I have long known about the potent antiviral properties of elderberries and specifically planted two edible varieties in my garden to help combat seasonal colds and flu. Every year I harvest the berries to make a tart and sweet elderberry sauce. It’s delicious as a remedy or served as a posh addition to dessert.
–-Note: Elderberries are not a coronavirus cure, and their effectiveness hasn’t been tested. For the latest information check out the World Health Organization’s website.–
Research into the Antiviral properties of elderberries
There is actually quite a bit of research into the antiviral properties of elderberries. Here are just a few reports for anyone interested in some dry bedtime reading:
- Elderberries have a strong antiviral effect on the H1N1 virus.
- It reduces the duration of viral flu by more than half. A result which was also confirmed by this study.
- This study looked at how elderberry compounds inhibited a virus’s entry and replication within human cells.
- Even small concentrations of elderberry have proven effective against respiratory bacterial strains and flu viruses.
These studies suggest that a clinically effective dose is around 15 ml (1 Tbsp) of elderberry juice. Since my recipe dilutes the tart elderberries with sweeter fruits, I recommend dosing with 2 Tbsp daily at the earliest onset of cold or flu symptoms.
How to safely pick and prepare elderberries
The trick about harvesting elderberries is that the plants are REALLY poisonous. The berries are also DEADLY poisonous if not properly prepared. So if you decide to partake in harvesting, preparing, and eating elderberries, make sure you know what you are doing.
Otherwise, buy freshly harvested fruit at farmer’s markets or dried elderberries online.
Here are a few basic rules for harvesting elderberries:
- Only the flowers and ripe (black) berries are edible. The twigs, leaves, stems and unripe berries are POISONOUS.
- Most (not all) varieties of elderberry produce fruit that is edible when cooked. So, I recommend always cooking elderberries before eating them, just to be certain.
- However, some varieties of elderberry don’t produce edible fruit, and even the berries are poisonous. So proper identification of the species is best.
- After harvesting, the berries need to be washed and taken off the stems. The internet suggests freezing the berries to get them to fall off the stems, which I have tried several times without success. Instead, I gently rub the stems so that the berries fall off.
Antiviral elderberry sauce
Typically, I turn my elderberries into a delicious sauce, which is perfect for serving with ice cream or waffles. However, I always keep a few jars on hand to use as an antiviral treatment.
The basic recipe below is a simple and sugar-free blend of tart elderberries and sweeter fruit.
Elderberries are typically ripe at the end of August and in early September. Here are a few ways to preserve your batch of elderberry sauce for the cold and flu season.
- Canning: If you want to water bath can jars of elderberry sauce, then you will need to add a 1/4 cup of white sugar to act as a preservative. Heat process 250ml filled jars for 15 minutes.
- Freezing: I recommend freezing in straight-sided jars because it’s easy and doesn’t require any extra sugar. Jars of fruit sauce will last in the freezer for up to 1 year.
- Fermentation: For a probiotic and fermented elderberry sauce, add 2 Tbsp of white sugar during the boiling. Then allow the sauce to cool to room temperature. Stir in 1/4 cup of a yeast-based starter (like brewed kombucha, water kefir or ginger bug). Allow to ferment at room temperature for 3 days, then store in the fridge for up to 1 month. You can also freeze fermented fruit sauce without affecting the probiotic benefits.
Antiviral Elderberry Sauce
This antiviral elderberry sauce is essentially just a low-sugar fruit sauce with some potent properties. See the section above for more information on the antiviral properties of elderberries and for options on how to preserve elderberry sauce for the winter.
- Prep Time: 5 minutes
- Cook Time: 10 minutes
- Total Time: 15 minutes
- Yield: 4 cups 1x
- Category: Fruit
- Cuisine: Healthy
- Diet: Vegan
- 2 cups elderberries (see above for important safety information)
- 2 cups sweet fruit (blueberries, apples, or pears)
- Be sure to use properly prepared elderberries (see section above for more information). Alternatively, you can buy dried elderberries online. Use 1/2 cup of dried elderberries with 2 cups of water instead of fresh elderberries.
- Place the elderberries, sweet fruit and chia seeds in a small saucepan.
- Bring to a boil and simmer until the fruit is cooked and soft. The sauce can be left chunky, or pureed at this point for a smooth sauce.
- Store in a glass jar in the fridge for up to 1 week or see the section above for information on long-term storage options.
- Elderberries are quite tart, so feel free to add a bit of honey or maple syrup if you want to sweeten the fruit sauce.
- To use as an antiviral remedy, take 2 Tbsp per day at the first sign of cold or flu symptoms.
- See the section above for instructions on how to preserve elderberry sauce for the cold and flu season.
- Elderberries are quite potent, and may not be recommended for pregnant women and children under the age of 1 year.
Keywords: antiviral, immune, coronavirus, cold, flu, COVID-19, remedy, winter, fall, spring, sugar-free, healthy, fermented, probiotic, vegan, keto, gluten-free, paleo