Instead of reaching for conventional cold and flu medicine this winter, try using something more holistic. Enter the powerful herbal elixir of choice for centuries: elderberry syrup.
Not only does elderberry syrup taste delicious, (kids even like the stuff!) it packs powerful healing properties and can be made in your own kitchen.
What are Elderberries?
Black Elderberries, or Sambucus nigra, are small berries that come from the European elder tree, native to Europe and North America. The tart, bluish-purple berries and cream-colored flowers of the tree have been used for centuries for topical wound healing and to treat illnesses such as the cold and flu.
In fact, the potent medicinal powers gave the elder tree the nickname of the “country people’s medicine chest” for centuries.
Although black elderberries can be consumed raw, the Practical Herbalist notes that "they should to be processed into syrup, jam, vinegar, or tincture before use to prevent an upset stomach. Avoid dwarf elder (Sambucus ebulus), which grows berries that can be toxic."
Health Benefits of Elderberry Syrup
Elderberry has been widely studied due to its reported antioxidant, antiviral, antidiabetic, anti-inflammatory, and immune-modulating, as well as antidepressant properties.
So much of elderberry’s powerful medicinal properties and healing benefits are due to its high number of antioxidants, including anthocyanins, which give the berries the rich blue-violet color.
According to the University of Maryland medical center, "elderberry outranks blueberries, cranberries, goji berries, and blackberries in terms of total flavonoid content. Consuming foods rich in these flavonoid anthocyanins is thought to prevent cardiovascular disease and cancer, while also boosting brain function."
Many symptoms of the cold and flu can be eased and treated with this powerful little berry. Two randomized, double blind, placebo-controlled studies demonstrate the elderberry extract, Sambucol, "effectively inhibits both influenza A and B strains when given orally to patients in the first 48 hours of flu-like symptoms."
Another study showed a beneficial effect on severity and duration of cold and flu-like symptoms when participants consumed elderberry extract lozenges.
Consuming elderberry may also shorten cold duration and symptoms in air travelers. A recent study published in the journal Nutrients showed that travelers using elderberry for ten days before travel until five days after arriving overseas experienced a two day shorter duration of the cold and a reduction in cold and flu-like symptoms.
Along with being antioxidant superstars, elderberries also contain a variety of nutrients including vitamins A, C, and E and trace minerals such as copper, zinc, iron, potassium, calcium, and magnesium.
What is Elderberry Syrup Used For?
Elderberry syrup can be taken during cold and flu season everyday to boost the immune system. According to the Practical Herbalist, "elder constituents do not cling to the tissue, which means daily treatment is not only safe but also necessary to block viruses." Consuming elderberry "doesn’t overtax the immune system or cause imbalances in the digestive tract that allow yeast infections to take hold, either, making it safe for daily consumption.”
Elderberry syrup can be used for flus, cough, cold, sinus infections, fevers, skin inflammation, allergies, ear and throat infections, and to boost a weak immune system.
Our Favorite Brands of Elderberry Syrup
If making elderberry syrup at home sounds like a chore, head online or to your local health food store to purchase a bottle. We prefer organic elderberry syrup that hasn’t been processed with any additives. Elderberry syrup is relatively inexpensive and one bottle should last throughout cold and flu season.
1. Nature’s Way Original Sambucus Elderberry
This elderberry syrup from Nature’s Way is made from flavonoid-rich black elderberries that have been extracted with a gentle, solvent-free process. Nature’s Way syrup is certified gluten-free, kosher, and vegetarian, plus a tasty way to boost the immune system for both adults and children.
2. Gaia Herbs Black Elderberry Syrup
Gaia Herbs elderberry syrup has a delicious, sweet flavor and also includes natural vitamin C thanks to the addition of acerola cherries. Gaia uses certified organic European black elderberries to create a juice concentrate that provides the equivalent of 14,500 milligrams of fresh elderberries per serving. Their syrup contains no artificial flavors or colors, no preservatives, and no high fructose corn syrup.
3. Maine Medicinals AnthoImmune Elderberry Syrup
This organic elderberry syrup is on the pricier side, but we promise its quality and flavor is worth the splurge. Maine Medicinals notes that its “proprietary formula begins with growing exceptional, antioxidant rich elderberries and elderflowers on our certified organic farm in Dresden, Maine. Flowers and berries are harvested at their peak, and processed immediately to capture and preserve the valuable phytonutrients available in the raw fruit and flowers.”
The syrup is not only delicious (for both kids and adults!) but filled with immune-boosting powers as well.
Uses for Elderberry Syrup
Elderberry syrup is not only a medicinal powerhouse but a secret ingredient in the kitchen too. Use this sweet syrup to reap a dose of antioxidants and immune system support on:
-Pancakes and waffles
-Drizzled on oatmeal and overnight oatmeal
-Add to tea
-Drizzle on sautéed apples
-Stir into mixed drinks and cocktails
-Stirred into homemade salad dressings
-Marinades for chicken or salmon
How to Make Elderberry Syrup
Making elderberry syrup in your own kitchen is a rewarding and simple task. All you'll need are a few ingredients and optional spices to give the syrup a hint of warming flavor.
To prolong shelf life of elderberry syrup, add in a splash of brandy.
- Cook Time
- Prep Time
- 2 TeaspoonsServings
- 1 cup dried elderberries
- 4 cups distilled water
- 2-3 cinnamon sticks
- 1- inch nob fresh ginger
- 1 tsp cloves
- 1 cup raw and local honey
- Simmer dried berries in water with spices until liquid is reduced to two cups, which should take 30-45 minutes.
- Strain liquid mixture and discard or compost berries, ginger, cinnamon sticks, and cloves. Make sure to press the berries through the strainer firmly to extract any remaining liquid.
- Allow mixture to cool slightly before stirring in raw honey.
- Store in an airtight glass jar in the refrigerator for up to four months.