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Elderberry Elixir and Swine Flu

Posted by Nika On October - 12 - 2009

Influenza subtype A - for blog



(Please refer to this newer post for an update on our personal views on vaccination. We still very much advocate elderberry elixir, just not as the single means of fighting an increasingly virulent H1N1 pandemic)

Early on in the pandemic, a bit less recently, I immersed myself in flublogia. These are long standing flu communities, lots of intellectual capital out there.. people I really admire and who really know what is up with the pandemic (doctors, nurses, epidemiologists, scientists in the field and those not in it – like me, am not a viral biologist).

To cut to the chase – neither I nor my kids will be taking the H1N1 vaccine. Why? Beyond the usual concerns that arise from the fact that this vaccine has been extremely fast tracked, under emergency actions, the vaccine to be deployed just about anywhere in the the world was generated from sequence from the earliest identified infections.

This means that the epitopes generated (the proteins that were produced from these early genetic sequences and then used to create a vaccine) may possibly be sufficiently different from those that H1N1 now carries, having passed through so many people, so as to render the vaccine of little use.

Also, poorly reported on in the press (as usual), is the problem of the spread of two genetic changes of note: tamiflu resistance and also a change that allows the virus to be more virulent in colder temperatures (this impacts the where and how the virus replicates in our lungs – shallow or deep).

These sorts of things makes a mom mostly want to hide her kids away but its hard, we do not homeschool all our three kids, just one.

I have stocked up on all sorts of meds, herbal teas for fevers and vitamin C boosting, rehydration powders and liquids, etc. I have laid in stocks of N95 masks and gloves.

I am ready to take on the swine flu but I would rather we never get it. I actually suspect that we did get it this past March (sick for a month, all of us) but if we did, it likely would not confer any meaningful immunity to a second wave or third wave virus that would have evolved sufficiently to bypass our nascent immunological defenses against this disease.

With all this in mind, my ears perked when I heard about a traditional medicinal that was shown in scientific studies to have activity against H1N1 – Elderberry, also known as Sambucus.

The wiki says:

In a placebo-controlled, double-blind study, elderberry was shown to be effective for treating Influenza B. [1] People using the elderberry extract recovered much faster than those only on a placebo. This is partially due to the fact that Elderberry inhibits neuraminidase, the enzyme used by the virus to spread infection to host cells.

A small study published in 2004 showed that 93% of flu patients given extract were completely symptom-free within two days; those taking a placebo recovered in about six days. This current study shows that, indeed, it works for type A flu, reports lead researcher Erling Thom, with the University of Oslo in Norway.[2]

Thom’s findings were presented at the 15th Annual Conference on Antiviral Research.

The study involved 60 patients who had been suffering with flu symptoms for 48 hours or less; 90% were infected with the A strain of the virus, 10% were infected with type B. Half the group took 15 milliliters of extract and the other group took a placebo four times a day for five days.

Patients in the extract group had “pronounced improvements” in flu symptoms after three days: nearly 90% of patients had complete cure within two to three days. Also, the extract group had no drowsiness, the downside of many flu treatments. The placebo group didn’t recover until at least day six; they also took more painkillers and nasal sprays.

It’s likely that antioxidants called flavonoids—which are contained in the extract—stimulate the immune system, writes Thom. Also, other compounds in elderberry, called anthocyanins, have an anti-inflammatory effect; this could explain the effect on aches, pains, and fever.

Elderberry extract could be an “efficient and safe treatment” for flu symptoms in otherwise healthy people and for those with compromised immune systems, such as the elderly, Thom adds.

Russell Greenfield, MD, a leading practitioner of integrative medicine and medical director of Carolinas Integrative Health, advocates treating flu with black elderberry, he says in a news release. “It can be given to children and adults, and with no known side effects or negative interactions,” he says.

“But don’t expect grandma’s elderberry jam” to ease flu symptoms like body aches, cough, and fever, he warns. “Extract is the only black elderberry preparation shown effective in clinical studies.”
1) ^ Zakay-Rones, Zichria; Noemi Varsano, Moshe Zlotnik, Orly Manor, Liora Regev, Miriam Schlesinger, Madeleine Mumcuoglu (1995). “Inhibition of Several Strains of Influenza Virus in Vitro and Reduction of Symptoms by an Elderberry Extract (Sambucus nigra L.) during an Outbreak of Influenza B Panama” (PDF). J Altern Complement Med 1 (4): 361-9. PMID 9395631. Retrieved September 8, 2009.
2) Z Zakay-Rones, E Thom, T Wollan and J Wadstein. “Randomized Study of the Efficacy and Safety of Oral Elderberry Extract in the Treatment of Influenza A and B Virus Infections”, Journal of International Medical Research (pdf)

