The elderberry plant is one of the most widely used medicinal plants globally with century-old health benefits. Elderberries are rich in vitamins and minerals and contain powerful antioxidants that can boost your immune system. Elderberries can be eaten fresh, dried or made into syrup, tea or essential oils. You can also find them in supplements and skincare products.
What Is an Elderberry?
Elderberry is a shrub-like plant that can grow up to 10 feet high. It has dark green leaves and clusters of white flowers that bloom in the summer months. The berries, harvested in the fall, are small and dark purple.
Elderberry is a popular medicinal herb because it’s believed to have immune-boosting properties which means it’s often used for treating colds, flu, congestion and sore throat.
Can I Eat Raw Elderberries?
There are many different ways to consume elderberries, with one of the most popular ways being eating them raw as a berry or in a salad with fruit and vegetables. They are also often consumed as syrup, juice or tea.
Raw elderberries can be toxic if consumed in large quantities. Therefore, it is recommended that you only eat one cup of raw berries or drink two tablespoons of tincture per day if you consume them regularly. Otherwise, elderberries should be cooked as much as possible before consumption.
Is the Elderberry Plant Poisonous?
Elderberry is not poisonous, but it does contain chemicals that can be toxic to humans. The toxicity of the elderberry plant is due to the presence of cyanogenic glycosides in its leaves and stems. These chemicals are found in many other plants, such as apple seeds and apricot kernels.
Elderberry Health Benefits
Elderberry has been used medicinally for centuries. The Greeks and the Romans describe it as a healing plant. It is an herbal remedy for fever, diarrhea, flu and infections in traditional Chinese medicine.
Elderberries effectively reduce inflammation, lower fevers and relieve pain.
Is Elderberry Safe for Pregnant Women?
There have been no reports of toxicity or adverse effects in breastfeeding or pregnant women taking elderberry supplements in recommended doses. It is recommended that breastfeeding and pregnant women speak with their healthcare providers before taking any herbal supplements.
Elderberry and Breastfeeding
There isn’t enough information available to determine if elderberry is safe for nursing moms. There are no studies on breastfeeding mothers consuming elderberries due to the ethical concerns in attempting to perform a double-blind scientific study on pregnant or breastfeeding mothers. More in-depth medical study is required to establish dosage and whether or not it impacts a breastfed baby. Ensure that your doctor knows you are nursing before asking for advice on elderberries.
Elderberries and Prescription Drugs
There are no well-known interactions between elderberry and other medications. However, elderberries may decrease the efficacy of immunosuppressants and medications that lower the immune system, such as Tacrolimus (Prograf), cyclosporine (Neoral, Gengraf), Prednisone, Mycophenolate (CellCept, Myfortic), azathioprine (Imuran), Sirolimus (Rapamune) and Everolimus (Zortress). You should discuss the combined consumption of these medicines and elderberries with your doctor.
Elderberry syrup can be a natural remedy for colds and flu. It is made from the elderberry plant and has been used for centuries to help people fight illness.
- 1 pound (4 cups) fresh or frozen elderberries, picked over and all stems removed;
- 3 cups of filtered water;
- 1/4 cup honey or 1/3 cup sugar (can increase quantity to taste);
- 1/4 cup lemon juice;
- 1 small piece of fresh ginger, peeled (optional).
- To make juice, place berries in a large, heavy saucepan along with water. Cover and bring to a simmer for 20 to 30 minutes, mashing berries with a potato masher until they soften and release their juices.
- Press berries through a food mill or fine mesh sieve. Discard solids. Strain juice a second time through a fine-mesh sieve lined with cheesecloth to remove any remaining solids. You should have about 2 2/3 cups of juice.
- Pour 2 1/2 cups of prepared juice into a saucepan with honey, lemon juice, and ginger. Bring to a simmer, occasionally stirring, until the syrup has thickened slightly and reduced to about 2 1/2 cups, 10 to 15 minutes. Discard the ginger. Once cooled, the syrup will stay fresh in the refrigerator for up to two weeks or in the freezer for up to six months (pour the syrup into ice cube trays for easy dosing).
- If you are canning the syrup, fill a large stockpot or canning pot 2/3 full with water while the berries are cooking. Place a rack of some sort in the bottom and place over medium-high heat. Wash your jars and submerge them in a water bath as it heats. The pot should be just about boiling when the syrup is reduced and ready to go. Keep jars in hot (not boiling) water until ready to use.
- Ladle hot syrup into sterilized jars, leaving 1/8-inch of headspace. Wipe jar rims and screw on lids. Process in boiling water for 10 minutes (seven if using smaller jars), then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Check seals. Any unsealed jars should be refrigerated and used within two weeks.
Elderberry Juice Recipe
Elderberry juice is a great way to consume elderberries. This recipe is easy to follow and yields a delicious drink.
- 3 kilograms elderberry;
- Enough water to cover the elderberries.
- Rinse the berries several times thoroughly. Remove the berries from the vine. Add to a large saucepan, cover with water, and bring to a boil. Cook for 15 minutes until the berries are soft and appear wrinkled. Pour the mixture through cheesecloth or a fine strainer into another pot. Squeeze the fruit to remove as much liquid as possible.
- Alternatively, you can process the berries through a juicer. This approach is typically much faster and more efficient.
- The elderberry juice will be ready after this process. If you’d like to enjoy it for an extended time, you can preserve it. To do this, you must add the juice to bottles and seal them with a rubber stopper or screw-tops.
- Heat a pot of water, and add the bottles to the water bath. Process for at least 30 minutes to ensure that the juice is sterilized and that pathogens are deterred from forming. Cool the bottles, and keep them in a cool place.
This recipe yields about 1 cup of elderberry juice. Enjoy it on its own or use it as a base for other juices or cocktails.
Another way to enjoy the benefits of elderberries is to make dried elderberry tea.
- 6 cups (1.40 L) of water;
- 2 tablespoons dried elderberries;
- 2 tablespoons honey;
- 2 lemons.
- Pour water into a heavy saucepan.
- Add dried elderberries and boil for 20 minutes.
- Strain to remove berries and stir in honey and the juice from one lemon.
- Garnish with lemon slices and serve.
A Parting Reminder
The health benefits of elderberries are numerous as they are a great source of fiber, vitamin C and antioxidants while also being vegan and gluten-free. In addition, elderberries can help boost the immune system, improve heart health and reduce inflammation. They are a delicious and nutritious addition to any diet!