(Originally published in the Backwoodsman, July/August 2018)
In the U.S., the flu season usually runs from October to May, normally peaking sometime in February. Outside of taking an annual flu shot and costly over-the-counter pharmaceuticals, most remedies for the symptoms are, at best, minimally effective.
There is a home remedy, however, proven to work time and time again.
Black elderberries (Sambucus nigra) have long been used in Europe and North America as a medicinal plant, useful for ailments ranging from a diuretic and laxative to a diaphoretic (promotes sweating). Elderberries contain antioxidants and flavonoids, as well as vitamin A, B, and C. The antiviral compounds in elderberries can be effective fighting not only the common cold, but both influenza A and B.
Research has proven that the compounds found in the black elderberry can lessen the symptoms of the flu virus, and shorten the duration of the sickness. In a double- blind study, it was found that 93% of those taking an elderberry syrup were better in two to three days, compared to six days for those taking a placebo.
Active ingredients in elderberry syrup bind to the virus, preventing it from entering the cell membranes. The antivirin properties of elderberry syrup make taking it as a daily supplement a great preventative against cold viruses and flu.
Boosts the immune system
The bioflavonoids in elderberry syrup fortify the immune system by increasing the antioxidant level in the cells, preventing viruses like those responsible for the flu and common cold. Elderberry syrup taken as a daily supplement boosts the immune system and can be beneficial to overall good health.
The syrup not only boosts immunity, but also fights off bacterial infections, and reduces duration of symptoms, and even clears sinus infections. Sufferers of seasonal allergies may also benefit from this home remedy, especially if the syrup is made with raw local honey.
Elderberry syrup can be expensive. I have found that in my area that a pint of elderberry syrup can run you $30, and I bought a quart that cost me $50. If you can find either fresh or dried elderberries in your area, it may be more cost effective to make your own, and keep some on hand during the flu season.
Here is a recipe and instructions on how to make your own elderberry syrup. Also, there is a recommended dosage for both a supplemental use and for using it to alleviate symptoms of cold and flu.
(Disclaimer: This is a suggestion, and one should talk to their doctor if they have any medical problems or take any medication that may have a interaction with the mixture.)
Easy Elderberry Syrup
1 ½ cup of dried, or ⅔ cups of fresh elderberries.
3 cups of water
1 ½ cups of raw local honey (important)
Place dried or fresh elderberries into a medium saucepan with water and bring to a boil. Once it boils, reduce heat and allow to simmer on low heat for 20 to 30 minutes. The liquid should reduce by a third.
Use the back of a wooden spoon to squeeze all the juice from the berries possible. Strain through cheesecloth in another container for mixing. Allow juice to stand for 30 minutes, or until below 85 degrees (anything above 118F will destroy the antibiotic properties of the honey).
Once cooled, stir in the honey, and mix thoroughly. Transfer syrup into glass jars for storage. Syrup should last 2 to 3 months if stored in glass container in the refrigerator. Also, elderberry syrup can be placed in freezer bags and kept frozen until it is needed. It can be kept this way for several months.
How much elderberry syrup should you take?
To use as an immunity booster, take ½ to 1 tsp for children, ½ to 1 Tbsp for adults per day.
As a remedy for severe cold or flu remedy, take the above dosage every 3 to 4 hours, until symptoms disappear.