Fall is coming, and with it, brisk days, fireplaces, pumpkin-flavored everything, and… colds.
The changing of the seasons is prime time for viruses and allergies to strike. And even though there’s a lot of medicine you can buy at the drug store to ease the symptoms of a bug, there are a few medicinal herbs and plants that actually help cure the source of your cough, sore throat, and sniffles. And because they’re natural, you don’t have to worry about difficult side effects. (Like intense, hallucinogenic nightmares after taking a night dose of Sudafed.)
One of the premiere natural cold and fever fighters is a common fruit that has been used for centuries in North America, Europe, and parts of Asia and Africa. If you live in a wooded area, you may even have some growing in your back yard. They’re called elderberries, and they’re little health wizards.
At a very simplistic level, elderberries have more vitamin C than oranges, and have very high antioxidant levels. But science has unearthed the good stuff.
A few studies have shown that elderberry can ease fever, sore throats, fatigue, cough and body aches if taken 24 to 48 hours after symptoms present themselves. Taking elderberry regularly after the onset of fever symptoms may actually reduce their duration by 50 percent.
If you get sinus infections often, elderberry has been shown to be relatively effective in treating those as well, although more research has to be done (which is what scientists always say unless they have study upon study to prove their findings).
Elderberry also has anti-inflammatory properties, and some people with diseases like cancer and HIV have been known to take it along with more traditional treatments.
One caveat with these berries – you have to cook them before you eat them. Raw elderberries, and even parts of the elderberry shrub, are poisonous.
There are plenty of good elderberry syrups out there, but if you happen to know you have elderberry growing around you (or see it being sold at a farmer’s market), there are a few things you can do with it.
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