Elderberry (Sambucus nigra)

Elderberry Sambucus nigra herb of the month

When I think of elderberries, I’m reminded of Grandma Ruth.  I met her when I was 4.  I lost her when I was 16, not to death, but to divorce.  Her son was my step-dad. That makes her my ex-step-grandma.  I was disconnected from her for over 10 years, but I talk to her now, and she still let’s me call her Grandma Ruth.  I like that.

In the life I had before the divorce, I had an awesome Grandma Ruth that grew her own elderberries, made her own elderberry jelly, and gave it to us for Christmas every year.  A few years after the divorce, when my mom had met the Coors Light Drinker, finding homemade elderberry jam under the Christmas tree was something that only happened in fairy tales.

I had no idea that elderberries would later reappear in a life I never thought possible.  I’m living that life now.  I’m in love with the Wendy’s Eating Husband (but I’m not in love with his diet).  I have two beautiful girls.  I’m so close to being the doctor I’ve always wanted to be.

Elderberries give me a taste of the past while delivering physical healing to the present.   They have a special interest in the lungs, which is interesting, since Chinese medicine says that the lungs can act up when there’s suppressed grief.  Grief can also take a toll on the immune system, and elderberry likes to buffer that up too.  Gosh, get me these berries right now.

Tasty Cold & Flu Agent

Dayquil’s got nothin’ on elderberry.  Elderberry’s claim to fame is its work against respiratory tract viruses.  When compared to a placebo in two different double blind trials, elderberry fruit syrup was shown to relieve symptoms and speed recovery from the nasty flu virus.2,3  And BONUS, this is cold medicine that tastes good!

Wicked Antioxidant

Elderberries are loaded with antioxidants, the natural factors that fight against aging, disease, and inflammation.  Their high antioxidant content may be why they are so effective at combating common cold and flu viruses.

Super Safe

So safe that my paranoid OCD brain could handle taking it when I got sick during two different pregnancies.  It’s also safe for use in lactation, and of course, totally kid friendly.

If you would like to start taking elderberry, please consult your naturopathic doctor.  A licensed healthcare practitioner can tailor the dose according to your needs. 

1.  Yarnell, Eric.  Botanical Medicine IV.  Bastyr University.  Fall 2008.
2. Zakay-Rones Z, Thom E, Wollan T, et al.  Randomized study of the efficacy and safety of oral elderberry extract in the treatment of influenza A and B virus infections.  J Int Med Res 32(2):132-40, 2004.
3.  Zakay-Rones Z, Varsano N, Zlotnik M, et al.  Inhibition of several strains of influenza virus in vitro and reduction of symptoms by an elderberry extract (Sambucus nigra) during an outbreak of influenza B in Panama.  J Alt Comp Med 1(4):361-9, 1995.

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2 Responses

  1. Rose

    I use to eat them all the time when I was young from bushes in the wild! Last time I looked the bushes were gone! Do you anything about eating teaberries in the wild? I look for them and eat them whenever I’m hiking!


  2. Erin

    Thanks for your article on elderberries. Most people think of their grandmas when they think of elderberries… it’s so cool that they’re coming back and that their medicinal uses are being validated. I had no idea that they have applications for the lungs… can you talk a little more about that?


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