While all those cold viruses are doing the rounds, I recommend using elderberries as a preventative medicine and to speed recovery – elderberries have been used traditionally in herbal medicine for prevention and treatment of colds and flu and recent research has confirmed this application. Many studies have been carried out on the antiviral and immune-boosting properties of elderberries, with a major focus on use in influenza; a clinical trial involving 60 patients with flu-like symptoms found 15ml of elderberry syrup daily decreased recovery time by 4 days on average compared to placebo (Zakay-Rones et al., 2004). In addition, a very recent trial involving 312 long-haul aeroplane passengers found that elderberry significantly reduced duration and symptoms of colds as well (Tiralongo et al., 2016).
Elderberry syrup can be bought over the counter, but I prefer to pick my own in late summer and preserve them for the winter. My favourite method of preservation is to:
- remove berries from stalks
- simmer gently in a pan for about 20 minutes,
- strain / squeeze off the liquid as much as possible using a sieve or muslin cloth,
- Add a bit more water and heat again to extract as much from the berries as possible
- leave the strained liquid to cool
- pour into ice cube bags (or trays).
- keep in the freezer until needed
- (An alternative is to add sugar to the liquid and make a syrup but I prefer to avoid sweeteners if possible).
I add a frozen block to a berry smoothie with other favourite smoothie ingredients or to a cup of hot lemon, honey, ginger and chilli for a potent cold remedy.