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What’s growing in your garden? Focus on Elderberry

Sambucus nigra: Elderberry, is currently in abundance in gardens, lanes and wooded areas, ready to harvest and make into delicious therapeutic drinks and dishes. It is renown as a natural immune booster due to being high in Vitamin C and antioxidant anthocyanins and flavonoids. Mother nature provides these berries just at the right time of year when we all need to keep our immune system healthy.

Conditions Elderberry can benefit

Respiratory conditions

  • Works as an expectorant and helps reduce mucous congestion.

  • Coats the mucous membranes to alleviate sore throats and irritation from coughing. Useful for bronchitis.

  • Prevents viruses binding to host cells in the mucous membranes so helps to stop it replicating. Studies have shown it to neutralise 10 strains of flu virus.

Immune response conditions

  • Beneficial for low and over active immunity as it triggers pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory cytokines to be released from the immune system. These modulate immune response for deficiency or excess accordingly.

  • Can be effective is treating herpes simplex 1 and there are studies showing it may be useful for HIV patients.

  • High in Vitamin C which enhances the immune system.

Skin conditions and blood shot eyes

  • The Vitamin C in elderberry helps with wound healing as it is astringent therefore tones the capillaries (beneficial for healing blood shot eyes too).

  • Also helps detoxification in the blood, so that the blood supplying the skin is healthy.


Elderberry Elixir Syrup


  • Fresh elderberry 1kg/35oz (or dry)

  • Clove bud 10 buds

  • Cinnamon bark 3 quills

  • Fresh ginger root 10g, about 5cm/2in piece

  • Sugar 250g/9oz


  • Collect your fresh berries on an autumn day.

  • Wash and destalk the berries by using a fork as a mini rake.

  • Put the elderberries in a pan with 1 cup of water and simmer until the berries have released most of their juices (or 1 litre if dry).

  • Place a sieve over a bowl, pour the berries and the liquid into the sieve and crush the berries with a fork to help strain as much liquid as possible into the bowl.

  • Pour this juice back in the saucepan. Add the remaining ingredients. Simmer for 30 minutes on a low heat.

  • Strain again over a bowl. And then decant into sterilised bottles and tightly seal. Store in the fridge for up to 6 months. To drink, add 2 tbsp of Elderberry elixir to a cup of hot water.

Note: You can also freeze the berries and then add them to crumble and pies.


  • Fresh berries can cause nausea and vomiting so always use cooked berries.

  • Leaves may cause a reaction on sensitive skins. Avoid use of root & bark and unripe berries.

Over to you

Why not go on an autumnal walk and harvest some berries to make a drink an autumn/winter cold and flu preventer.

Always seek qualified Medical Herbalists before taking herbs and check with your doctor for any interactions with current medication.


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