It’s Elderberry Season!!
Ok…I’ll calm way down. What I meant to say is, this is the time of year that we are harvesting elderberries like mad people. What’s an elderberry you asked? Have you been living on Mars or what? Sorry! It’s the latest, oldest trend. Wait…what?
Elderberries have been around for thousands of years, the ancient Egyptians used it to improve their complexions and heal burns. While the Indigenous Americans used it to treat infections. In fact, elderberry can be found in the folk medicine of my Scottish ancestors. I know, amazing, right?!!?
Elderberry is the dark purple berry from the European elder tree. The berries are used to make medicine. Please do not confuse elderberry (Sambucus nigra) with American Elder, Elderflower, or Dwarf Elder. Elderberry refers to several different varieties of the Sambucus tree, which is a flowering plant belonging to the Adoxaceae family. Sambucus nigra is native to Europe, though it is widely grown in many other parts of the world as well. It grows up to 30 feet tall and has clusters of small white- or cream-colored flowers known as elderflowers. The berries are found in small black or blue-black bunches. Other varieties include the American elder, dwarf elder, blue elderberry, danewort, red-fruited elder and antelope brush.
What’s the hype with elderberry? Historically, the flowers and leaves have been used for pain relief, swelling, inflammation, to stimulate the production of urine and to induce sweating. The bark was used as a diuretic, laxative and to induce vomiting. Many of elderberry's health benefits can be attributed to anthocyanin. As an antioxidant, anthocyanin works by clearing the body of free radicals that damage cells at the DNA level. It also has antiviral properties that may prevent or reduce the severity of certain common infections.
Elderberry juice syrup has been used for centuries as a home remedy to treat the cold and flu, both of which are caused by a virus. The syrup is believed to reduce the severity and duration of the infection if taken within 48 hours of the first symptoms. Some preliminary evidence from small studies supports this claim. But while elderberry may have some benefit for the common cold and flu, there is no good evidence to support using it for COVID-19. Follow healthy lifestyle choices and proven prevention methods instead.
It’s important that you remember that cooked ripe elderberries are perfectly edible. Unripe elderberries are poisonous. Raw berries can cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, among other symptoms, so be sure to cook them before eating.
I have created a fabulous elderberry syrup mix that not only includes the elderberries but some other beneficial herbs as well. Echinacea or cone flowers to further reduce inflammation and improve immunity. And cinnamon which is loaded with antioxidants and cinnamaldehyde. Scientist believe that this compound is responsible for the most of cinnamon’s powerful effects on health and metabolism. Added with a bit of local honey which has more antioxidants and it’s a formula for increased immunity! Who doesn’t want to build up their immunity ahead of flu season?
No matter if you get your syrup or mix from me or another herbalist, give elderberries a try this season. Let me know your results!