The wonders of elderberry

Henrietta Norton BSc, Dip NT, MBANT, AFMCP Co-founder of Wild Nutrition and Nutritional Therapist.

I feel very drawn to blog about one of my most treasured herbs (or fruits, depending on what discipline you are from): elderberry, or Sambucus Nigra.

This is a beautiful herb with so much to offer and I have been banging on about it for quite some time, as many of my clients may testify. It has been overlooked somewhat until recently, forever in the shadow of the glam and glitzy echinacea but the antioxidant activity is phenomenal and has been used to lower cholesterol[1], prevent osteoporosis in diabetic patients[2], promote heart health[3], slow down progression of gallbladder cancer[4], and boost the immune system. It is the latter that I will concentrate on in this blog.

Research and traditional use has shown that the active properties found in elderberry (such as polysaccharides, proteins & bioflavanoinds) are able to reduce both onset, severity of symptoms and duration of viral infection during upper respiratory tract infections & viral influenza[5]. In a study published last month elderberry extract was shown to reduce the replication of the human influenza A virus as well as stimulate the activity of the immune system[6].

In 1995 elderberry juice was use to treat a flu epidemic in Panama and in the year 2000, Mosby’s Nursing Drug handbook referred to elderberry for treating colds, flu, tonsillitis, coughs, yeast infections, nasal and chest congestion, and hay fever. It really is wonderful stuff.

Collect your elderberries in September when in season and cook them into a nurturing health syrup (you can freeze them too so squirrel as much as you can for use later in the year). I make a punchy healing elderberry syrup at home and then keep it in the fridge to swig on at the first sign of a cold - both for the kids and us. You can also use it as a preventative measure each day during the winter season when bugs can get the better of some of us.


Elegant Elderberry Syrup:

2/3 Cups of washed black elderberries

3.5 cups of water

2 tablespoons of fresh grated ginger (if you don’t have this in the house then dried ginger will do)

1 teaspoon of cinnamon powder

2 cloves

2 tablespoons Manuka or local honey



  1. Put your elderberries, ginger, cinnamon and cloves into a saucepan.
  2. Add water and bring to the boil for 45-60 mins until the liquid has reduced by half.
  3. Take off the heat and let them cool for a bit (10/15mins – this is academic really but saves you burning your hands!).
  4. Pour mixture through a sieve into a bowl so that you are left with the liquid.
  5. Donate the elderberries to your compost, chickens, or bin.
  6. Allow the liquid to cool until luke warm and then add the honey.
  7. Pour into a glass bottle to keep in the fridge.


How to consume:

A standard dose is 1/2 – 1 tsp for kids and 1/2 – 1 tbsp for adults once a day. If you do get wacked by the flu or a cold, take this dose every 2-3 hours until symptoms disappear.


A few extra points…

I am very far from an expert on foraging but I am learning. What I have learnt is to pick the whole heads, preferably when it hasn’t been raining (i.e. when the berries are dry).

On a rather serious note, if you have children it is a wonderful thing to give them but please do supervise them very carefully as some berries are poisonous and could be picked and eaten in error.

Both our Food-Grown Daily Multi Nutrient for Children and our Food-Grown Immune Complex (designed for those over 12 years) contain elderberry extract.



[1]J Alt Compl Mod 1995: 1:361-69 2. Youdim KA, Martin A, Joseph JA. Incorporation of the elderberry anthocyanins by endothelial cells increases protection against oxidative stress. Free Radical Biol Med 2000: 29:51 60

[2] Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2012;2012:848269. Epub 2012 Sep 13.

Mechanism by Sambucus nigra Extract Improves Bone Mineral Density in Experimental Diabetes.Badescu L, Badulescu O, Badescu M, Ciocoiu M.

[3] Am J Physiol Renal Physiol. 2004 Nov;287(5)

Beta1-integrins in the primary cilium of MDCK cells potentiate fibronectin-induced Ca2+ signaling.Praetorius HA, Praetorius J, Nielsen S, Frokiaer J,Spring KR.

[4] Hepatogastroenterology. 2012 Apr 12;59(119) Association of Immunostaining of Galectin-3 and Sambucus nigra Agglutinin with Invasion, Metastasis and Poor Progression of Gallbladder Adenocarcinoma.

Yang LP, Jiang S, Liu JQ, Miao XY, Yang ZL.

[5] Phytomedicine. 2011 Dec 15;19(1):1-7. Epub 2011 Nov 22. Antiviral activity in vitro of two preparations of the herbal medicinal product Sinupret® against viruses causing respiratory infections. Glatthaar-Saalmüller B, Rauchhaus U,Rode S, Haunschild J, Saalmüller A.

[6] Biosci Biotechnol Biochem. 2012;76(9):1633-8. Anti-influenza virus effects of elderberry juice and its fractions. Kinoshita E, Hayashi K, Katayama H,Hayashi T, Obata A.

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