You owe it to yourself to learn about elderberry benefits. Black elderberry (Sambucus nigra) may help your body stay strong when others around you succumb to the common cold, flu or other health issues. If you are already sick, elderberry can help your body fight off illness faster than if you took nothing and faster than certain prescription medications.
Elderberry is native to Europe where it is a popular landscape specimen. The berries are commonly used in herbal medicine as well as for wine and jelly; the flowers are used to make tea. The stem of the black elderberry contains cyanide and should be avoided. Other varieties of elderberry are also poisonous, so be sure of what you are using if you decide to harvest your own berries.
In some parts of the US, elderberry grows like a weed but properly managed it is pretty and useful. Those who know about elderberry benefits appreciate having such a valuable "weed" growing nearby. It can also be purchased from various nurseries and cultivated at home. A hardy plant, elderberry can grow in climates as cold as zone 3.
Elderberry demonstrated success in the prevention and treatment of upper respiratory infections including bronchitis, flu and sinusitis. It may also be helpful for those with asthma and high cholesterol. Elderberry benefits appear to be from substances called Sambucus nigra agglutinins, or SNAs, which have the ability to "lock" the receptors of certain flu viruses, preventing them from invading human cells. Furthermore, Sambucus nigra has the ability to protect against as many as eight flu strains, as opposed to the flu shot which protects against only one strain.
According to WebMD, studies have shown that those taking elderberry extract for treatment of flu recovered within two to three days. Those who took nothing recovered in a minimum of six days and needed more painkillers to manage the symptoms.
Using Elderberry Extract
The most popular brand of elderberry extract is the brand Sambucol. When taken at the first sign of symptoms, Sambucol can help dramatically reduce the duration of illness and is the only elderberry extract that is used in clinical studies. It can be safely taken by children and adults.
The recommended dose is two teaspoons daily to maintain health. If you are ill, you should take two teaspoons, four times a day. It can be diluted with water if the thick, sweet syrup is too intense, but this may also make it much easier to get children to take it.
Make Your Own
There are various recipes available so that you can make your own elderberry syrup and still enjoy elderberry benefits. Some require vodka or other alcohol. This can pose a problem for those who prefer to not ingest alcohol.
The simplest recipe is found in the book Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health by famed herbalist Rosemary Gladstar. Gladstar says to place a half cup dried or one cup fresh elderberries in a saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to low, allowing the mixture to simmer for 30 to 45 minutes.
Mash the berries and strain through fine mesh. Add a cup or so to honey, according to taste. Store in a jar with a tight lid in the refrigerator. This syrup is good for two to three months.