While there are many herbs to help treat cold and flu symptoms and to shorten the duration of an illness, one deserves special attention:
Elderberry (Sambuccus nigra) is Mother Nature’s version of the flu shot and may actually help prevent you from contracting the virus. Elderberry syrup is Europe’s most esteemed formula for colds, flu, and upper respiratory infections.
Just how does elderberry keep the cold and flu at bay?
Flu viruses are primitive organisms that need the body’s cells as a host to replicate themselves. They puncture the cell walls with little enzyme-coated spikes called hemaglutinin and so break into the cell. Research has shown that elderberry has chemical compounds that disarm these spikes and prevent the virus from entering the respiratory cells thereby working in a prophylactic way.
Growing up in Germany, my mother got us through the winter by making sure we got our daily dose of elderberry Syrup. (The adults, on the other hand, preferred a glass of elderberry wine!) She would make many batches of the syrup and I have kept up with this tradition in my family as well.
In recent years, Elderberry syrup has been gaining in popularity here in the U.S. too and can be found in many health food stores. But why spent a lot of money, if it is so easy and fun to make in your own kitchen. All you need is:
½ cup of dried Elderberries
3 cups of spring water
½ -1 cup of honey *
In a saucepan, bring the elderberries and water to a boil. Turn down the heat, cover and let simmer for 30 to 4o minutes. Strain the liquid, making sure you mash the berries in order to get every drop of the decoction. Add the honey to the warm liquid and fill in a glass bottle. The syrup will keep in the fridge for 3 months. Take 1-3 tbsp per day for as a preventative remedy.
Alternatively, elderberries can be taken as a tincture which is also very easy to make. Important is to start the tincture early since it takes six to eight weeks before it is ready for use.
2 cups dried Elderberries
100 proof or higher alcohol (I prefer vodka)
Quart size Mason jar with tight fitting lid
Place the dried berries in the jar and add enough alcohol to cover the berries. Macerate the berries until they are quite soft and the liquid is dark purple. Finish by adding enough alcohol to fill the quart jar until an inch from the top. Place the lid on the jar and label it with name of herb and date. Gently shake contents and keep in a dark cabinet for six to eight weeks. Strain the alcohol from the berries using a cheese cloth. Fill the liquid into tincture bottles, label them and keep them in a cool dry place.
Take one dropper full 3 – times per day to give your immune system a boost!
Elderberries are safe and can be taken over extended period of time, however due to the use of honey, refrain from giving the syrup to children under the age of 1