I love making elderberry syrup (from the Sambucus nigra plant) and teaching others how to make it themselves. I learned a lot about extracting benefits from plants and making it into a final product that is child-friendly, by learning how to make this. In addition, the standard commercial elderberry products (e.g. sambucol) are so ubiquitous that when I demonstrate how simple it is to make a homemade option the benefits (financial, self-sustaining, medicinal) really make people starry-eyed with wonder.
While researching the benefits of elderberry syrup I was very impressed by the number of studies to prove the benefits of this age-old remedy. There are elderberry based medicine recipes recorded as far back as entail Egypt, and Hippocrates described the plant and his ‘medicine chest’ as he used it for a variety of ailments. (Source)
PubMed has a large number of studies that demonstrate its’ benefits:
This study is a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study conducted during the influenza season of 1999-2000 in Norway, in which the researchers investigated the efficacy and safety of oral elderberry syrup for treating influenza A and B infections. They concluded that symptoms were relieved on average 4 days earlier and use of rescue medication was significantly less in those receiving elderberry extract compared with the placebo.in the case of influenza a and b viruses.
This study aimed to assess the effect of Sambucol products on the healthy immune system - namely, its effect on cytokine production. The production of inflammatory cytokines was tested using blood-derived monocytes from 12 healthy human donors (Cytokines are crucial for fighting off infections and in other immune responses). The study concluded that, in addition to its antiviral properties, Elderberry Extract and its formulations activate the healthy immune system by increasing inflammatory cytokine.
This study showed that a standardized elderberry liquid extract possesses antimicrobial activity against both Gram-positive bacteria of Streptococcus pyogenes and group C and G Streptococci and the Gram-negative bacterium Branhamella catarrhalis in liquid cultures. The liquid extract also displays an inhibitory effect on the propagation of human pathogenic influenza viruses.
I like the odds of the first study, symptom relief 4 days earlier? That's a big benefit. And the immune system support that the second study showed is really nice as my son asked for ‘coffee syrup’ at least a couple times a week. So let's go:
½ cup dried elderberries (or 1 cup fresh elderberries)
2 cups of water
1 cup raw honey
Place berries and water in a pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until the liquid has reduced by half. Strain the liquid and really squeeze the elderberries to get all the great essence out of them. Allow to cool slightly and mix in the honey that way we keep the healing properties of the raw honey.
Store in the fridge. This will keep for two months.
Take 1 tbsp a day for immune support and up to three when sick.
Children: take 1 tsp a day for immune support and up to three when sick.
Since we now know how to extract benefits from plants and turn them into a syrup we can add many more herbs to this decoction, depending on your needs:
Cinnamon sticks for blood stimulation.
Ginger root for its warming and antibacterial properties.
Turmeric root for its anti-inflammatory properties.
Star anise for its warming properties.