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  • Writer's pictureLindsay Nelson, RD, LD

Boost Your Immune System with Elderberries

We’re right in the middle of cold and flu season and after last year’s flu epidemic, many people are wanting to do all they can to avoid catching the dreaded virus. Did you know that elderberries can help prevent and fight off influenza? Some professionals even say it’s more effective than Tamiflu plus it doesn’t have any side effects.

Elderberries are the fruit of the plant known as Sambucus. Sambucus is found in the northern hemisphere, including Missouri. It can be found growing wild in the woods or you can plant them in your own back yard.

Elderberries have been used for thousands of years as a cold and flu remedy. Now, we even have studies to back up these remedies. One study found that 93% of people struck with influenza saw improvements after taking elderberry within 2 days versus 6 days for people in the placebo group. Another study found that people with the influenza virus saw improvements 4 days earlier when they consumed elderberry syrup compared with others who did not consume elderberry. People who consume elderberry syrup as a preventive measure are less likely to contract influenza since elderberry helps to build up antibodies against the flu. Elderberry has antiviral properties that can prevent viruses from penetrating cell walls, or after infection, can stop the virus from spreading.

If you have access to fresh or dried elderberries, you can easily make your own elderberry syrup. Or you can buy elderberry syrup or concentrate at local retailers. Follow the label’s instructions. Hy-Vee carries an elderberry concentrate that is made here in Kansas; I like how their concentrate doesn’t contain any added sugar. They recommend 1 teaspoon per day for prevention of sickness; I give my two year old ¼ teaspoon per day. You can also buy or make your own elderberry gummies. Just be sure if making your own syrup to not eat the elderberries raw as this can cause nausea and vomiting.

Elderberries are also used to make wine, jam, jelly and desserts. Besides warding off the cold and flu, it has other touted health claims like reducing cholesterol and improving heart health, reducing uric acid, increasing white blood cells, reducing blood sugar, plus many more claims. Many of these claims are due to elderberry’s high antioxidant and nutrient density. Many of these claims, however, have limited scientific research. Nonetheless, taking elderberry on a daily basis is one simple way to stay healthy this cold and flu season.

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