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Everything you need to know about alcohol-free elderberry syrup for preventing colds and influenza
Elderberry is considered by many herbalists and satisfied users to be nature's answer to Tamiflu, a drug that is commonly used to nip influenza in the bud. Elderberry works in a similar way by preventing the virus from adhering to human cells and multiplying. Traditionally, elderberry preparations are taken early enough to head off a massive viral invasion right from the start.
Sambucus nigra is the most researched medically potent species of elderberry, and it is so highly regarded in Europe that it has been called the "medicine chest of country people". It grows wild in most of Europe, northwest Africa and southwest Asia.
Native Americans and the Pioneer settlers found elderberry useful, but historical accounts suggest that they may have not regarded the American species of elderberry as much as Europeans do their own. It's possible that the European species may be a little more potent than the American species of elderberry. The jury is still out on that debate.
Some herbalists are leaning towards the same slant as Richo Czech of Horizon Herbs in Oregon, who says that the European native Sambucus nigra "…is the most tried-and-true species for medicinal use." He also notes that the berries are about twice as big as the berries of other species.
If something should ever prevent me from making a cold and flu preventative from the traditional European Sambucus nigra species, I would gladly use elderberries from commercially available cultivars such as the York and Nova species. They are available from nurseries such as Henry Fields and Gurneys. (I would steer clear of other cultivars sold for ornamental landscaping use.) According to more than a few devotees, the York and Nova cultivars are said to work very well in warding off the common cold and influenza.
As a personal preference I am cultivating the European elderberry species Sambucus nigra from seed, and will continue to buy the dried European berries to make my preparations with until my little 'orchard' becomes established. Herbalcom and Frontier Herbs are two of my favorite sources for the berries.
Interestingly, after years of searching, I have never found any commercial sources for elderberries from cultivars or American elderberries, only berries from the imported European Sambucus nigra species.
Elderberry has been proven effective against a wide range of influenza viruses including human, swine and avian strains
Dr. Madeleine Mumcuoglu made elderberries internationally famous through the well publicized research and laboratory studies conducted at the Hadassah Medical School of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. It was demonstrated that Sambucus nigra species of elderberry was effective against a wide range of influenza viruses including human, swine and avian strains. This led to the development of a popular elderberry syrup preparation called Sambucol. Even if the preparation is taken too late to act as a preventative, controlled clinical studies in 1995 also demonstrated that Sambucol could reduce the severity and duration of influenza by half.
At a press conference held January 19-20, 2006 at the Royal Society of Medicine in London, the results of exciting new research on the patented elderberry formula were presented. Speakers included the developer of Sambucol, Dr. Mumcuoglu and Professor Hannoun of the Pasteur Institute.
Imagine the excitement of hearing the announcement that the elderberry-based Sambucol was found to be at least 99% effective against the Avian Flu (H5N1) virus in cell cultures! Laboratory trials verifying this were held in a prominent research institute associated with the University of London. Retroscreen Virology, Ltd. concluded that the elderberry preparation "significantly neutralised the infectivity of the virus in cell cultures".
Although elderberry is effective against the H5N1 viruses in a culture dish, without human 'guinea pigs' there is no way to conclude that it is as effective in humans, but all indications look good.
Science is beginning to realize what European country folks knew all along. Elderberry is good for preventing cold and influenza infections. According to many herbalists and satisfied users, traditional homemade elderberry tinctures and non-alcoholic syrups work just as well as Sambucol.
How well does a non-alcoholic elderberry preparation work?
The original and well-researched Sambucol formula was made with an alcohol-based extract with a bit of glucose added. Some modern-day herbalists speculate that only alcohol-based elderberry preparations will work. Others speculate that the application of heat could be detrimental to the effectiveness of elderberry.
I am happy to tell you this is not true. For over a decade, I have made and given away to family and friends, many gallons of a very potent non-alcoholic elderberry syrup made with heat. I make my decoction by gently simmering elderberries in water for hours over a medium-low fire. The result is a fine tasting juice and syrup that has worked splendidly against every challenge of cold and influenza viruses put to it. It works so well that every year friends and family (as well as their friends) always ask for more.
Apparently the same medicinal resins and other properties can be extracted in a long slow simmering process over low heat, as can be extracted with alcohol.
Before I share my recipe with you, I'd like to alert you to a few things you should know.
IMPORTANT NOTES ABOUT ELDERBERRY AND PANDEMIC INFLUENZA
One of the things that make some influenza strains more deadly and worrisome than most ordinary strains is that they can cause a young healthy person's immune to kick into overdrive. In this case, too much of a good thing can become deadly because of the overproduction of cytokines. Some cytokines promote mucous production. Unfortunately when too much mucous is produced, it can quickly become a life threatening situation because the patient can literally drown in his own fluids.
In recent years, some herbalists and pandemic flu speculators (affectionately known as flubies) have debated a valid question: Could the immunostimulant properties of elderberry worsen the cytokine storm associated with a deadly strain such as H5N1 and others?
On the other hand, elderberry also increases levels of the cytokine IL-10 which is a known immunosuppressant. This could very well 'balance out' the cytokines with immunostimulating effects. Another natural check and balance system at work?
Of additional interest is the fact that elderberry is useful for treating bacterial sinusitis because it reduces excessive mucus in the sinus cavities, promotes better drainage, and reduces nasal congestion and swelling of mucous membranes. In that light, it seems that elderberry would be beneficial during a mucous producing cytokine storm.
To date elderberry has not yet been tested in humans against the strain of the dreaded H5N1 avian influenza that has worried the medical community for the past few years. No one really knows what elderberry preparations will do in the face of an influenza induced cytokine storm.
Experts agree that limiting the initial viral load (such as with Tamiflu) seems to be one of the best ways to survive the more deadly influenza strains. It is commonly understood that if the viral load is dramatically reduced, especially in the beginning stages of infection, then the body's response to it--the deadly cytokine storm--is reduced as well.
Elderberry is a time tested remedy with a great reputation for preventing and inhibiting ordinary influenza in humans, if taken promptly and regularly. It does the job so well, that my personal pandemic influenza plans include taking elderberry syrup as a preventative. If for some reason, I am stricken with a pandemic flu, I plan to continue taking elderberry, but at a higher and more frequent dosage.
I am not suggesting that anyone else do as I do, but that you should explore all your options, including professional medical help if confronted with the possibility of a life-threatening illness such as pandemic influenza.
Because this issue is so controversial in the face of certain deadly strains of influenza, I am monitoring several news portals very closely for any new findings that I need to know. If it is ever determined that elderberry is harmful to take during a full blown pandemic influenza infection, a change in my plans would be in order.
Go here for a list of up-to-the minute news and intelligent discussions about pandemic influenzas:
ALCOHOL-FREE ELDERBERRY SYRUP AND JUICE .....
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