This time of year may people get sick, especially kids. I am often asked the question, “what can I do to boost my immune system in the winter?” There are many dietary upgrades that can help keep your immune system strong as well as some herbs that can be taken daily to keep the immune system strong. For all of my dietary recommendations read my post, Preparing for Cold Season. Most of these things need to be done year round and not just in the winter. During the summer, the last thing you might be thinking about is the flu but that is the time when immune boosting regimes should be started to prepare for the Fall and Winter. Personally, we use this immune boosting herb all year long.
The elderberry (Sambucus Nigra) is a dark purple or blue berry that grows on the elderberry bush or elder tree. Elderberry is very high in antioxidants and is a good source of potassium, vitamins A, B and C and nutrients like, amino acids, carotenoids, tannin and rutin. Anthocyanins, one of the most powerful antioxidants known to man, are found in these remarkable berries in far higher quantities than either Vitamin C or E alone. This accounts for the excellent health benefits of elderberry. Elderberries have been a folk remedy for centuries in North America, Europe, Western Asia, and North Africa. Greek philosophers also believed in the medicinal value of elderberry. Hippocrates called elderberry his “medicine chest.” It was used for centuries on those suffering from constipation, the common cold, arthritis, and asthma.
In 1995, a study was done on the effectiveness of elderberry during a flu epidemic in Panama. In a placebo controlled double blind study of influenza B, a complete cure was achieved within 2 – 3 days in nearly 90% of the elderberry-treated group compared with at least 6 days in the placebo group. More recently, a study done in 2004 published in The Journal of International Medical Research found similar results to the study in Panama. The results showed that elderberry syrup is also effective against both influenza A and B virus infections. It showed that the duration of the illness can be reduced by 3 – 4 days with elderberry syrup compared with placebo.
Elderberry boosts the immune system, and helps to heal coughs, colds, flu, viral and bacterial infections and it has also been known to treat sinus infections, sinusitis, and tonsillitis. This powerful herb is gentle enough to be take daily as a preventative and when an illness is present it can be take more then once a day to help fight off infection.
How to Take Elderberry
The easiest and most common way to take elderberry is elderberry syrup. Elderberry syrup, like this one Sambucus for Kids, can be purchased already made and would be found in health food stores or even some drug stores in the cold medicine section. Elderberry syrup can also be made at home very simply, read my tutorial here How to Make Elderberry Syrup. I use this recipe to make my syrup and sometimes add cloves or rose hips for added benefits. These are the elderberries I purchase and I keep them on hand to make batch after batch. Making your own syrup with raw local honey increases the health benefits even further.