The Power of the Elderberry

I used to get sick all-the-time. I was living in government housing and one of the staff members described it as “The Olympics for your immune system”. He wasn’t lying! That was rough.

The GOOD part was that we occasionally had classes that were taught by volunteers. In one of them, I learned about elderberries. The woman teaching it was both a pharmacist and an herbalist. So, I knew that SHE really knew her stuff. She told us that elderberries basically work by breaking down the cell walls of viruses, as well as boosting the immune system in other ways.

I didn’t have kitchen access, on my own, at the time. Nor could I afford to buy expensive elderberry syrups. But, when I got my own place, I remembered what she taught us. And when I saw elderberries hanging out in the bulk section of my local Sprouts, I snapped some up and tried brewing my own elderberry tea. The rest is history.

elderberry tree

Staving Off Illness

Can Elderberry Tea Keep You From Getting Sick?

I’ve been making tea out of elderberries for the past four years. I’ve only been sick twice, in that whole time, and I swear it’s because I didn’t have access to elderberries, for one reason or another. When I did get sick, it was really really bad. I think I actually got COVID, before it became mainstream. It made my immune system go completely nuts and it triggered about three other infections. Needless to say, I’m very careful to keep a goodly supply of dried elderberries on-hand, now.

Early Symptoms

You know how you can feel those first symptoms of illness coming on…as long as you’re grounded in your body and not too distracted? Things like extra coughing, a stuffed up nose, scratchy throat, etc.? Well, what I do is I brew some elderberry tea (and drink it, of course), when I begin to feel symptomatic, and the illness just basically goes away. Usually. Hours later: no more symptoms. That’s how it works for me, anyway.

But don’t just take my word for it. There’s some solid science (as well as some fun, witchy lore) behind the healing power of elderberries. You can read about that in an article from one of my favorite health food store, Natural Grocers.

If you enjoy trying to get through the geeky jargon of dry, scientific journals, you can find some of those written about studies involving elderberries, as well. Just do some Googling.

Additional Mojo

So Many Health Benefits!

I think it’s important to note that elderberries have more functions than just staving off cold and flu viruses. I mean, that’s obviously amazing, all on its own. But, since they are packed full of anthocyanins (a class of antioxidants that comes from their dark purple color), they help to reduce blood sugar, as well as inflammation. They also have quercetin, which is a natural antihistamine. And they have heart-healthy polyphenols, which I believe is one of the ways in which they reduce blood pressure. Here’s an article from Health.com explaining some of that. What amazingly healthy phytonutrient don’t elderberries have? Seriously.

Restless Leg Syndrome

I have been using elderberries for my restless leg syndrome, on and off, for about a year. I’m not sure exactly which function calms that down, but I suspect it’s a combination of all of them. My iron levels are fine (that’s usually the first thing that’s mentioned, with RLS), but after having closely examined my own eating habits and when my RLS is triggered, I believe that it’s partly from high blood pressure, high blood sugar, inflammation, my lower back injury, and histamines.

The only reason I use elderberries on and off, and not all-the-time, is because they’re a tad expensive. My cheaper go-to is tulsi. But, that’s another blog post for another time. Tulsi is a powerful adaptogenic herb and it has some amazing properities, but it doesn’t have all of the antioxidants that elderberries have.

Disclaimer

This post is meant for educational and entertainment purposes, only. I am not a dietician or medical professional. This post is not intended to diagnose or treat any disease. If you’re considering using elderberries, in any form or for any purpose, please consult with your physician and/or dietician, before doing so.

Where to Get Elderberries?

As previously mentioned, I originally found my dried elderberries at Sprouts, which has stores throughout the United States. But, they are a bit less expensive at Natural Grocers, in the bulk section. I will warn you that the prices have risen, dramatically, in the past couple of years, though. They have gone from about $6 for 4 ounces to nearly $10, for the same quantity.

I like buying them locally, when I can. But, if you want to save money, you can get a whole pound of organic dried elderberries on Amazon, for about $22, plus tax and shipping, if applicable. That’s a savings of nearly $30! With the winter cold and flu season fast approaching, I recommend that you get a bag, if you can swing it. And no, I don’t have any affiliations with Amazon or the company that I’m recommending, at this time.

How to Make Elderberry Tea?

dried elderberries for elderberry tea

The Goods

If you can, you’ll want to use a non-reactive pot, like the ceramic coated one shown in the before and after pics, below (we’ll get to that, don’t worry). Glass works, as well. That’s because elderberries are very acidic and you don’t want them reacting with a metal pot.

There’s a special glass pot that I like for brewing tea, but mine’s usually occupied by my brewed chicory, to be honest. So, my handy (if seriously chipped) ceramic coated cast iron pot is my go-to for brewing elderberry tea.

It helps to have a small fine mesh strainer handy, as well. And you’ll need a mug to pour the tea into, of course.

I use about a tablespoon of dried berries for every six cups of filtered water. That may seem like a strange ratio, but don’t worry. When the berries rehydrate, they plump up quite a lot. Some of the water evaporates, as well.

If you have extra leftover, I’d recommend straining it in a mason jar (or however many you need), letting the tea cool, labelling the jar (you wouldn’t believe how many times I’ve gone to reach for coffee, in the morning, and poured elderberry tea into my mug, instead), and tuck it in the refrigerator.

Adding Flavor

Elderberries don’t really have much flavor, on their own. They’re tart and very potent, but surprisingly bland. So, I usually add something to give the tea flavor. My go-to, when I’m trying to knock out some kind of organism, is a few dried clove buds. That’s because cloves have anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties. I figure that it can’t hurt to add a little more of that, to the mix, though adding cloves does make for a very pungent tea.

Some other (milder) options are a cinnamon stick, some pumpkin spice powder, a few lemon or orange slices, etc. I usually steer clear of adding sweetener, personally. But, if you’re okay with that, you could add some honey or whatever other sweetener you prefer.

Lemon and Spices - Adding Flavor to Elderberry Tea

The Timing

As for the timing, there’s a toxin in the raw dried berries and it takes about thirty minutes of boiling for that to cook off.

Actually, the recommended times vary (I’ve seen anywhere from ten to forty-five minutes), but at least thirty minutes at a gentle boil is what I usually do. Coincidentally, that’s about the time it takes to brew a nice, strong tea, anyway.

elderberry tea brewed from scratch

Here’s a before and after picture of the tea. In the before, the water is relatively clear, aside from the film of the pumpkin pie spice, that I added, to give it flavor. The berries and the cloves are floating on top. In the after picture, some of the water has evaporated, as evidenced by the ring around the pot. Also, the tea is an opaque super dark red. That’s what you want to look for.

When I’m attempting to keep the bugs at bay, I usually drink 12-16 ounces of elderberry tea, at the first sign of illness. I save the rest in a jar and tuck it in the refrigerator, just in case I need a bit more.

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Love and Blessings!

Claire Amber, Fired Up Diva

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