How to Boost your Immunity this Fall! Part 1- Elderberries

As we head full swing into Fall, I wanted to share some of my favorite immune system boosters!   

With the temperature changes, less sun, more stress, and less sleep- everyone’s immune system could use a little extra support this time of year.

Up first- one of my favorite immune system helpers that I discovered while in Chiropractic school, Elderberry Syrup!  I’ve even included my favorite recipe for making your own elderberry syrup at home- super easy and much cheaper than buying the syrup!

What are elderberries?

Black Elderberries have been used for centuries to help reduce symptoms of the cold and flu.  They’re grown on a small, shrubby tree that’s native to most of Europe.  While it’s toxic to eat the berries raw, cooked elderberries can be made into a syrup that has been proven to not only boost the immune system, but can shorten the length of time you have a cold or flu. Who doesn’t want that?

 
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How does it work?

Recent studies have described that elderberries strengthen the immune system in 3 ways:

1)  Enhanced cytokine production

  • Cytokines are important communication proteins that our immune system uses to communicate with itself.  When an infection is present, they recruit the troops and tell other immune cells to come and fight it off.

2)  Source of antioxidants

  • Black elderberries contain antioxidant flavonoids that help fend off pathogens and allergens, and help prevent free radicals from damaging our cells.  Particularly, black elderberry’s flavonoids help protect the inner lining of our blood vessels!

3)  Anti-viral activity

  • Early stage experiments are showing that black elderberry can directly inhibit viral infection. Research is still being done on this, and so far, it’s only been observed in a petri dish- but it’s fascinating that this simple berry can block the virus and make it non-functional!

Now, before we get into the fun of how to make your own Elderberry Syrup- there’s a couple of things to consider..

When NOT to use Elderberries:

  • If you have an auto-immune disease like Multiple Sclerosis (MS), lupus, rheumatoid arthritis (RA), or some other auto-immune condition, it is best to avoid elderberries.  They boost the immune system, which could increase symptoms of an auto-immune condition. 
  • If you’re pregnant or nursing, you should avoid elderberries as we just don’t have enough research yet to deem it safe.
  • If you’re taking any medications that decrease the immune system (immunosuppressants), do not use elderberry.  Because elderberries increase the immune system, they could cause your medication to be less effective.
  • Also, remember to never eat the raw berries- they can make you very, very sick.  They must be cooked thoroughly first.  Also, only cook the berry part.  Any stems, leaves, or other pieces of the plant can make you sick.

Where to Get It and How to Make It

Elderberry syrup is super easy and inexpensive to make on your own; however, if you’d rather just buy some, you can find it at Whole Foods or any other health food market.  I really like Gaia Herbs brand, and they have it in a capsule form as well, if you don’t like the taste of the syrup.

You can find dried Elderberries on Amazon, and sometimes you can find them in health food markets.  Just remember to not eat them until they are fully cooked.

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Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup dried black elderberries
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 cinnamon stick (or 1 tsp dried cinnamon)
  • 4 cloves (or 1 tsp dried clove)
  • 1 cup raw honey (ideally, a local honey- which can help curb allergies)

Directions

  1. Bring berries, water, cinnamon, and cloves to a boil in a large pot.
  2. Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer until the liquid has reduced by half, around 45 mins.
  3. Allow the liquid to cool.
  4. Smash berries to release any remaining juice and use a fine mesh strainer or a cheese cloth to drain.
  5. Stir in the raw honey.
  6. Store in an airtight glass container (like a Mason jar) for up to 2 months.

Hope you enjoyed and please let me know if you have any questions or comments.  Stay tuned for the next installment of our 4 part series on how to boost immunity this fall!