Store Banner Desktop

Store Banner Mobile

Elderberry remedy as a syrup with fresh elderberries in the background.         Source: Madeleine Steinbach / Adobe stock

Science Proves Ancient Elderberry Remedy Beats the Flu

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

A new study of the properties of the elderberry plant, published this year, suggests its compounds could be a powerful medicine in preventing and reducing flu symptoms.

Elderberry, also known as Sambucus, is regarded as an antioxidant-rich fruit across Europe and North America, and its flowers and leaves have been used in folk medicines to relieve pain, swelling and inflammation, while stimulating the production of urine and to induce sweating. Traditionally, the plant's bark was made into both diuretics and laxatives, and it was sometimes used to induce vomiting.

But these are only some of the superfood’s properties. According to a report in Healthline, traditional folk people used the dried berries to make medicinal juices to help treat “influenza, infections, sciatica, headaches, dental pain, heart pain, and nerve pain, as well as a laxative and diuretic.”

The plant has been used medicinally for thousands of years, going back as far as ancient Egypt, where it was used to heal burns. In ancient Greece, the “father of medicine” Hippocrates described elderberry as a “medicine chest” that could treat a wide variety of ailments. Native American cultures used it to treat infections, while the Anglo-Saxons and Danish believed the plant was sacred and connected to a goddess known as Hylde More, who was thought to give power to the plant’s flowers and berries.

The elderberry on the elder tree during Autumn. (romankrykh / Adobe stock)

The elderberry on the elder tree during Autumn. (romankrykh / Adobe stock)

Scientists Green Light the Elderberry Remedy

The new research was conducted at the University of Sydney’s Faculty of Engineering and Information Technology using commercially grown elderberries.

While many folk medicines across Europe still use an elderberry remedy in their preparations to fight the flu virus, this new study approached the parts of the plant scientifically. First turning the plant's fruit into a juice serum and subsequently, it was applied to human cells, before, during and after they were infected with the influenza virus.

Representation of scientist testing the elderberry remedy samples. (pressmaster / Adobe stock)

Representation of scientist testing the elderberry remedy samples. (pressmaster / Adobe stock)

According to an article in Vision Times, the phytochemicals found in the juice were highly effective at blocking the flu virus before it could infect the cells. Researchers also found the serum highly potent in stopping the virus developing at later stages of the influenza cycle, meaning the serum had a higher chance of inhibiting the flu infection.

Professor Fariba Deghani, the center director, told Science Daily that in addition to these properties, the research showed the elderberry solution “stimulated the cells to release certain cytokines,” which are chemical messengers that the immune system uses to communicate between different cell types, coordinating a more efficient response against the flu virus. The fact that the serum was far more potent against the virus during the later stages of the influenza cycle, means that it has a higher chance of successfully inhibiting the flu infection.

Elderberry Remedy for Flu and Cancers!

According to Food Channel, Elderberry has also been found to have anti-cancer properties, which was discovered after tests on rats. These tests found that the fruit's polyphenols increased the count of white blood cells in their bodies, thereby boosting their immune systems and helping the rats fight pathogens. Elderberry also inhibits the growth of harmful  Helicobacter pylori bacteria, which increases the symptoms of bronchitis and sinusitis. Additionally, elderberry skincare products naturally have a sun protection factor (SPF) of 9.88.

The scientists have attributed the plant's antiviral properties to their “anthocyanidin compounds,” which are a group of phytonutrients responsible for the fruit’s purple color. Furthermore, some of the phytochemicals in elderberries stimulate the cells infected with the flu virus to release a group of chemical messengers called cytokines, enabling better coordination in responding to invading pathogens.

The Plant is Packed With Nutrition

According to the paper, in addition to all of the mentioned disease-fighting abilities, elderberries pack a highly nutritional punch in that 100 grams of the fruit provides 73 calories, over 18 grams of carbs and about 1 gram of fat. Additionally, 100 grams provides about 35 mg of vitamin C and 7 grams of fiber, which accounts for 60 and 25 percent respectively of the daily recommended intakes.

The fruit is also an excellent source of flavonoids, like isorhamnetin and quercetin, which have strong antioxidant properties - about 10 times more flavanols than the fruit itself.

Elderberry remedy as a syrup with fresh elderberries in the background. (elfgradost / Adobe stock)

Elderberry remedy as a syrup with fresh elderberries in the background. (elfgradost / Adobe stock)

Now, The Plant is Here to Stay

The big question in all this is why such a potent medicine has struggled to be taken seriously over the centuries, and to find an answer we might turn to an article on Normfarms. In medieval times the power of the Church increased and as it Christianized communities, traditional folk traditions used by the peasantry were persecuted as they threatened its growing political power. To ‘solidify its power’, the Church required the conversion of the whole population and unfortunately the elder tree was associated with Jesus’ death and evil, so the Church regarded it as ‘repulsive’.

However, the Church would discover that you cannot drive out of the bone, something that is borne in the blood, and the powerful elder tree continued to be used to make musical instruments and was often regarded as the home of goddess’. Now it has been proven to hold powerful curative properties. The elder tree not only ‘once served’ a distinct place in our cultural history, but it will now continue to do so deep into our future.

Top image: Elderberry remedy as a syrup with fresh elderberries in the background.         Source: Madeleine Steinbach / Adobe stock

By Ashley Cowie



Kevin Stockman's picture

Too bad I haven’t been able to start my own Elderberry crop yet.  I will have to make it a priority this season.  That would come in very handy right now with this Coronavirus epidemic!


T1bbst3r's picture

Made some elderberry cordial once, was slightly nicer than and similar to blackcurrant Ribena from a shop.
Made the elderflower shampagne a few times too, that was really nice and what most people use the tree for, although if unformented in cordial it tastes like a sweet imagination of cat wee (like the flowers smell).
Don't confuse with box elder though , a smaller relative, as their berries are poisonous.

There are many, many innocuous plants that are medicinal.

For example, All mushrooms are medicinal is some way. Dandelion is a powerful medication. Echinacea Purpurea is a good as Elderberry for the same symptoms.

I grow organically, herbs and make herbal medicines.
I have a tincture that will prevent flu or a cold from beginning in the first place, forever.

In nature a medication exists for every symptom that humans have ever displayed.

Everything we need to survive can be found in nature, both food and medication.

All pills from the Chemists are originally from plants, they have extracted the active ingredient so the the pill can be patented, but this renders the medication toxic and you will need another pill for the side effects.
Not the case with natural, herbal medication.

Kevin Stockman's picture

I love this article because it proves my grandmother right!  As kids we used to pick Elberberries to make jelly, which was delicious.  Grandma used to say it was a sweet treat that would keep us healthier.  Unfortunately the location where we used to harvest elberberries was destroyed decades ago to make room for a public recreational area.  I have never found them in the wild anywhere around here and it’s not something you find in stores.  I hope to create a proper growing environment in my back yard and plant some when I find a vendor or natural source.  Sweet dreams!


ashley cowie's picture


Ashley is a Scottish historian, author, and documentary filmmaker presenting original perspectives on historical problems in accessible and exciting ways.

He was raised in Wick, a small fishing village in the county of Caithness on the north east coast of... Read More

Next article