Elderberry syrup is the best tasting natural medicine my family has ever had. But does it work? What evidence is there that shows it prevents or reduces the infection of a common cold or influenza? Dig into the research with me as I answer these questions!
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I love finding natural remedies that work.
One of my favorite things we incorporated was natural tooth care using tooth oil and powder, it reversed our kid’s cavities and helped strengthen our enamel.
Another natural remedy that we use often is arnica gel. It has taken away bumps, bruises, and muscle pain quickly and what seems magically.
But what about flu season?
When taking a natural approach to preventing or shortening the symptoms, does elderberry really work?
In this article I cover many of these questions with a research based approach. You don’t have to take my word for it, let’s read the science!
What is in elderberries?
Elderberries (Sambucus nigra) contain many nutrients and beneficial properties. The most notable concentration is Vitamin C. One cup of elderberries contains 52.2mg.1
Elderberries contain five known probiotic strains: 2
- Lactobacillus plantarum
- L. casei
- L. rhamnosus
- L. fermentum
- Saccharomyces boulardii
Does elderberry syrup actually help when you’re sick?
Nowadays, there are many claims on the internet about natural alternatives to western medicine. But outside of word of mouth or personal experiences, is there scientific evidence supporting these claims?
What are the health benefits of elderberries?
Let’s take a look at a few studies.
In the first study I found, it revealed that elderberries are beneficial when used as a medicine. It discussed that elderberries contain antioxidant, antimicrobial, and prebiotic properties. Findings showed that elderberry syrup is more readily absorbed by the stomach and intestines.2
Further, another study revealed that elderberry extract has antimicrobial activity against bacteria and influenza viruses! It showed that it is an effective approach against three Gram-positive bacteria and one Gram-negative bacteria that causes infections in the respiratory system. It also showed effective against two different strains of the influenza virus.3
A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study was conducted on sixty people with symptoms of the flu. The study used oral elderberry extract to determine if it was safe and effective against influenza A and B infections. The patients were given 15 ml of elderberry or placebo syrup four times a day. Those taking the elderberry syrup had a relief in symptoms four days earlier than those receiving the placebo.4
Another larger study showed that elderberry substantially reduced upper respiratory symptoms. It further concluded that it is: “a potentially safer alternative to prescription drugs for routine cases of the common cold and influenza.”5
After reading all these studies, it seems the evidence points to elderberries being a powerful therapeutic option for flu and common colds!
Is elderberry dangerous to take because of COVID?
Some suggest that elderberry is risky because of it’s ability to overstimulate the immune system and cause a cytokine storm.
What is a cytokine storm?
It is when an individual’s immune system responds too aggressively to an infection, which in turn can cause organ damage.
The research I read could not prove this claim to be true. However, studies have suggested that more research is required to make a conclusive decision about the effects elderberry has on the COVID virus.6,7
Should you buy or make your own elderberry syrup?
First of all, making your own elderberry syrup is so EASY! Besides knowing exactly what is going into your body, you also get to control how sweet it is by reducing or increasing the sweetener (local raw honey).
Secondly, the cost. Making your own elderberry is so cost effective and not to mention, you will likely already have most of the ingredients in your pantry. You can even forage or grow your own berries and dry them, making this an incredibly inexpensive medicine to combat flu and cold season!
However, if you are buying your elderberries and want a suggestion, I recommend Mountain Rose Herbs because their products are organic and very affordable.
What is in elderberry syrup?
- Elderberries of course! I recommend getting organic if you are not foraging them yourself.
- Ginger – organic again is best. I use the powder form but you can use fresh ginger and grate it.
- Cinnamon – organic powder.
- Clove – whole or powder, and definitely organic again!
- Honey – Raw and local is best because it will contain the antimicrobial properties that are otherwise lost when introduced to heat.
Dosing elderberry syrup
- Adults: 1 Tablespoon or 15 ml – 4 times a day if actively sick, otherwise just once daily for preventative measures.4
- Children: 1 teaspoon or 5 ml – up to 4 times a day if actively sick, otherwise just once daily for preventative measures.
- It is important to note that you should not give this to children under the age of one since the recipe calls for raw honey. Raw honey may cause botulism in babies.
*As always, do extended research, consult your health care provider, and use caution when reading things on the internet. Not everything works for everyone and not everything should be tried on everyone. Just because it works for our household doesn’t mean it will be the exact same for yours.
Storing elderberry syrup
- Keep stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks when using daily.
- Keep in the freezer for up to four months. You can freeze in ice trays or silicone trays. This makes it easy for pulling out what you need, when you need it.
- Whisk the ingredients together and bring it to a boil.
- Once it has reached a boil, reduce the heat to low and allow it to simmer for about 45 minutes.
- After simmering the liquid will have reduced by about half.
- Strain the juice into a quart mason jar, using a mesh metal strainer.
- Gently mash the berries in the strainer to release the juices in them while catching it your container.
- Allow the juice to come down to room temperature. This takes at least an hour.
- Once at room temperature, add 1 cup Honey to the juice and combine thoroughly. *Do not rush to add the honey while it is hot or it will destroy the good microbes in the honey.
- It is ready to serve, be sure to store it in the refrigerator.
- Adults: 1 Tablespoon up to 4 times a day if actively sick, otherwise just once daily for preventative measures.
- Children: 1 teaspoon – up to 4 times a day if actively sick, otherwise just once daily for preventative measures.
- Keep stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks when using daily.
- Keep in the freezer in a for up to four months. You can freeze in ice trays or silicone trays just to name a few. This makes it easy for pulling out what you need.
What are your thoughts on elderberry syrup? Does it help your family during the cold and flu season? Let me know in the comments below!
- Haș, Ioana Mariana et al. “Bioactive Potential of Elderberry (Sambucus nigra L.): Antioxidant, Antimicrobial Activity, Bioaccessibility and Prebiotic Potential.” Molecules (Basel, Switzerland) vol. 28,7 3099. 30 Mar. 2023, doi:10.3390/molecules28073099
- Krawitz, Christian et al. “Inhibitory activity of a standardized elderberry liquid extract against clinically-relevant human respiratory bacterial pathogens and influenza A and B viruses.” BMC complementary and alternative medicine vol. 11 16. 25 Feb. 2011, doi:10.1186/1472-6882-11-16
- Zakay-Rones, Z et al. “Randomized study of the efficacy and safety of oral elderberry extract in the treatment of influenza A and B virus infections.” The Journal of international medical research vol. 32,2 (2004): 132-40. doi:10.1177/147323000403200205
- Hawkins, Jessie et al. “Black elderberry (Sambucus nigra) supplementation effectively treats upper respiratory symptoms: A meta-analysis of randomized, controlled clinical trials.” Complementary therapies in medicine vol. 42 (2019): 361-365. doi:10.1016/j.ctim.2018.12.004
- Asgary, Sedigheh, and Alireza Pouramini. “The Pros and Cons of Using Elderberry (Sambucus nigra) for Prevention and Treatment of COVID-19.” Advanced biomedical research vol. 11 96. 31 Oct. 2022, doi:10.4103/abr.abr_146_21
- Wieland, L Susan et al. “Elderberry for prevention and treatment of viral respiratory illnesses: a systematic review.” BMC complementary medicine and therapies vol. 21,1 112. 7 Apr. 2021, doi:10.1186/s12906-021-03283-5
My recipe is adapted from wellnessmama.com.