colds and fluElderberry is one of my favorite herbs for cold and flu prevention because it is easy to make a delicious syrup to take every day or for first symptoms of congestion and body aches. Elderberry has multiple mechanisms of action that are not fully understood including stimulation of the production of immune signaling molecules and prevention of connection between flu viruses and human cells. In studies where people were given elderberry or placebo at first signs of flu, the symptom severity was reduced and the duration of illness decreased from an average of six days to two days.

Elderberry Syrup for Cold & Flu Prevention

Elderberry syrup is generally safe but may cause loose stools or increased urination. It may interact with medications for autoimmune disease, cancer, and certain heart medications.

You can buy pre-made elderberry syrup or use this simple recipe to make it at home:

  • 1 cup dried elderberries (available at Fiddleheads, FoodWorks or Mystic Organics)
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 cup raw, local honey
  1. Pour water and elderberries into a saucepan and bring to a boil
  2. Cover and simmer until liquid has reduced by half (around an hour)
  3. Let cool for at least 20 minutes then strain into a bowl and add honey.
  4. Store in refrigerator and use within three months.

There is some controversy over whether daily elderberry intake will prevent cold or flu but multiple studies show that it is helpful to take 1 Tablespoon, 4 times per day at first signs of cold or flu symptoms so I like to have it on hand. Also, it’s good to take a dose if you have been exposed to a sick person or plan to go on a plane.

Other Ways of Preventing Colds and Flu

Some other ways of preventing colds and flu include:

  • Wash your hands multiple times per day.
  • Get adequate sleep.
  • Drink adequate water to keep mucous membranes healthy.
  • Eat more garlic for its powerful antimicrobial activity. Raw garlic is especially effective and easy to eat in the form of fresh pesto or homemade hummus.
  • Use a Neti Pot or sinus rinse each night along with salt water gargles before bed to remove bacteria and viral particles from the places where they most commonly enter the body.
  • Eat high-zinc foods like beans and pumpkin seeds to support the function of your immune cells.
  • Check your vitamin D level. Low vitamin D may increase your risk of colds and flu.
  • Drink herbal tea with echinacea, licorice, elecampane, ginger and/or hyssop. Some of these herbs may interact with medications so check with your doctor if you are taking medications.

What are your go-to cold and flu prevention methods?  Please share…