Last Updated on January 23, 2023
Tap into the fantastic health benefits of elderberries with these cost-effective, immune-boosting and delicious elderberry recipes!
Elderberries are a tasty way to support your immune system and stay healthy this season. Here’s what to know about elderberry benefits and how to get them.
This cold season has been a doozy for our family. Our eldest entered the public school system in September, and that onslaught of new germs has meant a constant battle to fight off colds.
Mostly I’ve managed to keep them at bay, but there’s only so much you can do when a 5-year-old and a 3-year-old are sneezing in your face and using your sweater as a tissue. (We’re working on it.)
Related: Try these immune-boosting foods to help ward off that next cold.
WHAT ARE THE HEALTH BENEFITS OF ELDERBERRIES?
1. ELDERBERRIES MAY HELP FIGHT VIRUSES
Scores of people swear by elderberries to help them fight colds and flu, and historically, elderberry wine and a concoction similar to elderberry syrup called a ‘rob’ were widely popular folk remedies for dealing with respiratory ailments.
Recent research done in labs, on animals, and in small groups of people back up these folk remedies, as elderberries contain compounds that support our immune systems in multiple ways.
Lab studies suggest that elderberry may both stimulate the body’s response to infection and inhibit viruses’ ability to penetrate host cells. A 2019 study found that elderberry extract had multiple antiviral actions, blocking viruses from infecting cells, interfering with viral replication in infected cells, and stimulating the production of cytokines, chemical messengers that coordinate our immune response.
A 2016 clinical trial of 312 air travelers found “a significant reduction of cold duration and severity in the group that supplemented with elderberry extract.
Will elderberry concoctions keep you from ever getting sick? Probably not, but they may help you fight some off or shorten the duration and severity of those you do come down with. Combined with other ingredients that herbs for coughs, elderberry syrup is one of many effective home remedies for cough. Here’s an interesting systematic review on the benefits of elderberries if you want to know more.
2. ELDERBERRIES ARE RICH IN ANTIOXIDANTS & ANTI-INFLAMMATORY COMPOUNDS
Plus, as one of those dark purple berries, elderberries have potent antioxidants, great anti-inflammatory properties that help fight oxidative damage linked to cancer risk and aging. You can also forage antioxidant-rich black chokeberry or mulberry (and try them in these mulberry recipes).
Their anti-inflammatory properties make elderberries one of numerous herbs for colds that can help ease the inflammation associated with a viral infection.
If you like to forage, here’s how to identify elderberry bushes and bring home buckets of delicious foraged elderberries for nothing.
TAP INTO THE HEALTH BENEFITS OF ELDERBERRIES WITH ELDERBERRY TEA
You don’t have much to lose with elderberry tea — this is a tasty, inexpensive, low-waste way to enjoy the health benefits of elderberries, especially if you already enjoy fruity tea.
You can buy dried elderberries in the bulk section of many natural foods stores, and when you bring your own container, you eliminate virtually all the waste from your tea habit. Here are a bunch of ways to get started with zero waste living.
You can also buy elderberries by the pound online, which will last your family a very long time. Either way, you get to skip all the bags, and cup for cup this is a lot cheaper than bagged herbal teas.
Making a basic elderberry tea is simple: Just add a teaspoon of berries to one cup of boiling filtered water and steep. I like mine plain, but my kids prefer it sweet, so we add honey to theirs when they have the sniffles.
For the times I just want a simple tea and am not concerned about extracting every bit of goodness from the berries, I keep a tea mug with a built-infuser handy for brewing multiple cups of elderberry tea from a couple teaspoons of berries. You can rebrew till it’s too weak to bother with.
I try to sip elderberry tea whenever I feel like my body’s trying to fight something off. I also add some homemade elderberry syrup to kids’ smoothies (made with our probiotic-rich homemade yogurt) to help them fight off the colds going around at school.
Christina at The Hippy Homemaker ups the immune-boosting ante of her tea with a bunch more herbs thought to help immunity. Try her recipe here.
2019 UPDATE ON GETTING HEALTH BENEFITS OF ELDERBERRIES
After extensive research on elderberries for my book on elderberries and elderflowers, and what I’ve learned suggests that a simple steep in water may not be as effective for extracting the beneficial compounds from elderberries as a good simmer on the stove.
By all means if you only have time to boil some water and pour it over your berries, go for it. You’re still getting a yummy tea and some of the elderberries’ medicinal compounds. But any time you think of it, you can simmer berries to make an unsweetened concentrate (called a decoction) that can be added to hot water to make a potentially more powerful tea. Find instructions and more about how to make elderberry tea here.
Also, I hadn’t realized until I started researching my book what a powerful herb elderflower is as well. Historically, it’s the part of the elder herbalists used more than the berry. Read more about the uses for elderflower here.
>>To find out more about what research tells us about the health benefits of elderberries, expert growing advice, plus 62 delicious recipes for using your elderflowers and elderberries, pick up a copy of Everything Elderberry, available everywhere books are sold. It involved months of research, dozens of interviews, and a ton of kitchen experiments. It contains information on elderberries and elderflowers you can’t find anywhere else. I hope you’ll love it!
Related: Benefits of Hibiscus Tea, a Delicious Herb to Brew!
OTHER WAYS TO GET THE HEALTH BENEFITS OF ELDERBERRIES
Elderberry Syrup & Gummies
You can buy elderberry extract or syrup from an elderberry farm, Vitacost, or Amazon or make your own from the bulk elderberries mentioned above. This will save you quite a bit of money, especially if you take it often.
