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Herb Talk 2/21: Elder for Cold and Flu Prevention and Vitex Berry to Ease PMS and Menopause Discomfo

Today we hosted an herb talk at Be Kekoa Apothecary and FaceBook Live (Link: I decided to focus on a couple of herbs that address the issues I get the most questions about. Fighting cold and flu and how to ease hot flashes/menopause symptoms.

As you know viral threats are in the headlines. Coronavirus and flu are of high concern but we can be proactive about reducing the spread of germs and supporting our immune health.

Wash your hands and avoiding touching your face, eyes, nose, mouth, and ear canal. Stay home and rest if you aren't feeling well. And you can also support your body with antivirals and practices that support immune health like getting adequate sleep, eating well (real food, fruits and vegetables, and incorporate herbs into your meals), moving your body, and finding practices that can help address stress (meditation, prayer, exercise, crafting, getting outdoors, or other healthy self care practices).

There are lots of natural ways people use to stay healthy but one of my favorites for fighting cold, flu, and sinus issues is Sambucus nigra L. or elder. And it has many other benefits as well.

Sambucus nigra L. or elder contains triterpenes ursolic acid, oleanoic acid, and sterols), oils (linoleic (omega 6), linolenic (omega 3), and palmitic acids), phenolic acid, glycosides, flavonoids (phytonutrients such as quercetin), fatty acids, alkanes, tannins, pectin, and sugars.

The elder tree is described as a “medicine chest” in its own right by herbalist David Hoffman.

Leaf: purgative, expectorant, diuretic, diaphoretic (internal), vulnerary (external)

Flower: diaphoretic, anti-catarrhal, antispasmodic

Berry: diaphoretic, diuretic, laxative, anti-rheumatic

The leaf can be used topically for bruises, sprains, and wounds. The flower is used against colds and flu. Elderberry extract has demonstrated antiviral activity against 10 strains of influenza virus. It was shown to reduce the duration of flu symptoms by 3 to 4 days.

Elder flower may be beneficial for inflammation of the upper respiratory tract when hay fever or sinusitis is present.

Elder berry has similar properties to the flower.

Elder appears to increase cytokine production, appears to strengthen cell membranes against viral penetration.

No side effects or drug interactions have been reported.

Easiest ways to use:

Flower Infusion or tea: add 2 teaspoons of the flower to 1 cup of boiling water, steep 10 minutes, drink hot 3 times per day.

Syrup: simmer slowly: 1 part berry to 2 parts water 20-30 minutes and reduce by ½. Strain and add an equal amount of honey to preserve.

Tincture: 2-4 mls 3 x per day (1:5 in 40% alcohol or glycerin)

The other issue I am often asked about is how to cool the hot flashes that can occur during menopause. Again there are many approaches and herbs out there but vitex or Vitex agnus-castus L. tea is a quite easy way to address hot flashes as well as PMS and regulating the menstral cycle.

Vitex agnus-castus L. Also known as chaste berry, chaste tree, monk’s pepper, contains glycosides, di-terpene, flavonoids, essential oils.

Action: Hormonal normalizer, uterine tonic, galatagogue

Vitex has a stimulating and normalizing effect on the pituitary gland – thus it is working on the brain rather than acting as a phytohormone.

Its action is described as amphoteric – Greek for “partly one and partly the other”. In herbalism it refers to an herb that appears to have opposite effects. However the result is overall normalizing. For example vitiex has the reputation of being both an aphrodisiac and an anaphrodisiac.

Its most important activity is normalizing female hormones. It is therefore helpful in dysmenorrhea, PMS, helping the body to regain balance after using oral contraceptives, may help ease menopausal symptoms, may be useful in regulating the ovulation cycle in women trying to get pregnant, and may help against acne in teens.

The precise mechanism of action is not known, but research suggests it acts on the anterior pituitary gland and regulates hormones via the endocrine system rather than acting directly on the reproductive system.

Easiest way to use:

Tea: 1 teaspoon of vitex berry in 1 cup of boiling water, steep 10 -15 minutes, drink this 2-3 times daily for at least 3 -6 weeks. Most women continue for 3 to 6 months.

Tincture: 2.5 mls three times daily (1:5 in 60%)

Ok that was a lot of information. I personally like simple. Here are some action steps:

To fight cold and flu:

Wash your hands

Avoid touching your face

Use elderberry syrup or elder tea to support immune health or feel better faster if you get sick

To ease hot flashes or support women's health:

1 teaspoon vitex berry in one cup hot water -- steep 10-15 minutes and drink two to three times daily for at least 3 weeks and up to six months to help normalize hormones.

If you'd like a more personalized protocol consider finding an herbalist or holistic health care practitioner. At Be Kekoa Apothecary and Aromatherapy by Tricia we also offer aromatherapy in addition to herbal suggestions.

In summary, plants, herbs, essential oils, eating well, getting adequate sleep, and attending to self care can help support wellness.

If you have a quick questions call or contact Tricia or schedule an aromatherapy consultation for more personalized solutions to wellness.

Be well my friends,


Suggested References:

Richard Whelan Medical Herbalist Website:

Gladstarr, Rosemary: Medicinal Herbs: a Beginner’s Guide

Hoffman, David Medical Herbalism The Science and Practice of Herbal Medicine

Mountain Rose Herbs:


I understand that the Food and Drug Administration has not evaluated the therapeutic suggestions or any statements made on this website about essential oils, carriers or other products offered by Aromatherapy by Tricia Ambroziak (ABT)

The statements made on this website are for educational purposes and have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

The data on this website is not considered complete and is not guaranteed to be accurate.

Never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking treatment based on something you've read or accessed through this website. Tricia Ambroziak is a professional aromatherapist but not a licensed health care professional.

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