The use of elderberry has become increasingly popular due to its potent immune boosting properties. I like to keep dried elderberries on hand during the cooler months as they can be used in a variety of ways to help fight the common cold and mild cases of the flu. My favorite use for dried elderberries is for making a simple syrup that can be stored in the refrigerator and taken on a daily basis. In the US, elderberry products are considered herbal supplements; therefore, are not FDA-approved for any indication.
Most of the elderberry products on the market contain black elderberry (Sambucus nigra). Studies have shown that black elderberries may help you avoid illnesses and help speed the recovery process up for those that already have an illness. A small study (conducted outside the US) reported the use of elderberry in Vitro inhibited replication of influenza type A and B. (1) In this same study, 93.3% of individuals reported a significant improvement in symptoms, including fever, within 2 days of developing symptoms while taking elderberry compared to the control group, not taking elderberry, where 91.7% reported improvement within 6 days. (1)
Cinnamon is an ingredient in elderberry syrup that may be added in the form of cinnamon sticks, ground cinnamon, cinnamon extract or cinnamon oil. Cinnamon is derived from the cinnamomum verum tree. The oily part of the tree results in the smell, color and flavor of cinnamon while the bark harbors the health benefits from compounds including cinnamaldehyde and cinnamic acid. Studies have shown that these health boosting compounds may provide anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antioxidant, antitumor, cardiovascular, cholesterol-reducing and immunomodulatory benefits. (2) The use of cinnamon oil has been shown to have strong activity against bacterial that lead to the common cold, strep throat and other conditions. (3) Cinnamon essential oil is known as a hot oil due to the warming effects of cinnamon. Proper dilution of this essential oil is important to avoid skin irritation.
Ginger may be added to this recipe in the form of roughly chopped ginger root, ground ginger or ginger oil. Ginger has been used for thousands of years for the treatment of many conditions including colds, digestive upset, nausea, arthritis, migraines, and hypertension. (4) Ginger also contains powerful antibacterial properties that may provide protection against bacteria borne illnesses. (5)
Cloves come from a tropical evergreen tree and are harvested by hand as an unopened pink flower bud. The buds are dried until they turn a dark brown color. The uses of clove are numerous from helping with acne, improving blood circulation, gum health and relieving pain associated with dental problems. Studies have shown the phenolic component of clove, eugenol, has strong antifungal properties, and can effectively fight Candida albicans. (6) One of the most popular uses for clove oil is to relieve pain and inflammation associated with dental issues including toothaches. (7) Clove has an astonishing high antioxidant content and has an ORAC value of 290,283! It has been theorized that foods with a higher ORAC value may be more effective at neutralizing free radicals. (8) Antioxidants are effective at slowing aging, degeneration and protects us against illness caused by bacteria and viruses. Studies have shown that clove oil inhibits the growth of gram-negative and gram-positive bacteria and yeast. In this study, clove oil was shown to be effective in inhibiting the growth of E. coli, Staph aureus and Pseudomonas aeruginosa which causes pneumonia. (9)
Raw honey can have enormous health benefits. Most of the honey that is consumed is process honey. You may be asking what the difference is between raw honey and processed honey. Raw honey is pure, unfiltered and unpasteurized when collected from the hive. Processed honey has been heated and filtered. The heating and filtering processes rob the honey of many nutritional and health benefits. Bee pollen, contained in raw honey, has been shown to fight infections, boost immunity and aid in allergy relief. Consuming honey has been shown to increase polyphenols in the blood. Polyphenols are powerful antioxidants that have strong disease-fighting properties. (10).
Elderberry Syrup Recipe
· 3 ½ cups water
· 2/3 cups dried elderberries
· 2 TBSP ginger (rough chopped or grated fresh ginger) or 1 tsp ginger powder
· 1 tsp ground cinnamon or 2-3 cinnamon sticks
· 1 tsp ground cloves or 1 TBSP whole cloves
· 2/3 to 1 cup of honey
· Add water, elderberries, ginger, cinnamon and cloves to a medium saucepan
· Bring mixture to a boil, cover and reduce to a simmer for 45 minutes to 1 hour. The key here is to reduce the liquid by almost half.
· Remove the mixture from the heat, uncover and let it cool until it is cool enough to easily, and safely, handle.
· Get a bowl, mesh strainer and spoon or spatula ready. Put the mesh strainer over the bowl. Pour the mixture through the strainer into the bowl. Use the spoon or spatula to smash the berry mixture to get all of the liquid into the bowl.
· Discard the berry mixture.
· Add the honey and stir well.
· Pour the syrup into a jar and store in the refrigerator.
**During the cooler months, I take 1 tablespoon a day as an immune booster. When I am feeling under the weather, I take 1 tablespoon 2-3 times per day. If you add honey to your elderberry syrup, do not give it to children 2 and younger.
1.) Z Zakay-Rones et al. Inhibition of several strains of influenza virus in vitro and reduction of symptoms by an elderberry extract (Sambucus nigra L.) during an outbreak of influenza B Panama. J Altern Complement Med 1995; 1:361.
2.) Gruenwald J, Freder J, Armbruester N. Cinnamon and health. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2010;50(9):822–834. doi:10.1080/10408390902773052
3.) Urbaniak A, Głowacka A, Kowalczyk E, Lysakowska M, Sienkiewicz M. Przeciwbakteryjne działanie olejku cynamonowego na wybrane bakterie gram-dodatnie i gram-ujemne [The antibacterial activity of cinnamon oil on the selected gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria]. Med Dosw Mikrobiol. 2014;66(2):131–141.
4.) Bode AM, Dong Z. The Amazing and Mighty Ginger. In: Benzie IFF, Wachtel-Galor S, editors. Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects. 2nd edition. Boca Raton (FL): CRC Press/Taylor & Francis; 2011. Chapter 7. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK92775/
5.) Karuppiah P, Rajaram S. Antibacterial effect of Allium sativum cloves and Zingiber officinale rhizomes against multiple-drug resistant clinical pathogens. Asian Pac J Trop Biomed. 2012;2(8):597–601. doi:10.1016/S2221-1691(12)60104-X
6.) Chami N, Bennis S, Chami F, Aboussekhra A, Remmal A. Study of anticandidal activity of carvacrol and eugenol in vitro and in vivo. Oral Microbiol Immunol. 2005;20(2):106–111. doi:10.1111/j.1399-302X.2004.00202.x
7.) Kamatou, G.P.; Vermaak, I.; Viljoen, A.M. Eugenol—From the Remote Maluku Islands to the International Market Place: A Review of a Remarkable and Versatile Molecule. Molecules 2012, 17, 6953-6981.
9.) Nuñez L, Aquino MD. Microbicide activity of clove essential oil (Eugenia caryophyllata). Braz J Microbiol. 2012;43(4):1255–1260. doi:10.1590/S1517-83822012000400003