Whether you’re on the hunt to fight off cold and flu season or looking to keep your immune system in top shape during COVID-19, you’ve probably seen elderberry on store shelves and in online ads. You might be asking if this natural treatment really works.
The first thing to know is that studies show black elderberry extract has antiviral properties and has been used effectively against 10 strains of influenza. While it is not a cure, nor does it prevent the flu, it can reduce the duration of symptoms by 3 to 4 days. When you’re feeling achy, sniffly, feverish, and have an upset stomach, 3 days can make a huge difference! Studies show that elderberry extract can increase inflammatory cytokine production, helping activate the healthy immune system without getting out of control. It’s even been shown to help people who already have compromised immune systems, such as cancer and AIDS patients, as they undergo treatment.
NOTE: While elderberries are an effective antiviral for influenza strains, no studies show it is an effective treatment for COVID-19.
Researchers from the University of Sydney’s Faculty of Engineering and IT turned commercially-farmed elderberries into a juice serum and applied them to cells before, during, and after being infected with the influenza virus. The researchers found the elderberries inhibited the early stages of infection by blocking viral proteins from attaching to host cells. They also worked at the later stages of the condition.
Just as some studies show it’s useful for viruses, chronic fatigue, hay fever, constipation, and sinus infections, another study showed the berry was no more effective than a placebo in fighting the flu. As always, be sure to talk with your doctor about your health before starting any supplement regime.
So what are these miracle berries?
Elderberries come from a tree known as Sambucus or black elder. The berries and flowers of the tree are edible if they are cooked first. Don’t eat fresh elderberries! They are toxic and can cause diarrhea, vomiting, and nausea.
Elderberries extracts and syrups have been used medicinally for centuries to fight infections and help boost immunity. Some even use elderberries to treat complexion issues.
You can find elderberry extract in liquid syrup, tablets, or gummies.
You can also make your own!
Here’s a recipe for using dried elderberry.
- 3/4 cup dried elderberries
- 3 cups water
- 1 teaspoon dried cinnamon or 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 teaspoon dried cloves or 4 whole cloves or a drop clove essential oil
- 1 tablespoon fresh ginger or 1 teaspoon dried ginger or 1 drop of ginger essential oil
- 1 cup raw honey
- A drop or two of your favorite CBD tincture
In a large pot, bring the elderberries, water, cinnamon, cloves, and ginger to a boil.
Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer until the liquid has reduced by half, about 40-45 minutes.
Once the mixture cools, drain it. You can use a fine-mesh strainer or a cheesecloth over a bowl.
Press all liquid out of the berries.
Add the raw honey and CBD.
Store in an airtight glass container in the refrigerator for up to two months.
Barak V, Halperin T, Kalickman I. The effect of Sambucol, a black elderberry-based, natural product, on the production of human cytokines: I. Inflammatory cytokines. Eur Cytokine Netw. 2001 Apr-Jun;12(2):290-6. PMID: 11399518. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11399518/