Your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries.
– French Solider, Monty Python and The Holy Grail (1974)

The first time I ever heard of elderberries was from watching TV. While Monty Python’s quote is easy to remember, I also remember the pioneer shows where “good, old fashioned” remedies included elderberry wine, syrup and tincture. I just assumed it was the alcoholic properties of the wine that did the “job” in reducing cold symptoms, but a year ago my wife joined the elderberry team. She made us some tincture, and insisted I have some every time I started the cold season sniffle. At first, I thought she was just being silly, but when I made it through the cold season without getting sick, I thought maybe there was something to my mad-scientist, real food ninja wife’s elderberry magic.
Simply put, if you want to fight a cold this season, look no further than the old fashioned remedy of elderberries.

The Benefits 

Below are a few of the many benefits that elderberries can give you through this cold season:

  1. High in antioxidants
  2. Treatment for flu, cold or sinus infection due to anti-inflammatory and anti-viral qualities.
  3. May have potential anti-cancer properties
  4. Diuretic, laxative and emetic
  5. Speeds up recovery times

(source: University of Maryland Medical Center)

Those are some serious benefits and thus the age old remedy actually makes sense.

Elderberry Solutions

What are some ways to take elderberries?

  1. Pies, tarts and other treats
    A great way to enjoy elderberries, but one has to balance out the bitter berries with large amounts of sugar.
  2. Wine
    Probably one of the better known solutions and the wine can be made from either the flowers (the white wine) or the berries (the red wine). Both provide great results. Often, people used it as an aperitif.
  3. Tincture
    This is a great way to get a solid dose of the elderberry benefits. However, it is also extremely bitter. It feels like it works because no self-respecting cold would go near something that tastes that bad. With that said, it is very common and a great way to boost that immune system. This is alcohol based, typically made with a proof of 80 to 100, often vodka.
  4. Syrup
    This is my favorite way out of the solutions. It has a long shelf life. It is sweet, and it doesn’t have any alcohol. Drinking the syrup is similar to drinking Nyquil. It is thick as it coats your throat, and you are getting the great health benefits and boosts. You also get great benefits from the honey and spices used to sweeten the syrup.
  5. Tea
    I have not tried the tea, but it is a very common solution mentioned. While there are a lot of options, one of the simpler tea options is to mix the tincture in with tea in the morning. However, it is also possible to brew the flower petals or berry into your tea solution.

Considerations

As always, consult with a qualified health care provider before trying remedies. Do not eat an elderberry without first cooking it. While the remedies used widely in Europe and in the homes of many real foodies for cold and flu treatments, elderberry is not recognized by the FDA to manage flu conditions.

Sources For More Information:

  • Real Food and Health Digital Magazine (kindle or pdf)
    The November issue contains a recipe for elderberry syrup along with additional information
    (Disclosure: my wife is the editor for the magazine and wrote the article on elderberry syrup)
  • LiveStrong.com – Elderberry Section
    A great selection of articles on elderberries.
  • Mountain Rose Herbs
    A place to order elderberries in bulk if you do not have a local health food store that carries them.
  • Deep Roots At Home Elderberry Tincture
    A good tincture recipe is hard to come by, but Jacqueline’s recipe is pretty good. It made my wife’s seal of approval.

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