Elderberries are perhaps THE most popular natural remedy for cold and flu season. Any Pinterest search will land you thousands of results for every possible elderberry preparation under the sun: tinctures, elixirs, teas, tonics and syrups!
These berries have been prized for their medicinal properties since the time of Hippocrates and are considered a universal remedy.
The elderberry comes from the elder plant, Sambucus nigra.
Traditionally, the bark, leaves, flowers, and berries of the Elder were used for medicinal purposes, but only the flowers and berries are commonly used today.
The leaves can be used for bruises, sprains and other wounds but the bark and roots of the plant are considered much too potent. However, the homeopathic preparation of these parts offers medicinal value for the respiratory system and sinuses, especially with children and infants, and serves as a natural remedy for illnesses like croup and whooping cough. (Read more about homeopathy, here.)
Elders bloom in June and July, studded with star-shaped blossoms that are creamy white. These flowers can provide relief for bronchial and pulmonary ailments, and also scarlet fever, measles and other similar diseases. Elder flowers are a terrific herb to use for children.
Once the flowers fade, the berries appear, beginning green, then turning red, and finally darkening to their characteristic midnight black as they ripen. But beware, they strongly resemble the poisonous Pokeberry, which also has black berries of similar shape.
Elderberries are full of Vitamins A and C, iron, potassium, beta-carotene, and essential fatty acids (EFAs). They also contain bioflavonoids and flavonoids, which make elderberries a great source of antioxidants. And it is these same antioxidants that help to prevent stroke, heart and eye disease, anti-aging, arthritis, dementia, and other forms of inflammation.
As mentioned, elderberries are best known for its immune-boosting and antiviral properties. They are useful in treating numerous viral infections, like the flu or shingles, as well as upper respiratory infections. In fact, it has been shown that they can reduce the duration of flu symptoms by half. Keep in mind their amazing immune-stimulating properties are more effective when combined with the powerful herb, echinacea.
Elderberries also strengthen the respiratory system and improve circulation.
But before the elderberry can be consumed in any of these forms, it is important that the berries be cooked first. Cooking inactivates a cyanide-producing substance that can cause digestive upset and diarrhea.
It’s also important to use only blue elderberries and avoid the red ones, which are potentially toxic if eaten in large quantities.