- ½-3/4 cup organic dried elderberries -OR – 1½ cups fresh organic elderberries
- 3 cups filtered water
- ¾ cup raw, unfiltered local honey
Place elderberries and water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Mash the elderberries to release any remaining juice. Let it cool to room temperature and strain the mixture through a cheesecloth into a glass bowl or pitcher. Stir in the honey and store it in sterilized glass jars or bottles. It will keep indefinitely in the refrigerator.
A teaspoon once a day is a delicious preventive. If you get a cold or flu, three teaspoons four times a day should do the trick.