The Benefits of Elder

Elder is a powerful immune boosting herb. The benefits of elder are made popular for the antiviral properties used for treating colds and flus, but the benefits don’t stop there.

elder flower being held
Elderberries on the tree

The Differences Between Flower and Berry

Elder has gained wild popularity in the recent years for good reason. Its antiviral properties make it a top choice for the treatment of cold and flu. However it’s a very versatile plant with many more beneficial properties including:

  • anti-inflammatory
  • decongestant
  • diaphoretic
  • febrifuge (breaks fever)
  • nutritive (nourishing)
  • antiviral

Even though elder flower and elder berry are the same plant and they do share similarities, there are some differences in the way they can be used. Elder flower is an excellent herb used to induce sweating in those that have difficulty perspiring. It’s also a great addition to a seasonal allergy tea blend when paired with goldenrod and nettle. Stay tuned for that recipe and much more coming soon in my herbal recipe book.

Elderberry is really the herb that shines in the fight against cold and flus. Specifically in preventing the increase of viral load within the body. Time to geek out on the science…

The Science Behind Elderberry

Even though they’ve recently gotten a really bad rep from the infamous “cytokine storms” that can happen with covid infection, cytokines are actually good. They’re the messengers of the immune system, and there are a lot of them. They tell the immune system where to go and what to do. Elderberry directly increases the IL-6, IL-8, IL-1 beta, and TNF-alpha cytokines. These specific cytokines all have different jobs.

  1. **L-6 (Interleukin-6): IL-6 is a multifunctional cytokine that is involved in various processes, including inflammation, immune response regulation, and acute-phase reactions. It is produced by various cell types, such as immune cells, and acts on immune cells, as well as on other tissues. IL-6 is important for initiating the immune response to infections and injuries, and it also plays a role in regulating fever and the acute-phase response.
  2. **IL-8 (Interleukin-8): IL-8 is primarily known as a chemokine, a type of cytokine that acts as a chemoattractant to recruit immune cells, particularly neutrophils, to sites of infection, inflammation, or tissue injury. It’s a key player in the body’s response to infections and helps direct immune cells to areas where they are needed for defense and repair.
  3. **IL-1β (Interleukin-1 beta): IL-1β is a proinflammatory cytokine that is involved in the initiation and regulation of the inflammatory response. It’s produced by various cells, including immune cells, in response to infections or tissue damage. IL-1β triggers inflammation by promoting the expression of other cytokines and cell adhesion molecules, leading to immune cell recruitment and activation.
  4. **TNF-α (Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha): TNF-α is another proinflammatory cytokine that plays a central role in the body’s immune response. It is produced by various immune cells, and its primary function is to promote inflammation, cell death (apoptosis), and immune cell activation. TNF-α is involved in various processes, such as defending against infections and controlling immune reactions. However, excessive TNF-α production is also implicated in various inflammatory and autoimmune diseases.

**Courtesy of ChatGPT for the fast scientifically accurate data

Cytokines and Autoimmune Disease

These cytokines are crucial for balancing the various necessary immune response needed to keep us alive. However, when these cytokines are overstimulated, they can contribute to chronic inflammation. That includes the development of various diseases, and worsening of already existing ones.

If you have autoimmune disease, elderberry should not be used. Specifically, if you have an autoimmune disease that directly involves overactivity of those cytokines, like ankylosing spondylitis, rheumatoid arthritis, or psoriatic arthritis, you should avoid elderberries. It directly increases those IL-6, IL-8, IL-1 beta, and TNF-alpha cytokines. Immune modulating herbs and adaptogenic herbs would be the better choice for you if you have autoimmune disease. If you do choose to use elderberry though, please be sure to consult with your medical professional.

Warnings

As beneficial as elder can be, specific steps are needed to break down this plant’s toxic properties before ingesting it. It contains a toxic compound called sambunigrin (a cyanogenic glycoside). When consumed, it causes nausea, vomiting and diarrhea when the raw unripe fruit is consumed. Cooking, dehydrating, or tincturing the fully ripened berries breaks down the toxin, making elderberry safe to consume in appropriate dosages. Be aware though, high doses of elderberry have a laxative effect. Elder flower shares the same warnings as the berry and should be completely dried before using.

If you’re interested in making your own elderberry syrup at home, download my free recipe card below. It’s important to note though…DO NOT ADMINISTER ELDERBERRY SYRUP TO CHILDREN UNDER 1 YEAR OLD.

You can purchase elderberries HERE.

Elderberry Syrup

Elderberries on the tree

Used to help prevent to spread of viral infections like colds & flus. Can be used as a preventative.

Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 5 minutes

Ingredients

  • 4 cups filtered water
  • 3/4 cups dried elderberries (or 1 1/2 cups fresh)
  • A few TBS organic ginger root
  • 2 TBS organic cinnamon
  • 1 tsp organic cloves
  • 1 ish cup raw honey

Instructions

  1. If using fresh: Bring water up to a rolling boil, then add fresh elderberries and boil for 3 minutes.
  2. If using dried: Bring water to a simmer and add dried elderberries.
  3. Add the ginger root, cinnamon, and cloves.
  4. Simmer for 1 hour or until syrup is at desired thickness.
  5. Remove from heat and let it cool to room temperature
  6. Strain the mixture squeezing all the liquid out of the herbs.
  7. Add the raw honey and stir until incorporated.
  8. Store in the refridgerator up to 3 months.

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