Elderberries Herb Profile

Elderberries-Natural remedy and immune booster for flu season

I’ve written before about using Elderberries to help prevent or beat the seasonal flu. Black Elderberries are native to Europe and have a long history of use in herbal medicine. The berries of the plant are often used for preserves, syrups and tinctures, while the bark and flowers are also useful. The leaves and stems are poisonous.

Elderberry and Flu?

Elderberries have gained popularity in recent years for their use in alleviating and avoiding the flu.

“Israeli researchers have developed five formulas based on elderberry fruit that have been clinically proven to prevent and ameliorate all kinds of influenza. The complex sugars of the berries are the immune-active fraction.”


“Extensive research shows that elder stop the production of hormone-like cytokines that direct a class of white blood cells known as neutrophils to cause inflammation, especially in influenza and arthritis. On the other hand, elder increases the production non-inflammatory infection-fighting cytokines as much as 10 fold. Elder berries are known to be effective against eight strains of influenza. This suggests that elder be superior to vaccines in preventing flu, because flu vaccines are only effective against known strains of flu, whereas the virus is continually mutating to new strains.”

“Dr. Madeleine Mumcuoglu, of Hadassah-Hebrew University in Israel found that elderberry disarms the enzyme viruses use to penetrate healthy cells in the lining of the nose and throat. Taken before infection, it prevents infection. Taken after infection, it prevents spread of the virus through the respiratory tract. In a clinical trial, 20% of study subjects reported significant improvement within 24 hours, 70% by 48 hours, and 90% claimed complete cure in three days. In contrast, subjects receiving the placebo required 6 days to recover.”

Even WebMD acknowledges Elderberry’s use in medicine:

“Elderberry is used for “the flu” (influenza), H1N1 “swine” flu, HIV/AIDS, and boosting the immune system. It is also used for sinus pain, back and leg pain (sciatica), nerve pain (neuralgia), and chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS).

Some people use elderberry for hay fever (allergic rhinitis), cancer, as a laxative forconstipation, to increase urine flow, and to cause sweating.

Elderberry fruit is also used for making wine and as a food flavoring.”

How to Use Elderberries

  •  Dried Elderberries can be used to make a homemade syrup that boosts immune function and helps the body avoid or recover from the flu. Here is my recipe for homemade elderberry syrup that kids love!
  • This syrup is also good on homemade pancakes!
  • Dried Elderberries can also be added to muffins or pancakes for a berry flavor similar to blueberries but not quite as sweet.
  • Dried elderberries or elder flowers can be used to make a delicious tea (I’d add honey or stevia since it is somewhat sour)
  • A pre-made syrup is available for acute flu symptoms, but the homemade version works just as well and is much less expensive in my experience. “Standard dose is 1/2 tsp to 1 tsp for kids and 1/2 Tbsp to 1 Tbsp for adults. If the flu does strike, we take the normal dose every 2-3 hours instead of once a day until symptoms disappear.” For our family, this is our first line of defense against the flu and we haven’t gotten it in several years.
  • In culinary uses or herbal remedies.

Where to Buy Elderberries

I’ve always gotten my elderberries from Mountain Rose Herbs in the past, but due to high demand this year, they have been out of stock for months! This year, I ordered Frontier Organic Dried Elderberries instead. They seem to be high quality as well and one pound can last over a year even when we are all taking elderberry syrup regularly. I’ve also used pre-made elderberry syrup in the past if one of us got sick and I didn’t have any homemade syrup on hand, but it is a lot more expensive and I much prefer the homemade version.

Elderberries can be wild crafted and they grow in many places. I always encourage anyone to research and talk to an herbalist before using any wildcrafted herb to make sure that the correct herb is being used in a safe way. Elderberries or other herbs are not a substitute for medical treatment when needed and as always, check with a doctor of health care professional for any illness or before using any remedy.

Have you ever used elderberries? What’s your favorite use for them? Share below!

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