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What is Elderberry Syrup?

I made my own elderberry syrup today, including umcka! I have been using the store stuff for a while, and it’s quite effective with colds and flu.

When a friend of mine had these make-your-own elderberry and umcka kits, I jumped at the chance to try them out and I loved the results. All I needed was a jar and some honey.

A brown bag with dried elderberries

What is Elderberry Syrup?

For many years, Elderberry syrup has been used as a home remedy for cold and flu viruses. It is used primarily to lessen the duration and severity of symptoms.

Elderberry syrup works best if taken within 48 hours of the first symptoms of getting sick. When you feel that icky I’m-coming-down-with-something feeling, get out the spoons and start dosing.

Here is my disclaimer. I am not a doctor. Please follow all advice and directions from your doctor. I’m only speaking from experience and years of sinus infections, which can be bacterial AND viral.

My exposure to flu in a school setting means the shot is coin-toss each year. This year, over half the class got the flu and each one had the shot. (I watched them get the shot since our school had a pilot program.)

Using elderberry and other home remedies has helped tremendously with the flu over the years and I can’t take Tamiflu.

You can buy elderberry syrup in most box stores and homeopathic and whole foods stores. Sambucol is a common brand.

A green pot with elderberries cooking on the stove

What is an elderberry?

Elderberry (Sambucus) is the dark purple fruit of the Elder plant. They are rich in antioxidants which aid in their antiviral properties.

There are a few published studies regarding the effectiveness of elderberry syrup. Is this just placebo mumbo-jumbo?

  • This study, while small, has some promising results. “Symptoms were relieved on average 4 days earlier and use of rescue medication was significantly less in those receiving elderberry extract compared with placebo.
  • This recent study offers more promising results. “Supplementation with elderberry was found to substantially reduce upper respiratory symptoms.
  • This study of intercontinental air travelers suggests that elderberry is effective in reducing the duration and lessening the severity of cold and flu symptoms. “Placebo group participants had a significantly longer duration of cold episode days and the average symptom score over these days was also significantly higher. These data suggest a significant reduction of cold duration and severity in air travelers.”

These and many anecdotal reports and reviews show the efficacy of elderberry syrup once someone has a cold or flu virus.

We do not know if elderberry syrup can prevent a cold or flu virus. How effective is elderberry in immune response? More studies are coming.

A spoon holding cooked elderberries over a green pot

What is Umcka?

Umcka is the root extract of the South African plant Pelargonium sidoides. Like elderberry, it has been used for many years to treat symptoms of viral colds, flu, and upper respiratory infections.

This small study suggests positive results in treating bronchitis. As with elderberry, we need more studies.

How do you make elderberry and umcka syrup?

The first ting you have to do is TRUST your source. You can buy kits online, at farmers’ markets, Etsy, and many other places.

As with ANYTHING you put in your body, use common sense. The FDA does not review these kits, so you need to trust your source.

A jar of elderberry and umcka syrup

The process is simple. Buy your kit and read the directions.

  • Bring a large pot of water (read your directions!) to boil.
  • Add the dried elderberries and umcka.
  • Reduce heat to a minimum simmer for 45 minutes.
  • Water will reduce and thicken as the berries cook.
  • Pour entire mixture through a strainer. Really MASH the berries to get the maximum reduction. Pour into a large jar.
  • Add honey, molasses, or agave. Stir.
  • Store in fridge. Dosage is 1-2 Tablespoons 4x’s a day at the first symptom of cold.

Whether you use this for prevention, or as a treatment for viruses, always remember to consult your doctor. Follow all doctor recommendations.

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