Upper Respiratory Virus, Elderberry Syrup and Eating


Our family was hit with an upper respiratory virus that had a nasty cough.  The cough was so bad my youngest daughter, the 24 year-old, began having chest pains on her right side.   Even breathing hurt.  She had a lingering cough, but was pretty much over the virus by this point.  I suspected she had sprained her chest wall from coughing and told her to take anti-inflammatory pain killers such as ginger, and use heat on the area.

She didn’t.  In fact, she did nothing to treat it other than take pain reliever when it became to bad to ignore.  After a week, she was having trouble breathing from the pain, and decided she needed a chest x-ray to make sure a rib wasn’t broken.   Chest x-rays showed her lungs and ribs looked good.  Manual manipulations by the physician’s assistant revealed the cartilage between her ribs is inflamed.

She received a diagnosis of a … insert drum roll… sprained chest wall.  She was told to take an anti-inflammatory and use heat on the area.  She ignored the doctor as well, so I don’t feel alone.

Almost everyone in the family was hit hard by this.  In our family, if we all get sick, I get it the worst mainly because of my immune system.  Those who ate “junkily” were hit the hardest.   Those who ate “healthier” were hit the least.   I had a disagreement about illness and diet a few days earlier with one of my children; I just stood there and let the experience speak for itself.  I also made Elderberry Syrup.

Only two people agreed to take it: DS2 and myself.   Three guesses who had the least symptoms and recovered faster.

Scientific studies have been done on elderberry syrups.  The most tested is a commercial brand called Sambucol.   I’ve linked the study below. However, homemade is even better.  It also has the added benefit of being able to tweak according to your needs.  There are many recipes out there but this is the one we use.


1/2 cup dried organic black elderberries

3 cups distilled water

cinnamon stick or ground cinnamon  (Make sure it is REAL cinnamon.  Many sold in stores aren’t.)  I usually add a tablespoon or two.

ginger (if desired – I don’t add much, because fresh ginger is a bit strong, but it is anti-inflammatory)

cloves – good to add if you have a sore throat, because it has anesthetic properties. I usually toss in a tablespoon or two or leave it out if no one seems to want it.

2 tbsp or more raw organic apple cider vinegar.  (I put in 1/4 cup because raw ACV is very good for you and my daughter loves it in the syrup.)

Raw, organic honey to taste.  I usually use a minimum of 1-2 tablespoons.  If a cough is involved, I add more but be careful.  It can make it too sweet.




Bring the elderberries, water and spices to a boil (Not the honey or ACV) You can put the solids into a cheese cloth/spice bag to make it easier.  Allow to simmer for 20-30 minutes.




Remove from heat and cool a few minutes.  Strain and discard solids.  I mash the berries a bit with the back of a spoon to get all the juice out.  Don’t reuse the berries.  Let cool a few more minutes.




You want it cool enough for the honey to melt, but not hot enough to destroy the honey enzymes.   Add honey and apple cider vinegar.   Stir until honey is dissolved.   Elderberries are very bitter, so honey is necessary.  Raw organic honey also has many beneficial properties.

The spices are optional, but does add some flavor and benefits.  Cinnamon in particular has healing properties for colds and other viruses.  Ginger is well-known for anti-nausea and anti-inflammatory properties.  Cloves have anesthetic properties which is why it is normally recommended for toothaches.

How to use elderberry syrup

This depends on your own system.  You’ll have to experiment.

Take 1 tbsp. when you happen to think about it.  You can’t overdose on this.

DS2 took 3 a day: morning, afternoon and evening.   Since I already knew my immune system was acting up, I took 1/4 cup a day.   My symptoms lasted a week, but were very minor compared to everyone else.   DS2’s lasted 3 days and were also minor.  There is no doubt in our minds that it helped.  Those who didn’t drink it had symptoms much stronger and longer.  Of course, this is anecdotal, but the study on Sambucol proved it does help.

I think eating healthy goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyhow.  Your body needs healthy vitamins and minerals to fight off illnesses.   Sugar drinks and junk food only strain your system even farther.  I will admit I love junk food but I try, and sometimes fail, to keep it at a minimum.

Anyhow, for those interested – there you go.   🙂



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