Elder medicine has been used by herbalists for centuries. I like to use both the flowers and berries in my herbal apothecary, sometimes together and often separately in teas, tinctures, vinegars, honey and syrups. Probably THE most popular of these remedies, is the highly nutritive immune-building and anti-viral superstar: Elderberry Syrup.
When collecting elderberries, ensure that they are
1. elderberries from one of the sub-species “sambucus nigra”.
2. ripe berries ~ dark purple, almost black. Don’t use any un-ripe berries as they can cause stomach discomfort.
NOTE: this elderberry pic shows berries in several stages of growth. We would only use
the very dark berries. Sometimes, flowers and early berries are available on the same bush, and it can take a week or two from beginning of the first ‘ready-to-pick’ berries until the last available…and then there’s the local bird population who love elder’s fruit!
- are powerful anti-oxidants (5 times those of blueberries + twice those of cranberries)
- contain more vitamin C than tomatoes or oranges
- are a good source of Vitamin A, B (niacin + thiamine)
- contain 3 times the protein of blueberries
- are a good source of iron + calcium
The supportive ‘tonic’ actions in Elderberry can be helpful in cases of adrenal burn-out, exhaustion & chronic fatigue syndrome. The berries have a slight laxative as well as diuretic action so can be mildly detoxifying. Anti-viral properties can help to enhance immune function against viruses worldwide and are the subject of an increasing number of studies. If you’d like to learn more about this wonderful herbal ally, here’s a post called “ElderBerry Medicine”
Elderberry syrup recipes can vary greatly. That’s HERBALISM!! There are probably as many recipes as there are herbalists. I’m sharing two recipes and there are many more!. I choose to make my healing Elderberry Syrup with honey, preferring raw honey to sugar. We are working with the immune system, after all!
Here’s one of my recipes ~ easy to make and delicious:
Elderberry Syrup (with Raw Honey)
Caution: Children less than 12months old, should not drink syrups made with honey*
Place the berries and the water in a non-aluminum pot. Bring the mixture to a boil. Turn down the heat and simmer for 30 to 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.
* Replace the honey with 1 cup organic sugar if you want the syrup to be suitable for infants.
If you have a hand-held (immersion) blender, pulse it briefly 5 or 6 times to extract more juice from the berries. It is important to be quick with this step to avoid breaking up the berries’ seeds, which can be bitter. Alternatively, use a potato masher to gently extract as much juice from the berries as possible.
Strain the mixture through a fine sieve. I typically strain the juice into a glass, measuring cup at this point and allow the juice to cool down from hot to warm^. When the juice is still quite warm, add the raw honey. Stir well. Pour into a bottle or jar. Label.
^ It’s better to add the raw honey to a warm juice to avoid heating it too much, and subsequently destroying some of the healing power.
If additional flavours are of interest, any combination of aromatics can be added part way through the ‘simmering step’ in the recipes above. Last year I used some cinnamon sticks, ginger root + lemon peel. I have also used cardamom pods, orange peel, nutmeg. My latest experiment included organic powdered turmeric + black pepper!
The resulting syrup is always tasty, nutritious and a highly effective herbal remedy. Store in the fridge and enjoy within 6 months.
Here’s an example:
Aromatized Elderberry Syrup
2 Cinnamon sticks
2 Ginger root pieces, each about 2 inches long
Lemon peel, from 1/2 to 1 Lemon (organic preferred)
Photo Credit: Karen O’Brien @ www.thegreenwomansgarden.com
For the most fabulous book ALL about ELDER ~ herb of the year 2013!!! Get it here.
at the International Herb Association’s website.
I search locally and normally make my elderberry syrup with fresh or frozen berries. If that’s not do-able for you, here’s an online source (through my affiliate association with Amazon) for organic elderberries from Frontier herbs:
Elder Berries Whole Organic – 1 lb,(Frontier)
How do YOU make Elderberry Syrup?
Love to hear your ideas ~ recipes ~ comments!
Do you have a copy of my eBook “Cold + Flu Season ~ Are YOU Ready?” Be prepared.
Check it out here
With good green wishes “to your health” ~ Carol