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Winter Protection: Elderberry, your weapon against colds and flu

Winter Protection: Elderberry, your weapon against colds and flu | Mr Vitamins
If there is one item to include in your winter arsenal to protect you and the family from colds and flu it would be Elderberry.

What is Elderberry

Sambucus nigra has a long herbal history with traditional use for colds, flu, feverish conditions, sinusitis and herpes simplex virus (cold sores). It has a strong diaphoretic (promotes sweating) and diuretic (promotes urination) and promotes bowel frequency so it also has uses for detoxification and elimination. The purplish-black fruits contains quercetin, kaempferol, rutin, phenolic acids and anthocyanins, flavonoids, which have antioxidant properties that can help prevent cellular damages and have immunostimulant effects. Elderberries are naturally high in vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin B6, iron and potassium, among other essential nutrients. This also makes it useful for allergies and skin health! Elderflower is from the same tree (S. nigra) and it has actions in herbal medicine too. It is used for sweating (diaphoretic) and is commonly combined with Peppermint and Yarrow in a herbal tea to help sweat out fevers and colds.

Clinical Research of Effectiveness

Elderberry is one of herbal medicine’s stars as it is supported by clinical evidence for relieving and reducing the duration of symptoms of influenza. Sambucol, found in many health food shops, pharmacies and supermarkets is the brands that has been used in many clinical trials. If used within the first 48 hours of symptom onset Elderberry extract has shortened the duration of flu by 4 days. The action of Elderberry is thought to be by increasing inflammatory cytokine production which stimulates our immune response. Research also found that people who take elderberries have higher levels of antibodies against the influenza virus, showing that not only may the berry be able to treat flu symptoms, so it may also be preventative. Interestingly, the US government used Elderberry to fight the 1995 flu pandemic.

How to take Elderberry

Elderberry is available in a number of formulations: liquid extract, tea, capsules, lozenges. My preferences is for a tea or liquid extract which I believe are more quickly and effectively absorbed. As it has a pleasant taste, compliance is not an issue; Kids love it and so do grown ups! You can increase the immune support by taking a tea that combines Elderberry and Echinacea, such as the delicious Pukka Elderberry and Echinacea tea bags. It makes a delicious tea that can be served either hot or cold.

Fresh Elderberries

Elderberry is a northern European, deciduous tree that grows well in Sydney. It grows so well that you can find it nearly everywhere which is good news for us! The fresh berries are are quite bland and a bit tart so are not recommended for eating. In the USA they are commonly used in cooking for pies and jams, but not so in Australia. Birds like the berries as well so you could cultivate it to attract wild like as well as for its medicinal uses of both the berries and the flowers.  

Recipe: Elderberry Echinacea Wellness Gummies

Combining Elderberry, Echinacea and manuka honey with gelatin is a great way to sooth your symptoms and boost your immune system in a tasty treat that kids and adults will love!

Winter Protection: Elderberry, your weapon against colds and flu

  • 5 Pukka Elderberry & Echinacea Tea bags
  • 1 1 ⁄2 Cups boiling water
  • 1 ⁄2 cup raw manuka honey
  • 1 ⁄4 cup grass fed gelatin
  • 1 ⁄2 cup of cold water
  1. Silicone mould or glass dish for pouring jellies to set.
  2. Strong herbal decoction: Steep 5 tea bags in boiling water for 10 minutes,. Do this in a saucepan to maintain a good source of heat to allow for the extraction process. It doesn’t need to boil. It should be a rich, dark purple colour. Allow to cool a little before adding honey to sweeten. Do not boil the honey.
  3. Add the 1⁄2 cup of cold water to the gelatin and let sit for 5-10 minutes to allow gelatin to soften, then whisk until all is dissolved.
  4. Add the gelatin mixture to the saucepan of warm tea mixture/decoction and whisk until it’s all dissolved. You may need to return to the heat if the gelatin is not dissolving but don’t boil it, just warm it on the lowest heat setting.
  5. Syringe or pour liquid into moulds or an oiled, glass rectangular dish for gummy cubes.
  6. Freeze for 10-15 minutes until hardened but not frozen.
  7. Push out mould shapes or cut squares out of the rectangular shaped glass.
  8. Keeps refrigerated for up to a week.
Dose: Take 2-3 gummies daily for prevention and up to 6 per day at your first symptoms (sore throat, sniffle, temperature)

Article by Desley Hatfield | Naturopath



  • Barak, V., Halperin, T., & Kalickman, I. (2001). The effect of Sambucol, a black elderberry-based natural product, on the production of human cytokines: I. Inflammatory cytokines. European Cytokine Network, 12(2), 290-6.
  • Krawitz, Christian et al. “Inhibitory Activity of a Standardized Elderberry Liquid Extract against Clinically-Relevant Human Respiratory Bacterial Pathogens and Influenza A and B Viruses.” BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine 11 (2011): 16. PMC. Web. 3 Mar. 2018.
  • Roschek Jr. B, Fink RC, McMichael MD, et al. Elderberry flavonoids bind to and prevent H1N1 infection in vitro. Phytochemistry. 2009;70(10):1255-61. doi: 10.1016/j.phytochem.2009.06.003.
  • Zakay-Rones Z, e. (2018). Randomized study of the efficacy and safety of oral elderberry extract in the treatment of influenza A and B virus infections. - PubMed - NCBI .