Elderberry | Nature’s virus ‘Terminator’

The weather has turned at long, regretful last, and our balmy Indian summer is finally over. The chilly, damp winter beckons, and with it the prospect of the endless cycle of flu, coughs, colds and long hospital and doctor waiting lists. Attacked by a bacterially based sickness and you have a chance of a quicker, pharmaceutical aided recovery, but if you are under siege by a random virus, there’s little any GP can do for you except tell you to go home, rest and wait for it to pass.

So what do you do if you get struck down with one of those debilitating, lingering viral illnesses we all dread in the darker autumn days?

The answer is ‘Think Elderberry’

To be more precise, think elderberry tincture. Track down a bottle of elderberry liquid concentrate from your local health food store, and start dosing yourself and all those around you, with two or three teaspoons of the luscious dark liquid a day.

You are probably familiar with the creamy, lacy heads of the elderflower, crowding our hedgerows in the summer, beloved by those decorating the church for a late May/early June wedding. Most people seem to love the elderflower. Do you cut their flowers and fill kitchen vases with their stems each year, making them into jugs of homemade elderflower cordial for a refreshing summer drink on a hot sunny day? But forget about their cloudy beauty, think longer term and leave the flowers to seed and you will see a dark red berry proliferate by early autumn. Beautiful by themselves, they hold a great secret. They are one of nature’s gifts to us - one of the few things that can successfully destroy a virus. And with no side effects at all.

What is a virus?

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Viruses come in many shapes and sizes. Some are spread through the air, when people cough or sneeze. Others move via contaminated foods, dirty hands or polluted water. Some are carried by insects and can be transferred by bites; others travel in bodily fluids. If your immune system is strong and working happily, it should be able to shrug them off with little problem...

If not, however, expect to fall ‘under the weather’ rapidly. The minuscule micro-organisms reproduce by hijacking the healthy cells in your body and using them to multiply and spread. Antibiotics have no effect on viruses (though they do work on bacterial infections) and as rapidly as modern medicine comes up with pharmaceutical products to neutralise their effects, currently those viruses remain one step ahead and continue to mutate faster.

Yet the answer was in the hedgerows all along. However fast a virus evolves and changes, mutating its strains like some alien in a science fiction movie, the elderberry still gets its man - every time.

How does Elderberry do it?

Make the elderberry your anti-viral secret weapon. Viruses clad themselves in sharp spikes, using them, like hedgehogs, to protect themselves and then to attack and overrun your healthy cells. Watch under a microscope and you will see a virus attach itself to the smooth walls of your cell and stick its spikes through your cell membrane, allowing it first to gain a foothold, then to colonise and rapidly multiply.

Research has shown that protective compounds in the berries wipe out those viral spikes in a couple of days, preventing any further spreading. An Israeli study, looking at viruses and the efficacy of elderberry juice syrup, showed that those who took a daily dose recovered far quicker than the control group who didn’t take anything at all. 20% were better within 24 hours, 70% in 48 hours, and 90% had recovered completely in 3 days.

‘Elderberry everyday keeps those viruses away’

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I was pleasantly surprised by how unexpectedly nice elderberry syrup tastes. Very much nicer than your usual health supplement. Pukka - the lovely tea company whose representatives are ever helpful and informed - make a liquid syrup that includes Manuka honey and various immune boosting herbs. Sambucol, which was developed by a scientist determined to harvest the flavonoids present in the berries, is undiluted by any supporting cast, but equally delicious. Sweet - and healthy too? The two rarely go together but I am delighted to be convinced. I was even pondering whether a daily syrup dose might enable me to successfully cut down my daily chocolate consumption....?

Other elderberry benefits

High temperature and fever? Take a teaspoon of the concentrate at bedtime, and by the morning your symptoms will have calmed. Sore throat? Tonsillitis or bronchitis? The results are the same.

Elderberry is one of nature’s superstars. With Brexit looming ever closer and Project Fear prophesying container loads of medicine backed up across the Chinese seas and England cut off from all pharmaceutical salvation, forward plan now and make sure you have some in your household health toolkit.


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Written by health advocate Sara Davenport, founder of one of the UK's leading breast cancer charities, Breast Cancer Haven. With over twenty years' experience in holistic health, Sara's digital dose of wellness teaches you to listen to your body, tweak your lifestyle and improve your health. 

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