Elderberry: An old world plant of wonder providing antiviral, antioxidant & metaphysical protection.
Native Americans, Ancient Egyptians, Greeks, Celts and Europeans have all used elderberry to boost immunity & promote wellness, especially when “sickness” struck. In 400 BCE, Hippocrates referred to the elder tree as, “his medicine chest”.
Sambucus nigra berries form when the equally beneficial elderflowers mature on the European elder tree, native to Europe and North America. The flowers fade by autumn as they shift into the dark purple, tannic & tart berries that have been used for centuries to treat colds and flus.
A published study testing liquid elderberry extract concluded that, “elderberry is active against human pathogenic bacteria as well as influenza viruses."
Elderberries contain a vast array of antioxidant and beneficial bio available nutrients including vitamin A, C and E, trace minerals such as potassium, folate, calcium, iron, zinc and copper. The flavonoids present have significant antioxidant activity, activating the body’s natural defenses and improving cellular communication during distress. As per the Practical Herbalist, consuming elderberry daily especially when sick is not only safe but necessary, “elder constituents do not cling to the tissue... overtax the immune system or cause imbalances in the digestive tract that allow yeast infections to take hold, making it safe for daily consumption.”
Elderberry Syrup Recipe
3 cups fresh/frozen elderberries
1 cup dry elderberries (If you only have dry I would use 2 cups)
4 cups filtered water 1 med/large piece of fresh ginger
2 Ceylon cinnamon sticks or 1 TBS cinnamon
2 TBS dried juniper berries* (optional)
2 TBS dried rose hips* (optional)
1 lemon 1-1.5 cups local, raw honey
1. Put both dried & raw elderberries, cinnamon, 1 inch piece of ginger (reserving the rest), juniper berries & rose hips in a heavy saucepan with 4 cups of water.
2. Bring to a simmer and allow to reduce to 2 cups. This could take anywhere from 30 mins to 1 hour.
3. Using a juicer, extract lemon & remaining ginger (this step isn’t necessary if you don’t have a juicer, I would just squeeze the lemon to extract the juice and eliminate the ginger).
4. Remove elderberry mix from heat, strain/press to get more liquid out. Discard or compost solids. You should have a little over 2 cups of juice. (Sometimes before composting I will do a second simmer with the solids and drink as a juice with some lemon & seltzer, add to ritual bath water or simply mix with some honey & sip for the remainder of the day. This isn’t a necessary step but if you’re feeling it, go for a second steep).
5. Allow liquid to cool for about an hour, away from heat to a temperature that feels warm but not hot, in order to keep the medicinal qualities in the raw honey intact. 6. Stir in raw honey & lemon/ginger juice. It should have a thicker appearance/feel, if it’s doesn’t, feel free to add more honey.
7. Store in an airtight glass jar or glass bottle in the refrigerator for 3-4 months.
HOW TO TAKE:
- For general immune boost taking 1 spoonful per day is recommended.
- During the first signs of upper respiratory irritation take a spoonful every hour until the symptoms fade. Half this amount for children.
*IMPORTANT: NEVER give this to babies under 1 year of age due to the raw honey. Some sources also don’t recommend juniper for pregnant woman, in which case you can eliminate when creating your own.
As always, your body is your best guide so make sure you’re listening to what it needs. May the winter months ahead be illuminating, vibrant and transformative!