Winter is approaching, which means it’s time to prepare for cold and flu season. Time to slow down, take a breath, rest, and nourish our bodies with natural and organic foods, teas, and natural remedies that help stave off sickness.
Elderberry (Sambucus Nigra) syrup is one tried-and-true way to help support the immune system during the winter months. Elderberries are naturally high in immune-boosting compounds that are known to help relieve cold and flu symptoms and shorten the duration of illnesses. Elderberries contain vitamins A, B, and C and are known to offer great healing benefits for the body.
There are certainly times when conventional medicine and doctor visits may be necessary, but there is very little modern medicine can do for the common cold. Elderberry syrup is a tasty way to strengthen the immune system and help the body stay healthy during the cold season.
Some Potential Benefits of Taking Elderberry:
- Fights Cold & Flu symptoms: elderberry may not always prevent a cold or the flu, but it can shorten the duration of symptoms by three to four days and lessons severity if taken within the first 24 hours.
- Promotes Mental Health: Elderberry extract has been shown to act as a natural antidepressant.
- Supports Skin Health: Elderberries support skin health due to the Anthocyanin content, which is what gives the berries their brilliant color. Anthocyanin is believed to combat the effects of aging, improving the external appearance of skin tone. Elderberry is a great source of vitamins A & C which also help promote healthy skin.
- Reduces Inflammation: Elderberry Anthocyanin and vitamins A and C content are beneficial for inflammation concerns. Since inflammation is known to be the root of many chronic diseases, elderberry could be potentially helpful in the fight against such conditions as cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.
Questions and Concerns about Elderberry:
- Fresh or dry berries? You can use fresh or dry, but dry berries are most often used because they are easy to source year round.
** Regardless of which form you use, make sure the berries are thoroughly cooked. You DO NOT want to eat raw berries. Raw berries can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and other unpleasant symptoms, so be sure to cook them before eating.
- What is the shelf life? Syrups that are stable without refrigeration for a long period of time without spoiling require a combination recipe of alcohol and sugar. Something must be added to discourage bacteria and mold. The family-friendly recipe below does not include alcohol, and will need to be stored in the refrigerator.
- Should I use a specific type of water for making syrup? If you want a high quality syrup, distilled water, spring water, or purified water is best. Remember to always choose the best ingredients available for optimum health!
- What type of container is best for preparing the syrup? Be sure to use a non-reactive pot, ceramic, or glass to prepare the syrup. Non-stick coatings can off-gas and release toxic matter, best to not use them. Be aware elderberry juice can stain.
- Can I add other ingredients? There is not just one way to make a good syrup. Everyone likes to tweak a recipe for their specific tastes. Be creative! You can add cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, vanilla and lots of other yummy herbs and spices. How about rosehips for extra vitamin C?
- Is elderberry syrup safe for babies? This recipe uses honey and is therefore not safe for children under 1 year of age, due to the risk of infantile botulism. You can substitute the honey with sugar or maple syrup for a baby-safe recipe.
Fifth Season Gardening has lots of supplies to help you get started with winter preparations. We have a good selection of Ball jars, fermenting bottles, swing cap bottles, stainless funnels, cheesecloth, crocks, fermenting supplies and lots more. Come check out our great selection!
Recipe For Elderberry Syrup
Makes about 3 cups of syrup
Active Time: 1 hour
- 2 cups dried organic elderberries
- 2-3 tsp. organic ginger root
- 1 organic cinnamon stick
- This is where you can add other spices, flavors
- 1 cup raw, local honey (organic maple syrup or agave for a vegan/infant-friendly recipe); double the amount of sweetener to increase shelf life
- 4 cups cold water (distilled, purified, or spring water works best)
- *optional- 1 cup vodka or brandy ( to increase shelf life)
- Combine berries and herbs with cold water in pot and bring to a boil
- Reduce heat and allow herbs to simmer 30 to 40 minutes
- Remove from heat and let steep 1 hour
- Strain berries and herbs into a bowl using cheesecloth or un-dyed cotton muslin bag (a fine sieve would also work), squeeze out liquid
- Once liquid has cooled to room temperature, add honey and stir
- If using vodka or brandy, add and stir until combined.
- Bottle in sterilized glass. Refrigerate if not using alcohol.
- be careful when squeezing the cheesecloth, the berries could still be hot
- if syrup still tastes somewhat bitter, add some maple syrup (or sugar if that’s your thing) until you reach desired sweetness.
- having everything in place before you begin makes the process move quickly and smoothly
- use glass and stainless kitchen tools if possible, as elderberry juice can stain
Dosage: For adults and children over the age of one, 1-2 teaspoons right out of the fridge, every day during the cold and flu season.
*ask your physician if you have any concerns regarding the use of elderberry syrup