Most people remember “elderberries” mentioned in this classic scene from Monty Python’s Holy Grail. But did you know that elderberry extract, or Sambucus, boosts immunity and kicks an oncoming virus in the butt! You may also have rushed out to buy some, to discover it can be really expensive — anywhere from $15-$20 for a small bottle that goes in about 4 days if you are really downing it in the early days of a blossoming bug. The taste is often not that great. I think the cheaper you go, the less tasty. I tried the more expensive Nature’s Way elderberry extract, which was quite good (and this was sugar free!)
After I killed that bottle, my husband wanted to have some extract as well to give himself an immunity boost. We bought a cheaper brand called Sambucol at Rite Aid. Yuck! The sweeteners, thick consistency and weird taste made it hard to get down.
I had great results with the elderberry extract in general, so I plan to stick with it this cold and flu season. However, I don’t want to keep throwing down the money for a little bottle that has been sitting on the shelf for who knows how long. Today I started my own batch of homemade elderberry syrup. It will be ready by January 17th, hopefully just in time for the next round of colds and flu.
I got my recipe from a book called Lucid Food: Cooking for an Eco-Conscious Life, by Louisa Shafia. You simply combine 2 cups of dried or fresh elderberries, 2 cups of vodka and 1 cup of honey in a glass jar. Seal tightly. Store in a cool, dry place (but not the fridge). Shake the jar once or twice weekly. In 6 weeks, it will be ready! Line a large glass bowl with several layers of cheesecloth. Pour in the concoction and carefully lift out the elderberries captured by the cheesecloth. Discard elderberries and cheesecloth. Using a funnel, pour the syrup into a glass bottle with a swing top rubber stopper.
It makes a good amount, so you can even give some to a friend or two, packaged in attractive glass bottles. Apparently, it tastes great, so I can’t wait to try it out when it’s ready to go. Anyway, it’s a more healthy way to kill a bottle of vodka sitting in your liquor cabinet.
The medicinal benefits of black elderberries (a.k.a. “Sambucus Nigra”) have been celebrated for centuries by many cultures, and the western medical community is now interested as well. The key ingredients in the extract are plant compounds called Flavonoids, which inhibit the outbreak of viral infections and boost immunity. One of the first medical studies was in Panama during an influenza outbreak: In a small double-blind trial, adults receiving 4 daily tablespoons of the extract recovered faster than those receiving a placebo. A more recent study in 2009 in London shows that the extract can also combat H1N1 or “swine flu”. Read more about the benefits of elderberry extract here.