Elderberries have a long history. Not only do they have a long history but they are also one of the most commonly used herbal medicines in the world. There are some amazing benefits of using elderberries, however, you should be aware of some side effects as well. Treat these berries as the medicine they are and you will be well on your way to reducing sick time in your family.
Elderberry plants have been gathered and used throughout North American and European history. They have a long and rich history, lore and mythology.
I wont go through a full history. There are a few sites that have some amazing historical information about the elderberry. One of my favorite myths is about the wise woman named Elda Mor. Her story is told throughout the world in various versions. This woman’s family fell ill and to heal them she took the shape of a tree. Elda Mor is powerful. She demands respect. If you wish to have her help to heal your ails, you must honor her for to abuse her or to fail to ask her permission, Elda Mor will poison you.
When you find an Elder bush, develop a relationship with Elda Mor. Visit with her from time to time. Then, when the Elder blooms, go out in the moonlight and tell her of your desire to heal with her magic and her knowledge.Susun S. Weed in Wise Woman Herbal for the Childbearing Year
These 2 sites have some more in depth history of the Elderberry.
The first thing you should know is there are several varieties of this berry. The most common is the Black Elderberry, Sambucus nigra, from Europe. Many European companies grow and process Elderberries for sale all over the world. If you’re purchasing the berries from Amazon or Starwest Botanicals, they will most likely be the Sambucus Nigra from Europe.
North America also has several varieties of Elderberry plants. Gardener’s Path has a great list of American varieties. The majority are a dark purple, black or blue berry but there are one or two that grow red fruit. Steer clear of red if you are picking your own berries.
Once cooked, Elderberries have several health benefits!
- Vitamin C – Elderberries have more Vitamin C than oranges or tomatoes with 60% of your recommended daily intake.
- Dietary Fiber – They have about 1/4 of the recommended daily intake
- Phenolic acids – Antioxidants that help protect your body from free radicals, which play known roles in heart disease, cancer and other diseases.
- Flavonoids – Also antioxidants.
- Anthocyanins – Another strong antioxidant. This one has anti-inflammatory properties and the cause of the deep purple or black color of the berries.
- Midwest Elderberry Cooperative states these berries “have Vitamin A, calcium, thiamine, niacin, twice the calories of cranberries and three times the protein of blueberries.”
Ok, that’s great and all but what does that mean? Well, that means…
- They fight cancer.
- They fight the bacteria that causes sinusitis and bronchitis.
- Supports the immune system by increasing white blood cell count and inhibiting the spread of viruses through an enzyme called neuraminidase.
- Reduces the production of mucous and thus helping to keep airways clear when sick.
- Reduces the length of the common cold and flu.
That clears up some things but what the heck can Elderberry remedies be used for!?
As with any medication, elderberries should be used sparingly. Elda Mor should be respected. Elderberries are a very potent herbal remedy that can easily be misused. When processed, elderberries are quite delicious. Children can easily think of gummy bears made from elderberry syrup as candy instead of medicine.
The European variety must be cooked in order to eat. You should not eat any part of the Black Elderberry, including the stems, leaves, roots, unripe or ripe berries without consulting a doctor as they are toxic. There is a substance in the plant called cyanogenic glycosides which releases small amounts of cyanide, 3 mg of cyanide per 100 grams of fresh berries. Thankfully, it’s only 3% of the estimated fatal dose to a person 130 pounds but it will still cause nausea, vomiting and diarrhea if consumed uncooked.
The Midwest Elderberry Cooperative states the University of Missouri found the North American varieties did not have significant amounts of cyanogenic glycosides but does not link back to the research. Best be safe and cook all varieties of Elderberries prior to consuming.
What about for children, pregnant people or breastfeeding people? Well, these people are regarded as highly precious in our society. I do not want anything to hurt them so testing has been limited on these groups.
From personal experience, we would not recommend the use of Elderberries for breastfeeding individuals. Flu and cold season hit while I was 3 months postpartum. I took the recommended dosage of 1 tablespoon daily and noticed a decrease in milk production. The decrease could be from the change in milk production becoming more stable at this time or due to the syrup. I took the syrup for 4 or 5 days and noticed my milk return to its robust quantities the next day so it does not seem to be a lasting effect. Either way, the correlation leads me to not recommend consuming forms of elderberries during lactation.
Elderberry Syrup & Other Recipes
There are so many recipes out there. One of the most common are the various recipes of Elderberry Syrup. Here’s our version. Fresh ingredients are the best but not a requirement. Cinnamon, ginger, cloves and lemon are all optional. They each have their own health boosting properties and aid in the flavor of the overall recipe.
Taking Elderberry Syrup one step further is to make ElderBears for the kiddos. Be sure to follow the recommended dosage to ensure side effects are a minimum.
Elderberry Tincture is an elderberry infused 80 proof Vodka or Brandy. It takes 4-6 months to cure but has an indefinite shelf life and highly concentrated. A great option if you’re not giving to kiddos and want something for the spring and summer.
Don’t want to take a syrup shot? Add the syrup to your tea or water. Maybe you don’t have a syrup on hand but you have some dried berries? We have a recipe for that. Make up some tea and drink it hot (great for soothing sore throats) or drink it cold. Add a tea bag of mint or chamomile for some extra flavor and symptom reduction.
How much elderberry syrup should you take or should you give a child? It is important to be accurate to safely take this herbal remedy. If you are using grams or milliliters (ml) for your measurement instead of teaspoons and tablespoons, below is a quick conversion.
4.26 grams per 1 teaspoon
4.92 ml per 1 teaspoon
3 teaspoons per 1 Tablespoon
1/2 Tablespoon to 1 Tablespoon
If sick, you can take this dosage every 4-6 hours, up to 4 doses per day for no longer than 5 days in a row.
Children ages 3 – 12 years
1/2 teaspoon to 1 teaspoon
If sick, take the dosage every 6-8 hours, up to 2 doses per day for no longer than 5 days in a row.
Toddlers ages 1 – 3 years
1/2 teaspoon per day max
Infants under 1 year
Should not be given elderberry products without direction from a physician.
As stated previously, there is very little research where children and elderberry is concerned. Most of the studies done look at how elderberry effect adults. Please proceed with extreme caution when giving elderberry to children. Children are generally more sensitive than grown ups therefore different medications and home remedies may have unexpected effects or more severe side effects on children. Also be aware of any allergic reactions that may occur.
Always consult a your physician before using elderberry syrup for any medicinal purposes. We are not medical professionals and are not giving any kind of medical advice, Please check with your doctor before using and check for any drug interactions, etc. Do some research, and use at your own risk.
Overall, elderberry is a safe medicine when used properly. It is also a delicious addition to your medicine cabinet. Easy to make, yummy, fast acting, herbal with all natural ingredients. You can’t get better than that!