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Sambucus nigra – Elderberry

Herbal-Clinic-logo-40-x-40-publications-on-website2 Published in the September 2014 edition of ‘The Bay’ Magazine

Deep purple clusters of shiny elderberry signal the arrival of autumn; it is said that summer begins when the Elder tree flowers and ends once its berries are ripe.  Hippocrates referred to elderberry as “nature’s medicine chest” and all parts of the plant were considered valuable in healing. Today the flowers and berries are used in herbal preparations. Research has revealed the power the little berries impact over viruses and infections.

Elder is native to Europe and it is thought that the name comes from the Anglo-Saxon ‘aeld’, meaning fire, because the hollow stems were used as bellows to blow air into dying fires.  Both the flowers and berries can be put to good use in wines, cordials and conserves.

 Medicinal Properties

Keyotes: Coughs, colds and flu

Antiviral and antibacterial – Research has found elderberry extract inhibits the growth of influenza A and B viruses and bacteria associated with upper respiratory tract infections.  Elderberry has been rpoven effective against eight different influenza viruses, thus a useful defence against mutating flu viruses.

Anthocyanins – Stimulate immune function by boosting the production of chemical messengers in the immune system helping regulate immune response.

Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory – Protecting body cells against damage from external (environmental) and internal (disease) factors.

 Secret Weapon

Israeli researchers of the Hadassah-Hebrew University Medical Centre, found that elder seems to be designed as a specific weapon against the flu virus. The influenza virus forms tiny spikes, which are laced with a specific enzyme which helps the virus to penetrate the cell walls of a healthy organism. The virus then sets up shop in the cell, reproducing more viruses. The active ingredients in elderberry were found to disarm the enzyme within 24-48 hours, halting the spread of the virus.1

The Whole Approach

Herbs are valuable in infection, supporting and stimulating immunity, whilst exerting antiviral and antibacterial actions to shorten the duration of illness.

Experiencing the symptoms of a cold once or twice a year is a healthy response of the body. A car needs a service with an oil change, similarly it benefits our bodies to discharge mucus, taking away with it any toxic matter from the system. This clear out may last two or three days and is not debilitating.

Sometimes people are too busy to deal with a cold, feeling the initial symptoms approaching but mentally refusing to slow down or listen to the body and thus suppressing the symptoms. The adrenals respond by producing steroid hormones which activate an anti-inflammatory response and the cold symptoms are averted. Unfortunately, this suppression takes its toll and when the body does get the opportunity to clear out, the symptoms will be more severe and a ‘heavy cold’ will be experienced.

Frequent colds and infections are a sign that the body is weakened and requires closer inspection.

 Immune boosting Checklist

o       De-stress. Put this top of the list setting everything else aside, no excuses. If you value your health you must get your stress levels in check!

o       Fire up your digestive system – As temperatures cool we need to warm ourselves up. Warming soups, spiced stews and root vegetables are ideal, using spices such as cumin, cinnamon, turmeric and garlic liberally. Keeping the body warm and the digestive fire strong prevents a build up of toxins, which encourage bacterial proliferation.

o       Keep your metabolism running warm – a regular aerobic exercise program is essential, whether this be a brisk walk with your dog or cycling to work. Ensure your system is fighting fit and it will fight off those microscopic invaders for you.

 Research Snippet

In clinical trials, patients who took elderberry juice syrup reported fast termination of influenza symptoms. 20% reported significant improvement within 24 hours, 70% by 48 hours, and 90% claimed a complete cure after 3 days. Patients receiving the placebo required 6 days for recovery. Patients who took the syrup had higher levels of antibodies against the flu virus. 2


1.Mumcuoglu, M. Sambucus nigra (L), Black Elderberry Extract: A breakthrough in the treatment of influenza. Skokie, Illinois: RSS Publishing, 1995

2.Zakay-Rones Z, Varsano N., Zlotnik M, Manor O., et al Inhibition of several strains of influenza virus in vitro and reduction of symptoms by an elderberry extract (Sambucus nigra L.) during an outbreak of influenza B in Panama. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. 1995;1(4):361-369




The Herbal Clinic in Swansea provides natural healthcare with the use of organic herbs, acupuncture and iridology.




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