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Elderberries are a traditional medicinal herb that are native to most temperate regions of the world and harvested from the elder plant, Sambucus sp (there are many species used, especially the red and blue berry-producing species). Elder has been used medicinally for hundreds of years to ward off and treat illness; the flowers are harvested in the late spring, and the berries are harvested in the fall months. Both forms of elder are
Elderberry can be found in many supplemental forms, including tinctures, capsules, syrups, and lozenges. However, I like to make my own elderberry syrup, as I wrote about in my post Natural Approaches to Cold & Flu Season (PLUS a Homemade Medicine Recipe!)
Since elderberries are consumed dried, their greatest nutritional source is micronutrients. Elderberries are rich in vitamins A, C, and B6 as well as iron and potassium. Plus, they are a potent source of phytonutrients and antioxidants that make their illness-fighting power even stronger!
There is one natural cold prevention product that I’ve been able to easily replace by making at home, because it’s easy and fun to do with the kids: elderberry syrup! This at-home medicine is an amazing source of antioxidants, including vitamin C, and has been used for hundreds of years as a folk remedy during the winter months. Scientific studies confirm that elderberry has anti-viral and anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. Plus, elderberry can enhance the immune-modulating effects of probiotic bacterial like Lactobacillus acidophilus, which means that combining this Elderberry Syrup recipe with some raw kraut or probiotic supplement may magnify the benefits (see The Health Benefits of Fermented Foods and The Benefits of Probiotics). And the best thing about elderberry syrup? Elderberry has been validated in scientific studies for cold and flu prevention and treatment! (Note for my Autoimmune Disease peeps, there is some evidence from malaria studies that elderberry may stimulate Th1 cells, so caution is advised!).
Elderberries can be harvested wild or purchased dried at a local herb shop or online on amazon.