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Sambucus berries

Elderberry Immune Drink

Botanical profile of the month: Elderberry / Sambucus Nigra

Autumn is upon us and in this changing weather with the advent of colds, flus and other infections, we can look to immune supportive botanicals and supplements to help. A long-time favorite is Elderberry.  It is both effective and safe for children and adults.

Sambucus nigra, or Black Elderberry, is a flowering plant native to most of Europe and North America. Other common names include elder, black elder, European elder, European elderberry, and European black elderberry. It grows in both dry and wet fertile soils and prefers full or partial sun exposure. Around Flagstaff, you can find it in its ornamental splendor with its Japanese maple-like leaves in dark purplish-green in many front yards and along the Butler Drive facade of the Drury Inn Suites Conference center. Elder is cited as a poisonous plant for mammals, and as a weed in certain habitat because of the cyanogenic glycosides contained in the leafy parts of the plant. The unripe berries are mildly poisonous as well.  In Medicinal and Culinary traditions, the ripe berries are cooked, first, then safely consumed as jams, jellies, syrups and chutney. The flowerheads can be infused into beverages or made into an alcoholic cordial. Elderflower soft drinks are also available, though most commonly in Europe. Both berries and flowers can be made into elderberry wine, champagne, liqueur, or brandy.

Medicinally, Elderberry is most commonly consumed as syrup or dried and formulated with other immune supportive herbs. The benefits are numerous and the research supportive of its known actions.  Elderberry is packed with antioxidant bioflavonoids, which boost immune function (particularly in the case of viral infections), quell inflammation, and protect cardiovascular function. Most often we turn to Elderberry to prevent or ease colds and flus.

Elderberry can be safely consumed on a daily basis. One teaspoon per day (especially when taken with Vitamin C) is enough to help increase your resistance to run-of-the-mill viral infections.  You can take up to 4 teaspoons a day at the first sign of a cold or flu until symptoms abate. Like many natural approaches to illness, it is best to take Elderberry at the first sign of illness, instead of waiting until symptoms are full blown.  My family favorite for immune support is the immune drink below. 

Elderberry Immune Drink:

1 packet of Emergen-C (Acai or Raspberry flavor are my faves) OR 1 teaspoon of buffered C powder.
2 teaspoons of Arabinogalactans powder
1 capsule Probiotic powder opened up, or ¼ teaspoon of probiotic powder
2 teaspoons of Elderberry syrup
1 teaspoon Glycine powder (optional: for nighttime consumption or for help with anxiety—Glycine converts to GABA, is a powerful treatment for anxiety and beneficial for sleep)

Mix ingredients in the bottom of a glass then fill with water, stir thoroughly and enjoy. This drink is delicious and safe for children >2 years of age. As an immune tonic, it can be consumed once daily, during an acute illness, drinking this twice daily is best.