I just spent the last several days caring for a very sick little girl. She must have picked up a respiratory virus at co-op, ballet, or maybe when she was playing with her cousins last weekend but the point is she caught one heck of a cold. Mild to high fevers, sore throat, and a harsh barking cough. Thankfully, she is on the mend but…
No one else in my house caught it.
My oldest is always offered anything she is willing to eat or take but due to her sensory issues she often adamantly refuses.
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Elderberry (scientific name: Sambucus nigra L.) syrup is an old world remedy that has been used for centuries to prevent and treat many ailments. These days, elderberry is mostly known for the prevention and treatment of the common cold to varies types of influenza. Before I trust anything, I always research and I ask myself…
Does it actually work?
Science Behind the Elderberry
The short answer is yes and so I do have a couple of evidenced based journal articles to support my response.
“A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study during the influenza season of 1999-2000 in Norway. Patients received 15 ml of elderberry or placebo syrup four times a day for 5 days, and recorded their symptoms using a visual analogue scale. Symptoms were relieved on average 4 days earlier and use of rescue medication was significantly less in those receiving elderberry extract compared with placebo.”(NIH)(please note this dosage was for adults not children)
“Sambucol (elderberry) was shown to be effective in vitro against 10 strains of influenza virus. In a double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized study, Sambucol reduced the duration of flu symptoms to 3-4 days.”(NIH)
Gaia Herbs Kids Black Elderberry Syrup, 3 Ounce – Delicious Daily Immune Support with Antioxidants, Organic Sambucus Elderberry
(This is the brand my whole family prefers it is pleasantly honey thick and sweet.)
“This randomized, double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial of 312 economy class passengers travelling from Australia to an overseas destination aimed to investigate if a standardized membrane filtered elderberry (Sambucus nigra L.) extract has beneficial effects on physical, especially respiratory, and mental health. The data suggest a significant reduction of cold duration and severity in air travelers.”(NIH)
“Rubini elderberry liquid extract is active against human pathogenic bacteria as well as influenza viruses.”(NIH)
As a Registered Nurse I have had to deal with MRSA (an antibiotic resistant strain of bacteria) a lot. It has definitely complicated treatment for those that have found themselves ill with MRSA so I couldn’t pass this study up. “Extracts of Sambucus ebulus and Urtica dioica possess antibacterial potency against MRSA isolates and may be used as a natural antiseptics and antimicrobial agents in medicine.”(NIH)
(*never consume raw elderberry as it is known to cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.)
Is Elderberry safe for those with autoimmune diseases?
In an autoimmune response the immune system is attacking the body or a body system. Since the action of Elderberry is increasing the bodies immune system function then it may exacerbate a autoimmune disease. I would urge those with autoimmune diseases to not take Elderberry preventatively and approach it’s use (if at all) cautiously during an illness.
Use In Certain Types of Cancer
“Triterpenoid Acids (found in Elderberry) as Important Antiproliferative Constituents of European Elderberry Fruits.” (Source:Gleńsk M, et al. Nutr Cancer. 2017 May-Jun.Pubmed)
“The in vitro bioactivity of anthocyanins (anticancer and antioxidant) and the fact that membranes are the primary target of biological activity of those compounds has led us to investigate the molecular interaction of Cy 3-gluc and elderberry extract with the lipid membrane that mimics the lipid phase of cancer membranes.
There are data that provided evidence that anthocyanins (and probably other flavonoids) operate as protective agents against fluidization of cancer membrane.
In addition, we explored the possibility of Elderberry Extract and Cy 3-gluc affecting albumin—the main protein of blood plasma, expected to be helpful for understanding the mechanism of drug transport within organisms. In accordance with other results obtained, i.e., the high antioxidant capacity demonstrated in this work, we conclude that elderberry extract and its main component Cy 3-gluc exert beneficial effects on cells via intercalation into and interaction with lipid membranes.
On the other hand, incorporation into the surface of membrane and the rigidifying effect helps to protect the membranes modified by anthocyanins against oxidative stress induced not only by free AAPH radicals, but also potentially, e.g., by UV irradiation.
Moreover, the anticancer activity of EE and Cy 3–gluc on a human breast cancer cell line has been confirmed. Finally, the anti-inflammatory activity (in relation to COX-1 and COX-2) as well as the good effectiveness of closing the elderberry extract in liposomes indicate a potential usefulness for its therapeutic application.”(NLM.NIH)
Elderberry Nature Study
Using elderberry syrup is a natural remedy that I want to teach to my own children so I am starting with an elderberry nature study. I will plan to just story tell to both my children based off of what I already know about the elderberry. I found an amazing (click link) Elderberry Ebook on Herb Society of America, it covers everything from the natural history of the elderberry, medicinal uses, elderberry nature lore, vintage pictures, all the way to various types of recipes. I plan to make our own elderberry syrup using this (click link) Elderberry Syrup Kit. You can study the dried berries from the Elderberry Syrup Kit and discuss the various parts that your children observe while you are making elderberry syrup. You can also grow your own elderberry plant indoors and plant it outside once it is seasonal.
(Click link) Indoor Elderberry Plant
I also put together some Elderberry Nature Study printables which includes:
- Elderberry anatomy
- Elderberry life cycle
- Elderberry copy work in print and cursive
- Three elderberry writing prompts
- an elderberry visual narration page
Elderberry is proven to relieve flu symptoms an average of fours days earlier. In our home we take a daily dose during the cold and flu season to beef up our immune system and decrease our chances of getting sick. An elderberry nature study is a natural way to teach children about herbal remedies. Do you use elderberry syrup? What do you think of an Elderberry Nature Study?