Elderberry for Colds and Flu

It’s that time again: cold and flu season. Though my kids and I all got vaccinated, I know nothing is 100%. In fact, seasonal flu vaccines, according to the DCD, are designed to protect only against the “most likely” flu strains for this season. And, of course, it does nothing to ward off the more than 200 viruses that cause the common cold.

So what’s a person to do? How can you stack the odds in your favor so that you don’t end up bed ridden for days, moaning and wailing in a cold sweat, unable to breathe, think or function?

You already know the obvious stuff: wash your hands, take your multivitamin and get eight hours of shut-eye each night. But I’m here to tell you about another powerful tool you can add to your immune-boosting arsenal: black elderberry extract.

What the heck is black elderberry extract? Sounds like a poison elixir the evil Queen would slip to Snow White to rid the land of the fairest one of all.

I assure you it’s not. Just the opposite, in fact. With its antiviral, immune-supporting properties, black elderberry extract has been clinically proven to ward off viruses and significantly minimize symptoms of the flu, including sore throat, cough, fever and headaches.

What exactly is black elderberry, anyway?
Let’s start with the basics. Black elderberry is a dark blue/purple berry that comes from the native North American and European elderberry shrub. Widely know as one of the most revered of all herbs, elderberry has been used for centuries to treat more than 70 maladies—from simple ailments like stress relief to deadly ones like the plague. In fact, Hippocrates, the ancient Greek known as the “father of medicine,” referred to elderberry as his “medicine chest.”

How does it work?
Elderberry is extremely rich in flavonoids (a groups of compounds with beneficial antioxidant effects). But it’s the specific type of flavonoid—the anthocyanins—that makes elderberry special. Anthocyanins are thought to boost the production of cytokines. Cytokines alert the body when increased immune response is required; they send T-Cells into battle against infection.

Elderberry is such a powerful antioxidant, in fact, that the United States Department of Agriculture gives it an ORAC score (a measure of antioxidant levels in food) of more than double that of blueberries.

In support of elderberry:
While the medical community is often reluctant to promote the use of herbal remedies in the treatment of medical conditions, elderberry seems to be one that is recognized by holistic practitioners and medical doctors alike. Numerous studies have been conducted proving the efficacy of this power supplement. One study (1995 – Zakay-Rones) revealed that 90% of those infected with the flu virus who were given elderberry extract were completely cured within two to three days, as opposed to six days in the control group. And another study (2005 – Balasingham) found elderberry extract to be at least 99% effective against the Avian Bird Flu. There are many more where those came from, but I think you get the gist. It works; science tells us so.

Where do you find it?
Black elderberry extract has become so mainstream that most local pharmacies carry it. You can buy it in the form of a syrup-like liquid extract (which is totally yum), chewable tablets (also quite tasty) or small easy-to-swallow capsules. If you can’t find it at your pharmacy or local health food store, look online at sites like amazon.com.
As for me, I take elderberry in one shape or form every day. Since I started with it a few years ago I’ve noticed I get fewer colds—and when I do, I’m only down and out for a day or two, as opposed to the three or four days it used to take me to recover.

I’ve recently started mixing the syrup into my fruit smoothies, which adds a smooth sweetness and a rich, dark color. It’s good to take as a preventative measure, but if you’re not keen on the idea of a daily dose, you can just take it at the first sign of a cold or flu. Oh yeah, and my kids love it, too.

photo source: freedigitalphotos.net

  The must find yes, we were concerned about phone location tracker at trackingapps.org our son’s safety at soccer camp and luckily all we had was a minor scare


  1. I have never heard of this, Steph. I am going to try it, and sneak some to my skeptical, left-brained, medical-minded Hubby, who gets the flu worse than everyone else. Thanks for the advice – I’m sharing it!

    • Kathy, it’s the best. I mean, I’m not saying skip your flu shot and use only elderberry. But it really does help when/if you get sick. PS, your husband sounds like mine. I’ve never even suggested he take it. There’s no way he would.

  2. I wish I’d known this a month ago when I literally thought I was going to die from a sinus infection (I was even planning my own funeral). I would be willing to give it a try! Did you know the two little old ladies in “Arsenic And Old Lace” poisoned gentlemen with elderberry wine? “For a gallon of elderberry wine, I take one teaspoonful of arsenic, add half a teaspoon of strychnine, and then just a pinch of cyanide.”

  3. You have me sold. I am so sick of all this sickness! Thanks, Steph.

  4. First let me say I will NOT make any monty python ‘elderberry’ jokes (nerd humor)

    I am looking more into these types of supplementing (you make a great point there) with fruit/vegetable extracts, since the price and quality of both have been poor lately.
    You know when a virus/illness is widespread when your news and sports reporters are plainly sick as well! There was one last week, who was being berated by their in house ‘doctor’ who does the med segments!

    Thanks for the advice!

    • Ha ha, good point. When the news reporter looks like he’s death’s doorstep with the flu, that’s bound to scare anybody.

  5. We stir it into a can of clear soda and call it elderSprite….a must for when you feel a bug coming on or you are having tummy troubles. My husband’s allergies are much less bothersome since he started having a teaspoon at breakfast every morning about ten years ago.

    • Ooohhh, stirring it into soda! What a good idea. My kids aren’t sold on the elderberry syrup, even though I think it’s delish. I’ve been mixing it into their smoothies. But if it was in a glass of sprite, I’m sure they’d drink it. Anything for some soda! And I hadn’t thought of the allergies. It makes sense since allergies are an immune response to a perceived invader. My son has allergies, so even more reason to try to get it into him.

      I just love hearing your insights. You’re chock full of them!

  6. I googled Elderberry and your site came up as #3. Then, I just bought it from your link. I KNOW i read this post before, and somehow missed all of the information you shared on how to get it. Thanks for your help! I am excited to get it in our family’s bodies. Thank you!

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