We are coming into the time of year when coughs, colds and the 'flu are likely to rear their horrid little heads, and make our heads feel horrid in the process.
Many people who prefer more natural remedies might be familiar with Sambucol, a proprietary product that contains elderberry extract. The problem with that for us is that it contains glucose syrup, which doesn't help the blood glucose levels of my diabetic husband.
However, elderberry may actually help with blood glucose control when uncontaminated with sugar.
Although no longer in practice, I am qualified as a medical herbalist and at this time of year one of the things we do to boost our protection against the sniffles is to take elderberry tincture (Sambucus nigra) as a prophylactic.
A tincture is literally just elderberries that have sat in alcohol for a given period of time, then the menstruum, or liquor, strained and bottled. No added extras - the alcohol allows it to keep for some considerable time, especialy if stored in a cool, dry place.
In the past, I have bought my tincture in from a herbal supplier, but this year the berries ripened at a time when I could easily collect and process them. It is so much nicer when you can make your own.
In the past, if I had been making tinctures for use in my practice, I would have followed a set recipe to allow the correct proportion of berries to alcohol, so the strength of the finished tincture could be estimated. As this is purely for our own personal use I just worked on the basis of covering the berries with the vodka.
The finished result, after sitting in the cupboard marinating away for six weeks or more, is very pleasant to take in some water - tastes rather like unsweetened Ribena. We take a tablespoon a day, and if it feels like a cold is threatening the dose will be upped to three or four times a day. If anything does get by, it is usually quite short-lived.
Obviously it is too late now to make your own but elderberry extract or tincture is readily available from health food stores. Perhaps next year, though, you might want to consider bottling some for yourself.
More information on elderberry can be found here.
One of the other things we do to help ourselves against the winter lurgies is to ensure that our vitamin D status is optimal. Previous posts (here, here and here) have explained a little why this can be so helpful and our most recent test results still put us within the optimal category. My result came in at 69 ng/mL, and I'm quite happy with that. So I'll keep up with the 50,000 IU Vitamin D3 once a week throughout the winter, and all being well, come out the other side without having had too much trouble with the bugs.
So these are things that you might like to consider adding to your own anti-colds and 'flu arsenal, although if you do become seriously unwell, you should always get yourself checked out by your doctor.