In essence: when you get flu, the viruses invade your cells, hijack the mechanics and turn the cells in to virus making machines . . . cranking out copies of the virus faster than your body can deal with them. The neuraminidase inhibiting chemicals in elderberries are one of the few things clinically proven to slow down their spread.
While elderberries won't stop the virus entering your cells, the neuraminidase coating that lets them slip back out of the cells and infect others gets all gummed up by the elderberry chemicals and keeps them trapped inside where they can't run riot. This slows down the progress of the disease and gives your body a fighting chance against it.
As an aside, Tamilflu (the drug that we horded against the Avian Flu threat) is based on star anise extract. Both ingredients are great traditional cures. And in tests, Sambucol (a standardised extract of elderberry) beat off the competition in independent anti-viral tests.
Unfortunately, elderberry won't do you a jot of good against colds. For that you need fenugreek seeds. But if you feel flu coming on, or if you start becoming surrounded by heavy limbed, achy friends, start supping this stuff as soon as - and a couple of times a day. It's a life saver. And it tastes fantastic. Just add it to hot water and drink like Lemsip.
The cloves and berries give it a taste closer to mulled wine, so it’s also perfect around Christmas for the designated drivers or those with self control.
You'll find elderberries pretty much everywhere. They're the heavy, flat purple-black bracts of berries that stain pavements. They're also really tasty and totally free for anyone with time and a bucket and a local hedge or waste ground.
Elderberry Cordial Recipe
buckets of elderberries
bottles or jars
household bleach or Miltons for sterilizing
IMPORTANT - Health and safety first:
Elder wood contains poisons. The flowers and berries are tasty and totally edible. If you get a little of the bracts in the pan, you'll be fine. Just don't go chewing on the branches.
The berries also have the ability to stain everything they touch. Keep some thin bleach to hand in case you need to clean up afterwards. Dab any stains and they'll vanish in seconds. The bleach is also handy for sterilising bottles.
So, warnings over, here's the recipe.
- In the largest pan you have, bring the berries to the boil with a very small amount of water (the water just caps the temperature of the pan at boiling point and stops the berries scorching while they burst. Boil away till they're strain-able.
- When they are, let them cool and then push them through a large sieve or squeeze them through muslin. Discard the skin and pips. Add the juice back to the pan.
Note: You can use a juicer for this, but when I tried it I ended up with a much weaker, pulpier cordial. From now on I'm using muslin and elbow grease.
- For each pint of juice, add around 500g of white sugar and 10 to15 cloves. Bring to the boil to dissolve the sugar and then cover, turn off the heat, and set aside.
- The sugar and cloves will act as preservative. Letting the pan stand hot will allow the cloves to leech all the good stuff out into the juice.
- Pour into sterilised bottles and store. I soak the bottles in bleach then rinse thoroughly. You could use Miltons steriliser (or own brand equivalent from the baby section of your local supermarket - also works a treat for winemaking).
- The cordial should keep happily for a year or two, but as with all things there are no guarantees. I should caution against using screw caps (any sugar/fruit combination in a screw-top bottle has the potential to ferment) but I've never had a problem with this one. And I have bottles that are over two years old and still good. Just keep it somewhere cool and dark if you're planning on hoarding it.
- Elderberries are in season in UK in September and October.