More recently the following study came out, specific to pandemic H1N1:

Roschek B Jr, Fink RC, McMichael MD, Li D, Alberte RS., Elderberry flavonoids bind to and prevent H1N1 infection in vitro., Phytochemistry. 2009 Jul;70(10):1255-61. Epub 2009 Aug 12. PMID 19682714

A ionization technique in mass spectrometry called Direct Analysis in Real Time Mass Spectrometry (DART TOF-MS) coupled with a Direct Binding Assay was used to identify and characterize anti-viral components of an elderberry fruit (Sambucus nigra L.) extract without either derivatization or separation by standard chromatographic techniques. The elderberry extract inhibited Human Influenza A (H1N1) infection in vitro with an IC(50) value of 252+/-34 microg/mL. The Direct Binding Assay established that flavonoids from the elderberry extract bind to H1N1 virions and, when bound, block the ability of the viruses to infect host cells. Two compounds were identified, 5,7,3′,4′-tetra-O-methylquercetin (1) and 5,7-dihydroxy-4-oxo-2-(3,4,5-trihydroxyphenyl)chroman-3-yl-3,4,5-trihydroxycyclohexanecarboxylate (2), as H1N1-bound chemical species. Compound 1 and dihydromyricetin (3), the corresponding 3-hydroxyflavonone of 2, were synthesized and shown to inhibit H1N1 infection in vitro by binding to H1N1 virions, blocking host cell entry and/or recognition. Compound 1 gave an IC(50) of 0.13 microg/mL (0.36 microM) for H1N1 infection inhibition, while dihydromyricetin (3) achieved an IC(50) of 2.8 microg/mL (8.7 microM). The H1N1 inhibition activities of the elderberry flavonoids compare favorably to the known anti-influenza activities of Oseltamivir (Tamiflu; 0.32 microM) and Amantadine (27 microM).

Thus, I have been meaning to make some sort of elderberry syrup for my family but wasnt sure where to start.

Then, I stopped by a recently opened herbal medicine center and found that they not only had two different elderberry syrups on hand, they also had a recipe and the ingredients to make it at home! I asked them for the latter and brought home all sorts of goodies!

Elderberry Elixir

Elderberry Elixir


  • 7 cups spring water
  • 1 cups dried elderberries
  • 4 medium tongues of dried astragulus
  • 6 pieces of Fo Ti (Ho Shu Wa)
  • 1 ounce dried rose hips
  • 1/4 ounce dried nettles
  • 2 cups honey


Bring water to boil in enamel or stainless steel pot. Add elderberries, astragulus, fo ti, and rose hips, stir, cover and simmer on lowest setting for 35 minutes. Add nettles, stir, simmer for 5- 7 minutes. Take off heat and crush elderberries as much as possible. Strain through cheese cloth several times and, while still hot, add 2 cups honey. Mix until in solution. Store in the refrigerator.

Adults: 2 teaspoons/day all winter
Children: 1 teaspoon/day all winter

If you are actively sick take as follows:
Adults: 2 teaspoons 4 times a day
Children: 1 teaspoon 4 times a day

Elderberry Elixir: ingredients

On the plate above, from top left clockwise: dried nettles (green), dried rose hips (red), astragulus (bark tongues), and dried elderberries (dark purple).

Sorry, in the shot above I left out the Fo Ti, seen below.

Elderberry Elixir: Fo Ti (ho shu wa)

Elderberry Elixir: ingredients

How they came home.

Elderberry Elixir

It doesnt taste too bad, the 3 yo loves it!

As per request, I have added the contact information for the herbal apothecary where I sourced these ingredients (and recipe!)

Alternatives For Health

381 Sturbridge Road
Brimfield, MA 01010
(413) 245-6111

19 Responses to “Elderberry Elixir and Swine Flu”

  1. […] this link: Elderberry Elixir and Swine Flu Posted in Influenza Virus. Tags: effective-for, efficacy, elderberry, following-study, […]

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Nika B. Nika B said: New Post: Elderberry Elixir and Swine Flu (and why we wont get the vax) a scientific viewpoint RT Pls! #swineflu #h1n1 […]

  3. […] will go looking for elderberry syrup to supplement the vitamin D we’re taking daily. I will also start plotting window quilts to […]

  4. Katrien says:

    What are C’s in “7 C spring water and 1 C dried elderberries” ? This might be self-evident, but not to me ;)))

  5. Hi Nika
    It has been awhile since I have looked at your blog… firstly how is Felicity the goat?
    I read your post regarding the Elderberry Elixir with much interest because my granny used to make ‘Pontack’ which is an Elderberry sauce of which we either had neat or used in cooking for sauces and gravies…according to tradition Pontack is best used after 7 years!
    We are lucky to have Elder trees and it is berry season so following tradition I started to make this sauce. It is rather pungent, fruity and spicy because its also made with cider vinegar, cloves, allspice, black peppercorns and fresh ginger … if that doesn’t knock to swine flu bug I don’t what would! As children we used to have a spoonful Raspberry Vinegar and Rosehip Syrup and this would always seem to hold off the common cold and any tummy bugs.

