This time of year can be rough in the area of keeping our families healthy. Everywhere I turn, someone is down with the cold or flu. When you have a larger family like we do, it is of the utmost importance to keep everyone healthy because a cold can take one or two months to circulate through everyone. Yuck! So, whether you are looking to ward off the flu or colds this winter, I have the perfect defender that everyone should have in their refrigerator. Give it up for…elderberry syrup!
We love elderberry syrup here at our house. We started making it three winters ago, and since taking it, we are hardly ever sick. Yay!! (I will also say that the reason I believe we stay healthy is we don’t eat much sugar at all. Sugar decreases your immune system, so do your body a favor and stay off of it!)
Back to the elderberry syrup. Why is it so good for you, you ask? It has been shown to boost the immune system, decrease mucous, calm a cough, aid digestion, increases circulation, and is a great anti-inflammatory.
Some cultures throughout history have said that there are more benefits to the elderberry than can even be counted. There are recorded recipes for elderberry medicines that date back to ancient Egypt. But don’t take my word for it, let Hippocrates tell you. The ancient Greek known as “the father of medicine” called the elderberry his medicine chest for the wide variety of ailments it cured. It is packed with very high levels of vitamin C, as well as A and B; minerals like iron, phosphorus, potassium, and copper.
There are so many studies that show time and time again that the elderberry greatly reduces sickness and strengthens the body. Just google the benefits of elderberries and you will have a lot to read through!
Now, there is one problem with these little berries and that is that the seeds and twigs are poisonous. Do not eat them, and keep them out of reach of your children! They contain a cyanide producing glucoside in them. I technically don’t really know what that means, except that if you eat more than a few of the berries at a time, you could throw up. Trust me, I know.
The first time I made the syrup, the website I was using said you could save the berries and eat them since they had been cooked. So, like a good student, I did. The next morning I threw some into our morning smoothie. As my oldest three kids and I drank them down, they started saying that their stomachs were hurting them, and within ten minutes they had all scattered to three different bathrooms and were all throwing up at the same time! It was crazy! I also felt sick to my stomach for about an hour but it never actually came back up. Phew! I was nursing my fourth child at the time, and I ended up calling a friend to use some of her breast milk she had in the freezer so I could pump and dump for the day. I wanted to be extra careful just in case the berries could harm her. It was an adventurous day to say the least!
I scoured the internet for information on eating elderberries and found much conflicting information. So, the best I could find is that the seeds and stems are what is poisonous. So learn from my mistake and don’t eat them!!
On the other hand, the juice from boiling them has all the wonderful benefits of the elderberry without subjecting yourself to being poisoned.
The other ingredient in this syrup is raw, local honey. It is very important that it be raw. Raw honey has not been heated and pasteurized, so all the power packed vitamins, minerals, and enzymes are preserved. Honey is antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral. Amazing. The honey actually helps to preserve the elderberry juice because of this. Every fall I go to the farmers market and buy a gallon of raw honey to last me through the winter months. If you have a health food store in your town, call and ask them if they sell raw, local honey. More than likely, they do. Why local? I’ve heard from bee keepers that it is best to eat honey that has been harvested from within a 100 mile radius to you, that way your body is getting pollen that is specific to your area and not foreign. If that is not very important to you, then just make sure it’s raw.
Another bonus about honey is it has been shown to be as effective at calming coughs as over the counter cough syrups. So if you’ve got that tickle in your throat that tells you a cough might be coming, this syrup will act as a dynamic duo in helping you heal.
The cinnamon stick, ginger, and cloves in this recipe add to kick your immune system into even higher gear, but they are optional. If you only have dried elderberries and raw honey, you can still go ahead and make this health tonic.
For those of you who have been buying elderberry syrup at the store, you already know that the stuff is expensive! Hence why I am teaching you here to make it yourself. This is cheaper, healthier, and I think it tastes better too.
So, without further ado, here is the elderberry syrup recipe that we make: (links are included to Amazon for easy ordering)
4 C water
1 cinnamon stick Frontier Organic Cinnamon Sticks, 0.85 Ounce
3-4 whole cloves Whole Cloves 3.5 oz
1 slice of fresh ginger root roughly 1 inch thick
- Place the elderberries, cinnamon stick, cloves, and ginger in the water on your stove. Bring it all to a boil, then reduce to low, place the cover on, and simmer for 45 min.
- Remove from the heat and let it sit until it is completely cooled.
- Strain the berry mixture through a paint strainer or cheeseclothRegency Natural Ultra Fine 100% Cotton Cheesecloth 9 sq.ft into another clean saucepan. Squeeze, squeeze, squeeze! Get as much of that goodness out as you can. (Shout out to paint strainers: I always use this in place of cheesecloth. You will have to go to a hardware store to get them. They are amazing, and you can wash them in the laundry and use over and over again. Once you use one you will never go back. You can thank me later!)
- Measure the amount of juice you have and add an equal amount of raw honey to the berry juice. Gently heat the mixture, but do not boil it! We want to keep all those health properties of honey intact. This will take just a minute or so until the honey is nice and melted and the two have combined.
- Pour the syrup into a glass container and store it in the fridge.
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Voila! You just made your own batch of elderberry syrup! Wasn’t it easy?! This should last you a couple of months in the refrigerator.
Take 1 tsp- 1 Tbs a day, ½ tsp for toddlers. (Remember not to give it to your babies under one. They can’t have honey yet because it could cause botulism, a poisoning from bacteria. Although super rare, please play it safe.)
If you feel as if you are coming down with something, you can take it up to every hour. If you dedicate yourself to doing this, you will notice that your body will fight off the bug very quickly. It really does wonders if you start at the first sign of something and stay consistent.
We also pour it over pancakes, or mix it in with kefer or yogurt. You could also mix a little in with hot tea-yum! It is very tasty, so you probably won’t have to talk your kids into taking it. If my kids are fighting something, I will mix a splash of it in a glass of water and then add a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar. The elderberry syrup cuts the strong acidic taste from the vinegar. I call it “the special drink” because it packs a powerful punch against sickness, and I want my kids to think it’s something special so they will enjoy drinking it! So far, it’s working.
I decided to do a quick video walking you through how to make it. I hope you will see how easy it is!
With any herbal remedy, it is good to take breaks to give your body and immune system a rest, so we only take this in the fall and winter months, and usually 4-5 days out of the week, unless we are fighting something.
I’m so excited for you and your family to begin adding elderberry syrup to your arsenal of attacks against colds and flu. Please share this with everyone that you spend time with regularly so that you all can stay in tip-top health throughout the flu season!
Wishing you and yours a very healthy new year!!