What is your favorite cold remedy? Sometimes people rely on drugstore products, but they may not be aware of the potential side effects from a multi-symptom cold product. We frequently prefer home remedies, such as chicken soup or thyme tea. A reader recently reminded us about elderberry, a botanical product that has been used for decades or longer.
Elderberry Rob for Cold Symptoms:
Q. Now that we are into cold season, it’s a pity that my favorite remedy isn’t better known. Elderberry rob is a traditional treatment for coughs and colds. To make this, elderberries are boiled with honey, cinnamon and allspice and the resulting syrup is strained and mixed with a little brandy as a preservative. A few spoonfuls of this mixed into hot water usually reduces cold symptoms very effectively.
Elderberry (Sambucus canadensis) grows wild in many places in North America. I suspect that the homemade syrup probably retains more of the plant’s properties than most over-the-counter Sambucus preparations.
A. Elderberry juice preparations have long been used to treat respiratory infections.
Although it is not well studied, an analysis concluded that
“Supplementation with elderberry was found to substantially reduce upper respiratory symptoms” (Complementary Therapies in Medicine, Feb. 2019).
An Australian study found that air travelers taking elderberry were less prone to colds and had milder symptoms (Nutrients, March 24, 2016). Some Sambucus compounds prevent viruses from replicating or attaching themselves to respiratory tract tissues (Virus Research, Nov. 2019). This research utilized an Asian species of Sambucus, while the clinical trial investigators used S. nigra, a European species. However, the American S. canadensis is similar.
Our reader is right that S. canadensis grows in many places, especially if they are a bit damp. Bushes in our yard bear lots of flowers that we collect and dry. In the winter, we use them to make a pleasant tea to calm a cough.
Whether making a rob as described or other any other preparation, be sure to use only ripe berries and do not include stems or leaves. Cyanide-related compounds in the stems can be toxic. You can learn more about this herb here.