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Herbs to help you this winter

There are some simple and time-tested natural remedies at hand to help beat the cold – and the elderberry is a fantastic place to start.

The wonder of elderberries

Elderberries play an important role in building and maintaining immunity to help you have a healthy winter. I reach for them every time I am treating someone with impending flu, post-travel or children’s parties.

Elderberries are the autumnal fruit produced from elderflowers. They are packed full of anti-viral and anti-inflammatory constituents including antioxidant vitamin C, anthocyanins, lignans and flavonoids. These compounds give elderberries their powerful immune-modulating effects. Research has shown that this humble hedgerow plant can deactivate 10 strains of flu virus as well as hasten recovery time.

So, how do elderberries work?

The flu virus forms tiny spikes, called hemagglutinins, which are laced with an enzyme called neuraminidase. The enzyme helps the virus to penetrate the cell membranes in our lungs. And this is where the elderberry comes in; it actually helps to deactivate the neuraminidase preventing the proliferation of the virus and the dreaded aches and pains of the flu. For example, one interesting study on people with early flu symptoms showed that after using elderberry extract 20% reported significant improvement within 24 hours, 70% by 48 hours, and 90% claimed a complete cure after three days. Patients receiving the placebo required six days for recovery. As proof that elder has more to it than the enzyme-neutralizing constituents, researchers found that the patients who took it also had higher levels of antibodies against the flu virus. On top of this elderberries may be superior to flu shots for another reason: 50% of people who get the vaccines report side effects. (Mumcuoglu 1995, Zakay-Rones 1995)

As a syrup, the soft, sweet and soothing qualities of the crimson berry juice helps calm irritated mucous membranes and irritating coughs. Elderberry’s anti-spasmodic qualities coupled with an expectorant action eases painful spasms whilst gently clearing catarrh from the respiratory tract and sinuses. Pukka’s own Elderberry syrup which is suitable for anyone over the age of two, is made from a concentrated juice of elderberry with 10 other herbs. One daily dosage of Pukka Elderberry Syrup supplies 12,000mg of elderberry juice concentrate. It really is purple magic.

Try these powerful herbs, teas and remedies next time you feel a chill:

  • Ginger. Ginger’s earthy spice is soothing and warming. Grate some fresh ginger into a mug of hot water and fresh lemon. Or sip Pukka’s Lemon, Ginger and Manuka honey tea as soon as you feel a cold coming on.
  • Trikatu. This mix of ginger, black pepper and long pepper helps to blow away the cold and clear the sinuses. Mix half a teaspoon with honey to sweeten it or add to your favourite herbal tea.
  • Andrographis. A fantastic all-round winter boost. Take through the colder months to ward off the nasties.
  • Echinacea. This popular flower can help to maintain the body's immune system. Pukka’s Elderberry and Echinacea tea combines two powerful plants into one warming tea.

Meet the author

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Sebastian Pole, Co-founder and Herbal Director

I’m Co-founder and Herbal Director at Pukka Herbs. As well as formulating all our organic products, I run my own herbal practice in Bath which I’ve done since 1998. I’m a registered member of the Ayurvedic Practitioners Association, Register of Chinese Herbal Medicine and the Unified Register of Herbal Practitioners. All this with the aim of using the principles of Ayurveda (the ancient art of living wisely) to help create positive change and positive health. Inspired by my time in India, I love cooking a vegetarian feast and rely on regular yoga practice and herbal supplementation to keep me well. I am passionate about running a business that inspires positive change and brings the benefit of the incredible power of plants to everyone we connect with. I live on a two acre garden-farm in Somerset where I grow a rainbow spectrum of medicinal and nourishing plants for my bees and family to live from.

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