Nature’s Flu Shot: Elderberries Sure Beat a Shot in the Arm
Winter is the perfect time for taking Elderberry preventatively to stay healthy and enjoy being social with less fear of catching a cold or the flu. Sambucus nigra, otherwise known as Black Elderberry, is a large deciduous shrub with dark purple berries that grows in many parts of the world, including the mountains and landscapes of southern Oregon. Elderberry preparations have historically been used by many cultures for respiratory conditions such as colds and flus. Modern research has recently confirmed Elderberry’s antiviral properties.
The berries ripen in the early fall and the medicine is made from the fresh, dried or frozen berries. Dried elderberries and pre-made elderberry extracts can also be purchased at natural food stores. Elderberry medicine is useful for cold and flu prevention as well as treatment. The flowers bloom in springtime and have their medicinal uses, too. Properly made elderberry extracts are safe for children, adults and elders (pun intended). The ripe berries and flowers are the only edible parts of the elderberry plant. The rest of the plant is poisonous, including the seeds.
Greek physician Hippocrates touted the benefits of elderberry way back in 300 BC and this medicine has stood the test of time ever since. Elder flowers have most commonly been used in alleviating allergic and pulmonary diseases. Other documented uses of elderflowers are for laxative, anti-ulcer, anti-asthma, bronchitis, sore throat and arthritis relief. Elderberry juice was used in ancient times to treat sciatica, headache, dental pain, heart pain and nerve pain. Elderberry syrups and tinctures are traditionally used for viral infections and fever reduction and I have experienced the healing magic of elderberry syrup at my own clinic with many pediatric patients.
Kids love the taste of elderberry syrup. It’s the perfect preventative medicine for staying healthy while school is in session. Taking 1/4 teaspoon every morning before school is an easy rhythm to get into for most families. For treatment of acute colds, an effective dose is 1 teaspoon three times daily for kids and 2 teaspoons three times daily for adults. The de-seeded berries are high in vitamin A and its precursor beta-carotene, vitamin C, bioflavonoids, iron, and potassium.
Bioflavonoids are present in all dark colored fruits and veggies, including elderberries. These dark colored antioxidants can prevent or slow damage to cells caused by free radicals, which are unstable molecules that the body produces as a reaction to environmental, immune and other stressors. Free radicals cause inflammation, speed up the aging process, disrupt all of our body systems and increase cancer risk. Elderberry medicine as a daily winter tonic is protective in this regard, as well.
Nowadays you can find elderberry extracts, supplements, pies, ice creams, jellies, juices, beverages, beers, wines, kombucha and fruit bars in most grocery stores. Black elderberry cultivation and harvesting is becoming a high dollar industry because of the many uses in food, herbal medicine and nutritional supplements. In 2010, Sambucus nigra was the most harvested medicinal plant intended for export trade and production in two Eastern European countries. Elderberry was ranked on the Top 20 best-selling herbal dietary supplements in the USA in 2011–2014, with sales increasing every year. Thankfully, it is not endangered and is locally abundant.
Elderberry supplements made with Sambucol, a standardized black elderberry extract with solid research behind it, were so popular last year that many stores and online retailers were sold out for months. Now is the time to make your own or stock up on premade products for cold and flu season. Homemade elderberry syrup recipes are easy to find, fun to make and taste delicious. I encourage you and your family to try it and see how much of a difference it can make in strengthening your immunity this winter. I wish you a very happy and healthy 2019!
Dr. Margaret Philhower is a naturopathic doctor with a naturopathic family practice in Takilma next door to The Dome School and at The Bear Creek Naturopathic Medical Clinic located at 2612 E. Barnett Rd. in Medford. You can schedule an appointment in Takilma by calling 541-415-1549 or Medford by calling 541-770-5563 or visit her website at www.drmargaret.org.