Callaways mix elderberry syrup to prevent influenza

Kiley Callaway stands next to some bottles of Callaway Cures’ elderberry syrup on Sept. 18 at Northfield Church, where he is a pastor. Callaway says the syrup can help boost immunity and prevent or lessen the impact of influenza.

As flu season approaches, Kiley Callaway and his family are busy cooking up a remedy.

The family moved to Gering from Georgia eight years ago and was hit hard by the flu.

“Our kids were just constantly sick,” Callaway said.

He needed a way to make his kids feel better and help his family stay healthy, so he began looking into various supplements and came across elderberry syrup.

Although studies on the effectiveness of elderberry syrup are few, those that have been conducted have shown similar results in knocking down the symptoms of influenza, according to Callaway.

In a double-blind study by the Department of Virology at Hebrew University-Hadassah Medical School in Jerusalem, Israel, patients who had experienced symptoms of the flu for less than 48 hours were given either elderberry syrup or a placebo syrup for five days.

The results of the study, released in 2004, showed that on average, symptoms were relieved four days earlier and the use of rescue medication was “significantly less” for people who took the supplement compared to those who didn’t.

The results lined up with those of a previous study conducted by the department that were released in 1995. In that study, 91% of people who weren’t taking the supplement reported an improvement in symptoms within six days. Of those who were taking the extract, 93.3% of cases reported improvement within two days.

According to an abstract of the study provided by Callaway, a “complete cure” was achieved within 2 to 3 days in nearly 90% of the treated group, while the untreated group was still reporting symptoms for at least six days.

Although both studies include disclaimers that the results need to be confirmed by a larger study, they show how elderberry syrup might be an effective weapon against the miserable symptoms that accompany influenza, Callaway says.

Results of a study released in 2001 by the department also show the syrup could help boost the immune system, which means patients taking the supplement may have a smaller chance of falling ill.

“It’s a general immune booster,” Callaway said.

When Callaway’s wife, Kerry, came down with the crud, he decided to give the elderberry syrup a try. He says Kerry felt better within a day. The downside? Callaway paid more than $10 for four ounces of syrup. If he wanted to keep his family healthy using the supplement, it was going to cost a fortune.

“We started researching how to make it ourselves,” Callaway said.

He found an elderberry juice distributor in Iowa and placed an order. Then, he added honey, ginger, cinnamon and clove to the mix and perfected his own recipe.

His family started taking the supplement daily and Callaway says he noticed something. They weren’t getting sick anymore.

During a trip to the store in 2018, the family saw there were no bottles of elderberry syrup on the shelves.

“We just said, ‘Let’s make a batch and see what happens,’” Callaway said, and Callaway Cures came to be. “We sold out within minutes, so we just started making larger and larger batches.”

Since that first batch, the Callaways have sold over 4,000 ounces of syrup at a fraction of what it would cost in the store — $20 for 16 ounces.

“This isn’t a ‘get rich quick’ scheme,” Callaway said. “We want to help the community.”

He noted that those who want to use the supplement to boost their immune system and lessen the odds of coming down with influenza, should begin taking it as soon as possible.

“Now is a good time to get it in your system,” he said. “Take it all the way until the end of the flu season.”

Callaway said he’s heard a number of descriptions about how the syrup tastes.

“We’ve been told it tastes like Christmas,” Callaway said. “Some of our Hispanic customers say it tastes like empanadas.”

Callaway Cures also offers a gummy variety of the supplement.

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Kamie Stephen is a reporter with the Star-Herald. She can be reached at 308-632-9041 or via email at

Kamie Stephen is a reporter with the Star-Herald. She can be reached at 308-632-9041 or via email at

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