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  • Crystal Barber MBA & Heather Morse MS, ATC, OTC

The Comeback of Elderberry against the Flu

Updated: Nov 5, 2021

urely after this last flu season you have heard of people flocking to find their fix of Elderberry Syrup. You have likely read some interesting articles or snippets on social media as well.  But why Elderberry and why the comeback?  Did you know it was a staple long before conventional, allopathic medicine?

Elderberry (Sambucus Nigra) can be traced back to Hippocrates, although there is also some evidence of recipes as far back as Ancient Egypt.  Hippocrates touted Elderberry as the plant of his “medicine chest” for treating many aliments.  In modern times it has been used to treat colds, flus, fever, burns, sinus pain, cuts, allergies and more than 80 other ailments.

What exactly is Elderberry? Well, in short, it is a berry that grows in clusters and can usually be found along streambanks, moist woody areas and powerline cuts. Elderberry is challenging to forage on your own as the berries are loved by birds.  It is likely that you have some elderberry growing in your yard or neighborhood (assuming you have some spots that are not manicured).

I would also bet that your grandmother made elderberry jam that you have eaten – or maybe she made wine!

Elderberry has many health benefits including reducing symptoms and duration of the flu when employed within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms.  Sound familiar?  Luckily there is no evidence of anyone jumping off buildings or in front of cars with the use of elderberry, unlike some conventional medicines, especially in children.  In our house, we have long used elderberry syrup to ward off flu symptoms, even when the boys were young.  In fact, in 1995 the Panamanian government used Elderberry to fight off the epidemic (Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine Vol. 1, #4, 1995). Interestingly enough, there have been several studies done on the effectiveness of Elderberry in fighting the flu.  In a study published in the Journal of International Medical Research in 2004, it was concluded that elderberry is effective in reducing symptoms and duration of both A and B strains of the flu and unlike some antiviral drugs it can be administered to the whole population (Zakay-Rones. 2004)

It is considered one of the top antiviral herbs on the planet.

But how does it work? Simply speaking, it boosts your immune function to fight better.  The most common threat to our immune system is from viruses.  Your body is exposed to many types of viruses, creates antibodies to fight those viruses and remember them for next time.  However, during the actual “fight” your immune system is busy creating soldiers to fight against the latest virus that is gets worn down and susceptible to other culprits.  Think about how many people you know who had the flu and did fine, but then a few days later had something else, pneumonia, strep, bronchitis?  This is where elderberry can help.  They are rich in powerful antioxidants, much higher than any other berry and almost 5 times the content of blueberries.  This helps attack the viruses and defend the immune system.  Now understand this is a very, very simple explanation of how the immune system works and how elderberry can help influence.

Other benefits of Elderberry include anti-inflammatory properties.  One example of reducing inflammation, it helps slow the body’s histamine response, therefore reducing symptoms of allergies. This alone is a benefit for the Tennessee Valley that any allergy sufferer can appreciate.

How exactly do you use elderberry?  I am glad you asked.  We use it in many different forms, including a tea, syrup, tincture, wine (yes, wine), jellies, capsules, juices and more.  My favorite is to make Elderberry syrup.  I use local honey and local elderberries (when I can get them harvested in the SE).  It has long been understood by southern folk medicine teachers and herbalists alike that using plants from your geographical region will have better benefit on your outcome.

It is advised to only take elderberry up to five days and not use it long term.  If you have any autoimmune diseases that may be related to over active immune function you should discuss the use of elderberry with our medical professional.  Because elderberry can also be used as a laxative in higher doses it is advised to be mindful of how much you take.  Elderberries should never be consumed raw as they contain a cyanide-inducing chemical which can cause diarrhea and vomiting.

You can find locally made Elderberry Syrup and Tinctures at Salt on the Rocks.  These preparations are made from high quality organic elderberries and local honey.  The staff is happy to help explain further how to use Elderberry safe and effectively.

Heather Morse is the owner of Salt on the Rocks, a new destination experience with Salt Therapy. The Remedy Room inside Salt on the Rocks offers a variety of natural remedies for the beginner, including herbs, oils, teas and tinctures.   You can find them at

2350 Whitesburg Dr | Huntsville, AL 35801 | 256-429-9160

Randomized Study of the Efficacy and Saftey of Oral Elderberry Extract in the Treatment of Influenza A &B Virus Infections. Zakay-Rones, E Thom, T Wollan and J Wadstein, 2004; Journal of International Medical Research

Inhibition of Several Strains of Influenza Virus in Vitro and Reduction of Symptoms by an Elderberry Extract (Sambucus Nigra) during an Outbreak of Influenza B Panama. Z Zakay-Rones, N Varsan, M Zlotnik, O Manor, L Regev, M Schlesinger and M Mumcuoglu 1995; Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine

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