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Elderberry, a natural wonder often overlooked, holds a treasure trove of health benefits that can bolster your immune system, particularly as we navigate the changing seasons.

Known scientifically as Sambucus nigra, Elderberry has been revered through the ages, from ancient Greek physicians to the Druids, for its medicinal properties.

So in herbal medicine, we use the black elder, Sambucus nigra. We use the berries or fructis and the flowers or floss.

The berries contain cyanogenic glycosides, which become less active when treated with heat, which is why we always heat our recipe.

the magic and cautions of elderberry

Cyanogenic glycosides are potentially toxic and life threatening because your body can break them down and turn them into cyanide. For this reason, do not eat raw Elderberries. Follow the traditional syrup recipes to turn what could potentially be poisonous if eaten raw into a healing tonic. Tracy shares her Elderberry rob and Elderberry syrup. Save yourself some time when you’re harvesting your Elderberries and remove those tiny little berries by running a fork through the florets. There’s no need to pick them off one by one. The berries come pre packaged with their own pectin, so they can also be used to set a woodland jam or jelly and from a nutritional perspective, elderberry is a complete protein

It has 16 amino acids, 9 of which are essential. Great news if you’re vegetarian. Elder is for immunity, but it does so much more than that. Research has supported its use as an anti inflammatory, a mild pain reliever, and a potent antioxidant, thanks to those rich blue anthocyanidins.

But interestingly, Elderflowers actually have a higher antioxidant value than the berries, so it’s not all about that gorgeous purple berry fluff or the gorgeous purple berry colour.

what does the research say?

There’s emerging research suggesting its use in supporting the complications of diabetes, both in its ability to support the body in releasing excess body fat and in its ability to support the body in improving bone density. Now that’s a win for anyone who’s got osteopenia or osteoporosis.

Emerging research has has also reported that Elderflower tea may increase glucose metabolism and encourage insulin secretion by creating more of those pancreatic cells.

Elderberry hails from Europe and it’s been used as a herbal medicine since records began and before. The Greek physician Hippocrates referred to Elderberries as the medicine chest of all herbs. Elder was a tree of the Druids, said to be the keeper of beginnings and endings.

powerful detoxifier

They’re a wonderful detoxifier. The antiviral and antibacterial aspects of Elderberry has been studied extensively with research confirming its ability to inhibit a variety of gram negative and gram positive bacteria, including the MRSA superbug, Staphylococcus aureus. Interestingly, Elder flowers have shown to have a higher antimicrobial efficacy and broader. Interestingly, Elderflowers have shown to have a higher antimicrobial efficacy and broader antibacterial action than elderberry, but when it comes to upper respiratory tract infections, it’s Elderberry which has a more potent effect. What we love most about Elderberry is that it is antibacterial and antiviral. There’s no point taking an antibiotic when you have a virus such as a cold or a flu. It won’t make any difference.

Making a rob or syrup

Although taking a herb that acts across both virus and bacteria, it does reduce the risk of a secondary bacterial infection occurring when you’re dealing with a significant upper respiratory tract infection. A rob is Tracy’s preferred choice rather than a syrup. A rob is like a syrup, but it doesn’t use added sugar.

Start by making an elderberry decoction. A decoction is like a tea, but you simmer it in a pan to break down, well in this case berries, but it’s also the preferred method when making a tea with barks and seeds.

So, what do you need to do? First of all, strip your berries off their florets with a fork. Give them a wash and then simmer them with your chosen spices for up to an hour. Half and half with water. You’ll know when it’s done because the berries have lost their form. Now, you can add some cinnamon, a bit of star anise, and ginger as accompanying spices. When it’s done, mash any remaining berries with a potato masher and pass it through a sieve. Once you have your liquid, return it to the stovetop and simmer until your liquid has reduced again by half. And that’s your Rob. That’s all there is to it.

Add it to some sterilized bottles and take a tablespoon a day as a preventative through the winter. Now it doesn’t have a preservative, so I tend to leave these in the fridge. You can also freeze the rob into ice cubes.

And if you’re making a syrup, you add an equal portion of sugar to the decoction. You can also to add a bit of lemon and ginger in there to bring down the sweetness, and there’s no need to reduce it by half. Simmer until your sugar and decoction is one. Once the sugar has dissolved, pour it into sterilized bottles and you can also freeze it.

potent medicine

Remember, plant medicine is potent medicine. If you have any underlying health conditions, you’re pregnant, or you’re trying to get pregnant, or you’re lactating, or you’re taking any medications. Don’t just rely on the information in this blog. As you’ve seen with Elderberry, just because it’s natural, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s good for you.

Please do get individual advice by consulting with your medical herbalist. Not only are they trained in which herbs affect a particular health condition, or your current life season.

They’re also trained in herb drug interactions and in choosing exactly the right herb or combination for herbs for you.