Elderberries have a long tradition and also empirical evidence to support their use for keeping our immune systems primed for the upcoming cold and flu season. We are fast approaching the time when we will be sharing confined air with co-workers, family, and snotty nosed children – bless them. So, we need to get our bodies ready for the onslaught. One way to do so is to keep a bottle of elderberry syrup in the frig and swig about a teaspoon a day during the next several months.
What they look like – Elderberries are the fruit of the flowering plant known as Sambucus, more commonly referred to as elder or elderflower. The scientific name of the most common variety, from which we get the majority of our elderberries, is Sambucus nigra. You generally find elderberries in the Northern hemisphere, particularly in Europe and North America. You can wildcraft the berries with permission of the landowner, cultivate them yourself or purchase them dried from a health food store or your friendly neighborhood herbalist. The berries are black or very dark blue and have a tart flavor which makes them ideal for desserts, syrups, jams, jellies, spreads, and as the base for various adult beverages.
Herbal actions: Elderberries have quite a few medicinal benefits for our bodies for this time of year in particular. Recent research suggests that elderberries boost our immune system by increasing cytokine production, offering antioxidants, and inhibit viral infections. Let’s break this down a little. Cytokines are small chemical agents in our body that monitor potential infections and alert our immune system to respond. Elderberries are also a great source for antioxidants. Antioxidants are important for scooping up radical molecules in the body which will attach themselves to other molecules and create havoc. Finally, elderberries show potential in suppressing or inhibiting viral infection. Some early laboratory testing has shown that elderberries have seem to coat the virus and render them useless. Please note these early studies have not reached human trials. So in sum and Faithspeak, elderberries are super great at keeping us healthy over the coming cold and flus season by bolstering our immune system, keeping infections at bay and if we do happen to get sick, shortening the length of the sickness.
Making Elderberry Syrup: Making the syrup is relatively easy and there are a plethora of recipes online. When I made elderberry syrup yesterday, I used a ratio of 1 dried cup of elderberries to 3 cups of filtered water. So here are some basic instructions:
Pour 3 cups of water into a medium saucepan and 1 cup) of dried elderberries along with herbs of your choice – echinacea, ginger, cinnamon, cloves. Bring to a boil and then cover and reduce to simmer for about 45 minutes to an hour until the liquid has reduced by almost half. Remove from heat and cool enough to handle. Pour the mixture through a mesh strainer. Mash the berries with a flat spoon. Discard the elderberries and let the liquid cool. Add sweetener of your choice to taste. Store in the refrigerator and take one teaspoon a day to increase immunity.