Tis the season of runny noses, high fevers, ear infections, and stomach viruses. There is an old saying that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. We do a lot in this household to prevent getting sick, and it usually works out pretty well for us. (Even when illness strikes it is usually mild. Probiotics, cod liver oil, and fermented foods have been very beneficial for my family). Homeopathy has been a life saver for us as well, and I am so glad I took a class in it last fall.
But fermented foods and homeopathy is not for everyone. It is not something I jumped into right away. There are other ways to boost your immune system that are not weird or complicated.
I started making elderberry syrup a few years ago. Though you can take it every day as an immune booster, I can’t say I made Elderberry Syrup consistently. When I know a nasty bug is “going around”, I usually make it and start giving it to my family.
This is not the only immune booster my family uses, so I was curious to see if there is any proof Elderberry Syrup can prevent or shorten the duration of illness. I searched the scientific literature for controlled studies and found a few which support the claims of “old wive’s tales”.
Randomized study of the efficacy and safety of oral elderberry extract in the treatment of influenza A and B virus infections.
Elderberry has been used in folk medicine for centuries to treat influenza, colds and sinusitis, and has been reported to have antiviral activity against influenza and herpes simplex. We investigated the efficacy and safety of oral elderberry syrup for treating influenza A and B infections. Sixty patients (aged 18-54 years) suffering from influenza-like symptoms for 48 h or less were enrolled in this randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study during the influenza season of 1999-2000 in Norway. Patients received 15 ml of elderberry or placebo syrup four times a day for 5 days, and recorded their symptoms using a visual analogue scale. Symptoms were relieved on average 4 days earlier and use of rescue medication was significantly less in those receiving elderberry extract compared with placebo. Elderberry extract seems to offer an efficient, safe and cost-effective treatment for influenza. These findings need to be confirmed in a larger study.
The effect of Sambucol, a black elderberry-based, natural product, on the production of human cytokines: I. Inflammatory cytokines.
Sambucus nigra L. products – Sambucol – are based on a standardized black elderberry extract. They are natural remedies with antiviral properties, especially against different strains of influenza virus. Sambucol was shown to be effective in vitro against 10 strains of influenza virus. In a double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized study, Sambucol reduced the duration of flu symptoms to 3-4 days.
So, it appears that taking Elderberry syrup MAY lessen the duration of illness by 3-4 days and reduce the severity of illness as well. (15 ml = 1 TBS).
Making homemade Elderberry syrup is easy to do, and it is cheaper than buying it.
1 cup of dried elderberries
4 cups of water
1 cinnamon stick
2 Tsp dried ginger (or freshly chopped ginger)
pinch of cloves
1 cup raw honey
When I lived overseas, I ordered my dried elderberries from iherb. It looks like it is actually cheaper than buying them on Amazon. So if you are not yet an iherb member, it is worth joining.
Directions – Add all of the ingredients, except the raw honey into a large pot. Heat up the mixture until it boils, then cover the pot and simmer for 45 minutes. Strain the mixture into a quart mason jar and add the raw honey once it reaches room temperature. (If you add the honey when the mixture is hot, you will lose some of the benefits associated with it).
Dosage rate – I like to use 1TBS per day for adults, ½ -1 tsp per day for kids. In the study listed above, the adults took 4 TBS per day during illness to reap the benefits.
Parents with young children, just a reminder, it is NOT recommended to give honey to children under the age of one year.
“Clostridium botulinum in infants include constipation, loss of appetite, weakness, an altered cry and a striking loss of head control. Although there are several possible sources of infection for infant botulism, spore-contaminated honey has been associated with a number of cases. Parents and caregivers are therefore warned not to feed honey to the infants before the age of one year1.” WHO.
From what I have read, Elderberry Syrup will last for around two weeks in the fridge. So I plan on freezing some in an ice cube tray to save if we do not use it all.
Have you used Elderberry syrup? Did it seem to help your family during illness?