Last Updated on September 7, 2020
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?
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. Here’s an interesting systematic review on the benefits of elderberries if you want to know more.
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.
Plus, as one of those dark blue berries, elderberries have potent antioxidants, great anti-inflammatory properties that help fight oxidative damage linked to cancer risk and aging. You can also forage blackberries and mulberries and try them in these mulberry recipes.
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 ELDERBERROES WITH ELDERBERRY 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 the 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. Or check out this delicious immune boosting herbal tea blend from These Lovely Acres.
2019 update: 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 (1/2 cup berries in 1 cup water) to make an unsweetened concentrate (called a decoction) that can be added to hot water to make a potentially more powerful tea.
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 elderberry’s effect on health, expert growing advice, plus 62 delicious recipes for using your elderflowers and elderberries, pick up a copy of Everything Elderberry, available for preorder now. 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 into your cold-fighting routine:
Elderberry Syrup & Gummies
You can buy pre-made syrup 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
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.
Enjoy the 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.
Want to know more about sneaking elderberries and other delicious edibles into your landscape? Angela England has great ideas for you in her new book, Gardening Like A Ninja.
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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.