Elderberry is a well-known anti-flu herb, popular for its ability to prevent the flu bug and to quicken recovery time once the bug has taken hold. Elderberry does not simply stimulate the immune system like Echinacea, which can be harmful in auto-immune conditions and over time, can wear down the immune system. Rather, it modulates the immune system to more appropriately respond to various circumstances. Elder acts more as a messenger, helping the body to know when to fight and when to rest. It also disarms the virus and helps the body flush it quicker, while strengthening the mucus membranes and supporting the body’s natural fever mechanism. Modern research has shown that the elder berry can both prevent and shorten the duration of cold and flu viruses. It has been shown to be effective against at least fourteen strains of flu as well as Herpes Simplex virus I & II, HIV, and Epstein-Barr. AND it is incredibly safe, even for an infant. AND it tastes great!
Elder has long been considered a tonic herb, encouraging overall health and protecting the body from the effects of aging through its anti-oxidant powers. As a scavenger of free-radicals, it provides cellular protection from oxidative damage, increasing resistance to vascular disease and cancer.
Elder also possesses stress-reducing abilities. It has a gentle effect on the nervous system, calming upset nerves and engendering a sense of peace. Together, the anti-oxidant and nervine properties make elderberry a useful ally in reducing LDL cholesterol and atherosclerosis.
As a diuretic, Elder replenishes the body’s potassium supply and acts as a urinary disinfectant. It tones the mucus linings of the body, helping to prevent infection in the urinary tract as well as the respiratory tract. The berries are a mild laxative.
Elder can be useful in allergies and because of its ability to open the bronchioles and improve the flow of blood and oxygen to the lungs. This is another way that it can be helpful in treating symptoms of colds and flus. How convenient that the berries ripen in late summer, just in time for us to put up our elderberry syrup before for cold and flu season!
For exhaustion, elderberry’s effect compares to that of adaptogens–a subtle, non-stimulating lift of energy. People with auto-immune disorders would do well to become acquainted with Elder for its immune-modulating effects. It works slowly to restore the adrenals. Empirical data suggests that it can be helpful in chronic fatigue and adrenal exhaustion.
Clearly a plant with many gifts, elderberry is a must-have for any garden. It is said that elder teaches other plants how to grow, helping your garden as well as your family. It prefers full to part sun and moist soil. Sambucus canadensis is the native variety, but any variety with black berries can be used. You can use the flowers and berries in a tea or tincture, but a very popular way to use elderberry as a preventative is to make a syrup. This not only tastes great, but it is also something that you can make once and keep in your refrigerator for several months, so that it is always on-hand when you need it. Here’s my standard recipe for elderberry syrup. You can find dried elderberry at www.mountainroseherbs.com
8 Tbsp. dried elder berry
4 tbsp. dried elder flower
4 tsp. dried ginger
4 tsp. cinnamon chips
5 cups filtered water
1) Add herbs and water to pot. Mark the water level and simmer until liquid is reduced by ½.
2) Strain the herb material, reserving the liquid
3) Add 3 cups honey to reserved liquid
4) Use funnel to pour syrup into clean bottles. Label and refrigerate.
Makes 4 8oz bottles