The elderberry and flowers are used to make wines, cordials, marmalades, jelly, syrups and medicinals. This wonderful fruit grows in many regions of North America, Europe, Asia and North Africa. The most commonly used variety is the European elderberry (Sambucus nigra), as it offers the most health benefits and is also the only variety considered to be non-toxic, even when raw.
Studies have found that elderberry helps to ease flu symptoms such as fever, headache, sore throat, fatigue, cough and body aches. The greatest benefit is achieved when elderberry is started within 24 to 48 hours of the symptoms. One study found that elderberry could cut the duration of flu symptoms by more than 50%.
Elderberries contain vitamin A, C, D, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium, sodium, zinc, copper and selenium. They also contain flavonoids such as quercetin, which accounts for the therapeutic action of the flowers and berries.
The elderberry has strong antiviral effects. It is recommended as a daily tonic throughout the cold and flu season. It can also be used as a tonic for arthritis and rheumatism.
Elderberries contain the highest levels of anthocyanins of any fruit, almost 5 times higher than blueberries. Anthocyanins are powerful antioxidants which have immune stimulating properties.
Research shows that elderberry possess significantly more antioxidant capacity than vitamin C and vitamin E.
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, evidence suggests that elderberry may decrease swelling in mucous membranes, such as the sinuses, and relieve nasal congestion.
Conditions that benefit from elderberry use
Bacterial and viral infections
Coughs, colds and flu
Nasal and chest congestion
Do not harvest your own elderberry, unless you know it is the Sambucus nigra variety as some varieties of elderberry are toxic.
Do not harvest elderberries from along roadsides or in the wild as they may be contaminated with herbicides and pesticides.
If you have any allergies to honeysuckle, you should avoid elderberries.
Pregnant and breastfeeding women should not take elderberry.
If you have an autoimmune disease, such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus, you should ask your doctor before taking elderberry, as it may stimulate the immune system.
Elderberry acts as a diuretic.
May lower blood sugar levels.
Has laxative properties.
Including elderberry in your diet
Don’t be scared off by the cautions for elderberry. Just be sure you are buying your elderberry from a reliable source. You can purchase ready-made elderberry syrups, tinctures, jelly and lozenges in many markets and online. With all its nutritional and health benefits, elderberry is a food worth including in your diet.
If you want to try your hand at making your own elderberry syrup, here is a simple recipe that I make frequently. This syrup can be enjoyed with pancakes, hot oatmeal, tea, ice cream, or on toast.
Elderberry Herb Syrup
1/3 cup dried black elderberries
1-3/4 cups of water
1 Tbsp. fresh ginger root
1/2 tsp. cinnamon powder
1/4 tsp. clove powder
1/2 cup raw honey
Pour water into medium saucepan and add dried elderberries, ginger, cinnamon and clove.
Bring to a boil and then cover, reduce temperature and simmer until the liquid has reduced by half.
Remove from heat and let cool to lukewarm. Mash the berries to release any remaining juice. Pour through a strainer into a glass jar or bowl. Discard the elderberries.
Add 1/2 cup of honey and stir well.
Pour the syrup into a jar.
Label, date and store in the fridge. Elderberry syrup will keep for 2-3 months in the refrigerator.
You can take it daily for its immune boosting properties.
IMPORTANT NOTE: DO NOT GIVE HONEY TO CHILDREN UNDER THE AGE OF ONE. Honey can contain spores that could lead to botulism in the very young until they have built up enough beneficial bacteria in their digestive tract to deal with the spores.
Come of the ingredients used in this recipe include: