The Wisdom of the Elderberry by Stephanie Hein

Stephanie Hein is a Certified Clinical Herbalist, Reiki Energy Healer, and Yoga teacher. She has studied herbalism for 7 years and sharing her knowledge with others has become her greatest passion. The Shift Doctors (Tracy Latz, M.D. & Marion Ross, Ph.D.) had the pleasure of spending 2 days in the Appalachian Mountain forests of North Carolina with Stephanie during a Medicinal & Healing Plants course. She currently works as the Supplement Coordinator at the Natural Vitality Center in Greensboro, NC. She works alongside one of the nations top Integrative Medical Doctors, Dr. Elizabeth Vaughan. When working with clients she strives to recognize the entire body, mind, and spirit connection, before offering herbal direction. Find out more about Stephanie at

The Wisdom of the Elderberry by Stephanie Hein

Elderberries have been used for thousands of years and are widely known as the “poor person’s medicine chest.”  The medicinal use of Elderberry has been documented in Europe, North America, Northern Africa, and in some parts of Asia. In all of these different parts of the world it has been utilized to prevent and cure various different ailments.  The early settlers who brought Elderberry Folk knowledge with them to North America quickly identified a similar looking plant known as the American Elder or Sambuca Canadensis. The Native Americans at the time were well acquainted with their own variety of Elderberry, using it as a treatment for fevers. While many of the reported beneficial effects of using Elderberry lack adequate scientific validation, there are an increasing number of studies supporting important medicinal or therapeutic properties associated with Elderberries.

The American Elder is quite common and can be found growing as far north as Nova Scotia and as far south as Florida.  Two common places where it likes to grow are along roadsides ditches and especially on the edge of creek and river banks. Elderberry is a deciduous multi-stemmed shrub with brittle branches that easily bend under the weight of its fruit clusters.  In North Carolina, it’s beautiful white flowers are followed by fruit clusters beginning in the early fall months of August and September.  The berry’s dark blue/purple color comes from its high content of two substances shown to protect against a myriad of human disease, anthocyanin and bioflavonoids. Eating foods rich in these substances has been linked to a long list of favorable health benefits, including the reduction of inflammation, the regulation of immune responses, and decreased capillary fragility.

Along with containing anthocyanin and bioflavonoids, Elderberry has caught the eye of modern day health enthusiast due to its high Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Calcium, Iron, and B-6 content. These little berries also have a high ORAC value, surpassing the high antioxidant content of both cranberries and blueberries. Elderberry’s total antioxidant capacity is one of the highest of all the small fruits, a fact that is responsible for much of the Elderberry’s medicinal potential. Our body uses antioxidants from plant origins to protect us from the overload of harmful free radicals present in our everyday environment. Stemming the tide of free radicals is important as it has been shown that if allowed to grow unchecked, they can lead to various types of disease and cancer. With its rich, wide ranging, historical past and its present scientifically validated beneficial properties, it appears the wisdom and usefulness of the”Elder” berry is not something to be ignored.

During this flu and cold season you may want to consider stocking your home medicine cabinet with Natural Elderberry Formulas. Elderberries contain compounds that have the ability to protect the body’s receptor sites against the invasion of some types of influenza strains.  The berries have shown promising results in protecting against at least 8 different strains of influenza. Elderberry is an important herb for the immune system, but in order to be most effective, it needs to be used as a daily supplement. Elderberry constituents do not cling to the tissue, which means daily treatment is not only safe, but necessary, in order to provide the highest level of protection against the many viruses which accompany this cold winter weather. Daily use does not overtax the immune system, nor cause harmful imbalances in the digestive track.

Although great as a preventative against catching a cold or the flu, Elderberry is also good to take during the course of an illness. You may want to consider taking supplements containing Elderberry when experiencing fevers, allergies, respiratory illnesses, or viral infections. It stimulates the immune system in ways that also help prevent herpes simplex from taking a hold in the body. Scientists hope this immune stimulation will prove to be useful against more serious infections such as HIV.  Elderberry is generally considered safe for both adults and children.

Make Your Own Elderberry Syrup !!!


4 cups of pure water

1 cup dried elderberries or 2 cups fresh elderberries

½ cup honey or molasses


Boil water. Add elderberries. Turn heat to a simmer. Cover and let cook for 30-45 minutes or until liquid looks to be about 2 cups. Strain out elderberries and return liquid to the pot. Turn heat off and add honey or other sweetener.

Allow to cool and then bottle in a glass jar with label. Keep in the refrigerator for 2-4 weeks.

Option 2: Add 20% alcohol (at least 80 proof) to make the syrup shelf stable.

Stephanie Hein is a Certified Clinical Herbalist, Reiki Healer, and Professional Birthing Coach.  She teaches Wild Food Foraging and Herbal Medicine Making Workshops. Find out more about Stephanie at:

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