This DIY elderberry syrup from Chrystal from Happy Mothering or this extra-immune-boosting homemade elderberry syrup plus recipe from Brittany at The Pistachio Project will save you big on elderberry syrup. (Brilliant resource-saving idea: Brittany recommends reusing elderberries to make elderberry tea). I also love this use of the pulp left from making an unsweetened juice from fresh berries to infuse vinegar from Wild Plant Forager.
Susan at Learning and Yearning knows how to supercharge your elderberry syrup with other immune-boosting ingredients.
Chrystal has also developed an elderberry gummy for her kids. We’ve made them a bunch, and kids and grown-ups alike think they’re a really way tasty way to stay healthy!
These elderberry lollipops from Salt in My Coffee look like a delicious way to lick a cold! (Lick, get it? 😉 )
Related: How to Fight a Cold with Kitchen Remedies
Elderberry-zinc & other elderberry supplements
Here’s the most cost-effective option if you choose this route. But there are many other elderberry-zinc options and some are yummy!
It may very well be the zinc in these tablets helping your immune system; research thus far is inconclusive. Here are some options without zinc.
Elderberry is also sold in capsule form. I prefer to go the food route, but everyone’s different. Get the benefits of elderberries however works best for you!
Check out this recipe for elderberry overnight oats for a delicious way to rev up your immune system!
There are plenty more herbs that may help support your immune system. Check out this post on immune-boosting herbs.
Here are more than 20 ways to use fresh or dried elderberries in cooking as well.
Love home remedies? Check out these uses for lemon balm to help with sleep issues, anxiety and more. Find other herbs for sleep here.
Enjoy the Health Benefits of Elderberries by Growing Your OwnIf you have some space in your yard, you could even grow your own elderberries. They’re beautiful and cold-hardy and will add edibles to your landscape, always a plus if you’re on a mission to live greener. And of course growing your own will save you money and connect you to your food. Here are the best elderberry varieties to consider adding to your garden.
Want to know more about sneaking elderberries and other delicious edibles into your landscape? Angela England has great ideas for you in her book, Gardening Like A Ninja.
If you love the idea of harvesting useful medicinal herbs from your garden, check out this info on starting a medicinal herb garden.
Some questions about elderberries’ safety continue to stalk the interwebs. Here’s the answer to the question, ‘Are elderberries poisonous?’ if you’ve been wondering 🙂
Pin to save this info on the health benefits of elderberries!
Health benefits of eldeerberries photo credits: 127071 , HealthyGreenSavvy, Happy Mothering, John McLinden, RitaE, Susannah Shmurak
Susannah is a proud garden geek and energy nerd who loves healthy food and natural remedies. Her work has appeared in Mother Earth Living, Ensia, Northern Gardener, Sierra, and on numerous websites. Her first book, Everything Elderberry, released in September 2020 and has been a #1 new release in holistic medicine, naturopathy, herb gardening, and other categories. Find out more and grab your copy here.
Another great immune system booster is Astralagus root. It can be added to your winter soups or broken up into a tea blend. Although not really local*** it can be easily purchased from Mountain Rose Herbs or Present Moment in the Twin Cities. Looks like a dried and then sliced tree branch.
***A few herbal growers in town are starting to incorporate this into herb gardens.
Great suggestion, Angel — thanks! I might look into adding some to my garden as well. Jess puts astralagus in her gummy recipe, here: http://simplyhealthyhome.com/how-to-make-elderberry-syrup-gummies/
I have heard so much about the many health benefits of elderberries. I love your recipes for the tea and the elderberry gummy sounds like a wonderful healthy treat for kids & adults. Thanks for sharing how to grow them and all your valuable information. Thanks for sharing on Real Food Fridays blog hop. Pinned & tweeted!
Just a note to let you know that I have chosen your article as one of my features for this weeks Real Food Fridays blog hop that goes live every Thursday @ 7pm EST. Thank you for being part of Real Food Fridays mission to help make this world a little bit healthier every week. Happy Spring!
Thanks so much for featuring my post, Marla! Love your hop!
I love these ideas! I have heard about the benefits of elderberries before but never knew how to effectively use them. Thanks for sharing with us at Simply Natural Saturdays!
Hope they help you stay healthy! Thanks for stopping by!
Elderberries are so great for supporting the immune system! Thanks for sharing on Let’s Get Real!
My elderberry bushes are about to flower. The flowers can be used in tea or pancakes. But I generally just wait for the berries. I make an elderberry syrup and preserve by canning. It is only lightly sweetened. When I open the jar I add raw honey to increase the immune boost. I make it for the grand kids.
Lucky grand kids! That sounds lovely. Thanks for commenting!
Alix Kalfin says
I had bought a bag of elderberries to make some syrup and then was overwhelmed by all the recipe options. I’ll choose one from here and go from there. 🙂
Just start with simple — elderberries, water, and honey! It’s pretty straightforward and simple. Then check out some of the more complicated options. (I tried the gummies after writing this post, and they are terrific!)
Danielle @DIYDanielle says
Great idea! I haven’t tried that before, but have a number of other herbal remedies. I’ll need to add that to my medicine cabinet. Thanks for linking up to #SustainableSundays!
Angie - WhippedGreenGirl says
Ironically I just bought elderberries & had no clue what to do with them lol- loved this post! Happy to have found it on Do-It-Yourself Danielle’s DIY link-up 🙂
Excellent! The gummies are really worth trying, but tea is the simplest way to get your elderberries. Let me know if you think they help keep you healthy. Enjoy! Thanks for stopping by!