by Faye Sakellaridis
Raise your chances of staying radiantly healthy through the winter season by harnessing the powers of two immune-boosting herbs: echinacea and elderberry. Both have been used for hundreds of years in tradition folk medicine, and today are widely recognized for their effectiveness in combating respiratory illnesses common during winter.
Echinacea is a genus of herbaceous, flowering plants (commonly called purple coneflowers) native to eastern and central North America. Echinacea boosts the immune system by making it more capable of attacking bacteria and abnormal cells. It also stimulates new tissue growth, reduces inflammation, and has antioxidant effects.
Native American tribes used the herb to treat a variety of ailments, including sore throats, coughs, infections, and aches. Today, echinacea is best known as an antiviral, anti fungal, and antibacterial. Because of its anti-inflammatory qualities, it is effective at alleviating symptoms of the common cold, like sore throat, cough, and fever, as well as reducing the duration of the cold.
Elderberries are the fruit of the flowering plant Sambucus, more commonly known as the elderflower, which is native to Europe and North America. Like echinacea, elderberries help strengthen the immune system by stimulating its ability to protect itself. Among elderberry’s many other health benefits are boosting immune function, improving digestion, acting as an antioxidant, and increasing bone health. And, also like echinacea, elderberry is a common go-to for respiratory conditions due to its capacity to soothe inflammation and irritation, and clearing out mucus from the lungs. Elderberry juice can be drank to help treat a sore throat, cough, bronchitis, and other respiratory conditions.
Echinacea and elderberry are something of a power couple when it comes to healing sickness — the combination of the two is very potent. Immune Zoom, a wellness formula developed by Vermont-based apothecary Urban Moonshine, combines both elderberry and echinacea, along with other herbs that potentiate their effects. Alongside elderberry and echinacea, Immune Zoom contains elderflowers, cinnamon, cayenne, and ginger. They explain that “elderflower has diaphoretic properties, which means it helps your body get its sweat on. It helps break fever and let off steam.” Cayenne, cinnamon, and ginger add to the already distinct sweet flavor of the elderberry by adding warm, spicy, juicy and sweet tones to the formula. They also synergize with the other plants by allowing them to enter your bloodstream more easily. This formula is best taken at the onset of sickness.
Elderberries can also be enjoyed in a variety of desserts, like syrups and jams, because of its delicious sweet taste. Echinacea can be imbibed in a variety of ways, from teas and tinctures to capsules and tablets. Some ways are not as effective as others — check out this blog on how to get the most out of echinacea.