Elderberry: Fact or Fad?
Fall is here (technically) and the season is slowly, but surely, changing. What does this mean for us? Cold & flu season! Kids are back in class and germs are spreading like wildfire! We thought this would be the perfect time to touch base with some information on the effectiveness of elderberry syrup and is reputed uses for handling those seasonal risk factors.
Elderberry, Sambucus nigra, has an extensive role in folk medicine. Historically used by Native Americans, Europeans, and ancient Egyptians for everything from infection control to complexion improvement, elderberry is most frequently used for cold and flu symptoms most recently, but also shows supportive research that they help with heart health, and fight inflammation. The are one of the best antioxidants, and support healthy insulin levels, which help stabilize blood sugar. However, it's not just a matter of popping a few berries in your mouth and going on your merry way. In fact, raw berries, bark and leaves are toxic, and contain trace amounts of cyanogenic glycosides, which can (in certain situations) release minute amounts of cyanide, which is broken down when they are cooked appropriately*.
A study in 2017 concluded that the effects of elderberry in the treatment of cold and flu symptoms was supported sufficiently by the results. In a set of 60 test subjects, the group that took elderberry syrup (15 mL) four times a day saw improvement in their symptoms of the flu in 2-4 days on average. The control group saw improvement within 7-8 days.
Elderberries can be taken in a variety of forms, such a liquids, syrups, tinctures, lozenges, capsules, and gummies, but the preparation process is almost as important at the herb itself. Three key components in our book are 1) herbal allies, 2) local honey 3) and proper technique*.
Choosing the right supporting herbs can strengthen the formula, or weaken it. The common colds and influenza tend to be 'cold' type infections, that need supportive, warming herbs. We incorporate ginger root to stimulate the movement of the stagnant fluids, and gently heat the system. Rosehips are added for their amazing vitamin C content (60x the amount of vitamin C in oranges!).
Honey is a large part of the formula, so it makes sense to give it the biggest impact. We use local** honey sourced directly from a beekeeper in Orange Grove to increase the bacterial and viral fighting potential. The percentage of honey in a formula also has an influence on preservation. Levels under recommended percentages can mean a syrup that spoil too quickly, or is unsafe*.
The final component is the blending and processing of the herbs. Each herb needs to be treated in a specific way for maximum efficiency. Monitoring these times and temperatures are the final piece in creating the most effective syrup possible*.
We carry elderberry syrup and tinctures in store, and on special request will make gummies and lozenges!
* These are some of the many reasons it's important to work with a trained and educated herbalist. Herbs that can help the body also have the potential to hurt the body. Working with someone who has studies interactions, affect, and contraindications is of the utmost importance.
** When we say "local" honey, we mean honey that is locally created, harvested, and processed. Unfortunately, sometimes "local" is thrown around a little too much, and can really boil down to buying it locally, despite it being supplied from very far away. Make sure you're getting the kind of "local" you're looking for!
Disclaimer: We do not attempt to treat, diagnose, or cure illness. Our role is simply to provide information and products that can help your body do what it does best.
Mandl, E. (2018, March 8). Elderberry: Benefits and Dangers. Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/elderberry