Elderberry Syrup, Barbara Sinclair Holistic Health & Healing

Nip That Cold or Flu in the Bud

I can’t remember the last cold or flu that I had (knock on wood). But that doesn’t mean that I’m just lucky, or that I have a perfect immune system. What I do have is a list of to-dos that I implement when I feel a virus coming on that almost never fail to nip that cold or flu in the bud.

The key words here are “when I feel a virus coming on,” because, in order to stop a cold or flu in its tracks, you need to pay attention to your body.

AT THE FIRST SIGN of those subtle warnings – scratchy throat, fatigue, muscle aches, foggy head, sneezing, etc. – we have a short window of time to stop the virus from taking hold, or at least, lessen the severity of it.

While antibiotics are useless against a virus (and dangerous to take when not needed), many herbs have anti-viral properties.

Just the other day this very thing happened to me. I was exhausted from birthing my new website out into the world and had neglected my body a bit. Everyone around me seemed to be coughing or sneezing or looking like you know what. It was like swimming in a sea of germs on the PATH train.

I felt a little off like I was coming down with a cold. “Not happening, I thought”, and so I immediately

Nip That Cold or Flu in the Bud

  1. Put 3% hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) in my ears. It’s been hypothesized that cold/flu germs enter via the ear canal. Whether this is true or not, I can say that simply doing this one thing has arrested an oncoming cold for me many times. I use regular strength hydrogen peroxide and fill a glass dropper with it (you don’t need a lot – even just a few drops is effective). I warm it under running water so it’s not cold. Tilt your head to the side and squeeze the dropper. Keep your head tilted for about 5-10 minutes. You may feel a bubbling or itching sensation in one or both ears. I don’t know if this is the hydrogen peroxide killing the germs or not, but while I’m waiting, I like to visualize that it is. Tilt your head to the other side and drain it onto a tissue or cotton ball. Repeat in the other ear. Do not try this if you have severe ear pain (see your doctor). I might do this twice on the first day and again the next day just for good measure. It has the added benefit of helping to remove wax from the ear canal.
  2. Took some elderberry syrup. Elderberries are one of the best healing foods around. They are phenomenal at boosting the immune system and warding off upper respiratory illnesses. I like to make my own (I’ll include the recipe below) which also includes immune-boosters like ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and honey. You can also buy it pre-made – just be sure it doesn’t contain lots of unnecessary additives. I take 1T a day during the winter months and at the first sign of a cold or flu I up the dosage to 1T every ½ hour or hour.
  3. Added echinacea extract to my elderberry syrup. Echinacea is good at the onset of a cold or flu. It is not beneficial once the cold or flu has taken hold.
  4. Took yarrow extract. Yarrow is also great for fever and infection, so can be taken if you actually do get sick. This step is probably unnecessary, but it certainly can’t hurt.
  5. Took a swig of Fire Cider (or Fire Tonic). This old-time home remedy tonic is generally made with some combination of garlic, onion, ginger, honey, apple cider vinegar, turmeric, horseradish and sometimes peppers. Yum. It’s enough to make the germs run screaming out of your body!
  6. Made ginger tea with honey and lemon and sipped throughout the day.
  7. Crawled into bed for some REST. Give your body a break when you feel a cold or flu coming on and let it do its job of rallying the immune system and destroying the virus.
  8. Gave my digestive system a break by eating light – mostly broths and teas.

If this seems like a long to-do list, know that you could probably successfully stop a cold or flu in its tracks with just one or two of these tips. Personally, I think it’s worth the effort not to feel like garbage.

And remember that simple hand washing (with regular, not antibacterial soap) and keeping your hands away from your eyes, ears, nose and mouth go a long way in preventing colds and flu.

Here’s an easy recipe for immune-boosting elderberry syrup (courtesy of John Gallagher of Learning Herbs) Elderberry syrup is an old home remedy that is tried and true. You can use it daily to help prevent colds and flu or use it when you’re sick.

Elderberry Syrup


  • 1/2 c dried elderberries (you can use fresh if you have them!)
  • 2 c water
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 5 cloves
  • 1 T fresh ginger
  • 1 cup raw honey (local is best) Visit your farmer’s market!

Combine all ingredients EXCEPT HONEY and bring to a boil, cover (crack lid open) and simmer for about 30 minutes (liquid should reduce by almost 1/2).

Strain through a sieve and squeeze as much liquid out as possible. (Compost mixture if you can.)

Stir in 1 cup honey, or less, if desired.

Refrigerate. Keeps for months but it shouldn’t last that long!

Not only are the elderberries excellent for immunity, but so are all of the other ingredients.

Take 1T daily to help boost immunity and prevent colds and flu. At the first sign of sickness, take up to 1T per hour. Kids love the taste and it’s a great way to keep them healthy during the school year.

Food is medicine, and life feels so much better without a stuffy head and achy body!

What are your home remedies to stop a cold or flu in its tracks?

Much love,

P.S. Remember, these are remedies that have worked for me. We all have different constitutions and our bodies react differently to food and medicines. It is ultimately up to you to take responsibility for any home remedies that you try, researching their effectiveness and safety.


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