    Sometimes the old ways are the best and look to mother nature…!

    Hope all is well with you :)


    PS I dont know if I have mentioned my blog : to see what I am up to!

  6. Katrien says:

    Hi Nika
    I found the dried berries in a health food store in Concord. I bought a whole C ;0
    I was wondering, do you know what it does to the nutrients in the berries when you simmer them for that long? What breaks down, etc.
    Preparing to make yogurt with raw milk I have become more sensitive to the “don’t boil it now!” considerations.
    Hope you have an answer – my searches didn’t bring up much, but the I’m known to be the worst Googler in the world.

  7. Nika says:


    When I make raw yogurt its still warm from the goat – I dont warm it up at all. I filter it and then put it into a 1/2 gallon jar and add the cultures, stick in excalibur dehyrator until set.

    I know that vitamin C is destroyed by heat but I do not know what happens to the rest of the elderberry components. You dont boil the various elixir parts, you add it to the hot water and then simmer at the very lowest temp you can manage for those 35 minutes.

  8. Katrien says:

    Hi Nika,
    thanks for the response. I am forever wondering about such things and wish I had paid closer attention in chemistry class, then I could have perhaps made sense out of chemistry articles on the issue.. For instance, when a juice bottle claims so many vitamins and so many this or that, is that before or after they pasteurized the juice?
    BTW, I awarded you the Honest Scrap Award. Here it is: Enjoy!

  9. Leigh says:

    Hi. I found your blog via Katrien’s. Interesting post. I used to be an RN and have worked both in hospitals and a doctors office. That said, I now totally reject traditional modern medicine. Thanks for sharing the information and the recipe.

  10. Nika says:


    Goodness, thanks for the award!

    I am guessing that most of the juices are pasteurized in enormous stainless steel reactors and then added in minute amounts (to be able to legally claim it to be juice) to a sterile mixture of high fructose corn syrup and chemical grade synthetic vitamins and minerals.

  11. Nika says:


    thanks for stopping by and saying hi! I am glad to share these things as I learn about them. Most middle class americans have such profoundly poor nutrition (even the ones eating industrial organic foods grown on depleted soils) that our dis-ease arises from our malnutrition.

    Whole foods grown on whole soil is what we need. Insulin in a needle and diabetes educators and doctors who tell you what to eat (calories being their own metric and not the wholesomeness of the food) and havent the first clue about what they dont know is why most people in our sick society will not get better.

  12. Daharja says:

    Hmmm…you’ve reminded me that a good kitchen / home garden doesn’t just grow food, but medicinals as well.

    I think I need to add a few specific plants to my garden stash!

    Good on you for not taking the vax. I wouldn’t either (I’m in NZ, so we aren’t being coerced by our government at all). The whole thing is just a thinly disguised drug company bailout.

  13. Kathy says:

    Hi, Would you mind posting the name of the herbal shop? I’d love to call them and ask if they’d ship me a package of the elixir ingredients. And great post, can’t wait to make this!

  14. Nika says:

    Daharja, I am definitely going to be planting elderberries and then use bird netting to protect the harvest. Be sure to plant the right sort tho.

  15. Nika says:


    I have updated the post to include the contact info for the shop!

  16. Kathy says:

    Thank you so much…happy happy!

  17. Jonathan says:

    It is too bad you will have to stop making this for influenza. It is now patented (Patent #12159691) by Healthcare Brands International. Nobody but them can add elderberry fruit (Sambucus Nigrans L) in ANY pharmaceutical preparation (elixers, etc) to treat influenza. Sorry.

  18. LisaBrent says:

    Um. Yeah. That’s not true, Jonathon.

    You can’t make the elixir to be SOLD, but no one can be in your kitchen to prevent you from making this or anything else for your own personal use. (Except illegal things, obviously.)

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About Me

We are a family of 5, including Nika, Ed, Q (14), KD (7), and Baby Oh (4). We garden 1024 square feet of raised beds plus assorted permacultural plantings. We also have 13 LaMancha dairy goats, 40 chickens, and one guard llama.



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