Fighting the Flu and Colds with Elderberry

Homemade elderberry syrup

As I spend more time on Facebook and Twitter, getting to know other moms and hearing their concerns, far and away the most common issue for this time of year is health.

If our kids aren’t sick, we’re taking intentional steps to keep them that way. And if they are, we’re making a concerted effort to get them well. While both the common cold and the flu generally need to just run their course, we can (and should) do all we can to lessen the symptoms and make our patients comfortable.

Simple steps, like hand-washing and avoiding sick friends (no matter how much you want to have that playdate) are key to prevention. One of our favorite winter-time supplements is elderberry though.

The elderberry is a tiny fruit that grows on a shrub or small tree. You can find them in the wild, and harvest them in the fall. (But please don’t eat them raw! Most varieties are poisonous in their raw state.)  If you’re not much for foraging, you can find them dried at your local health food store, or online at Mountain Rose Herbs.

What makes these itty bitty food so powerful? Elderberries contain flavonoids that boost the immune system and reduce inflammation. One recent study found that 90% of flu suffers given elderberry syrup were symptom free in 2-3 days, (1) whereas the placebo group took an average of six days.

Ready for this easy-peasy recipe?


1 cup dried elderberries (They are on sale at Mountain Rose Herbs for $10 for a one pound bag. Each bag has about 4 cups in it)

6 cups water

6 dried cloves

2 cinnamon sticks

1 inch of sliced ginger

1-2 cups raw honey


1 cinnamon stick (love me some sweet cinnamon)

a few cloves (can’t forget the cloves!)

some allspice berries (allspice is all right!)

a tablespoon of grated fresh ginger (gotta get the ginger)


Put berries and water in a pan and bring to a boil.

Reduce heat and simmer 30-45 minutes, or until the liquid is reduced in half.

Strain the berries and mash ’em up so you get all the good juice in those berries.

When your mixture is cool enough, add the honey. (You want to preserve the good enzymes in the raw honey!)

Bottle and refrigerate.

We take a tablespoon a day when we’re healthy, and up to 3 tablespoons a day if we’re sick.

(1) Zakay-Rones, Zichria; Varsano, Noemi; Zlotnik, Moshe; Manor, Orly; Regev, Liora; Schlesinger, Miriam; Mumcuoglu, Madeleine (1995). “Inhibition of Several Strains of Influenza Virus in Vitro and Reduction of Symptoms by an Elderberry Extract (Sambucus nigra L.) during an Outbreak of Influenza B Panama”. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine 1 (4): 361–9.

One thought on “Fighting the Flu and Colds with Elderberry

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s