Elderberries are amazing medicine with anti-inflammatory, antiviral, and anticancer superpowers. Besides lots of flavonoids and free radical-butt-kicking antioxidants, elderberries contain 87 percent of the daily value in vitamin C, and huge levels of vitamin A, potassium, iron, vitamin B6, fiber, and betacarotene.
Here are some of this plant's uses: treating conjunctivitis, cold and flu symptoms, reducing congestion, relieving arthritis pain, soothing upset stomachs, relieving gas, and using for detoxification.
It's very important to only use the blue elderberries, not red ones, because they can be toxic (as well as green and unripe ones).
Last week, my sons and I picked a bunch of elderberries after our mother-and-sons backpacking adventure. Elderberries thrive on the East side of the Cascade Mountains, and I almost drove our minivan into a ditch when I spotted them on the side of the road. The branches were bending with big clusters of bright blue berries, and it was easy to snap off the stalks just below the clusters. (Leave some for the birds, though, okay?).
Let me show you how we make these berries into potent elderberry syrup, and keep in mind that doing it yourself saves you a substantial amount of money. Just go the a natural food store and compare the high price of a small bottle of elderberry syrup to the money you spend making your own. It's so worth it!
- Elderberries (fresh or dried - if using dried you can buy them from Mountain Rose Herbs)
- Fresh ginger, grated (1 Tablespoon per cup of berries) or dried ginger (1 teaspoon per cup of berries)
- Ground cinnamon (1 teaspoon per cup of berries)
- Raw Honey (1/2 cup per cup of berries)
- Water (1 cup of water to 1 cup of fresh berries, or 2 cups of water to 1 cup of dried berries).
Okay, let's get started, shall we?
It's a bit of a job separating the tiny berries from the stems. Kai and Eva helped me, which made the job faster and funner. You just kind of rake the berries off the stems by holding them between your thumb and forefinger and pushing downward. Don't worry about smooshing the berries too much - it's okay. Also, don't worry about some of the stems staying on. You will strain everything through cheesecloth later, so you don't need to be too obsessive about this.
Our harvesting frenzy amounted to 8 cups of berries, which made two and a half quarts of finished syrup. That's 10 cups of medicine, folks! Yeah!
Put the berries into a pot and add water. Here is the ratio: use 1 cup of water to 1 cup of fresh berries, or 2 cups of water to 1 cup of dried berries.
Grate fresh ginger (1 Tablespoon per 1 cup of berries) or use dried ginger (1 teaspoon per 1 cup of berries) and add it to the pot of berries and water.
Add ground cinnamon (1 teaspoon per 1 cup of berries).
Now comes the witchy, steaming kettle part: boil this until it has reduced by half. It took me an hour to get there. Make sure it's boiling nicely, not just simmering shyly. Don't put a lid on the affair, because you want steam to escape.
After it has reduced by half, let it cool, then strain it through cheesecloth. Squeeze the hell out of it so you get every part of the liquid stuff.
Then add the honey (1/2 cup of honey per 1 cup of berries). Do not put the honey in when you boil everything, since that kills of a lot of the good stuff in the honey. Also, obviously don't feed this to infants, since they shouldn't consume honey.
Look! Isn't it pretty? And healthy? And oh so sweet?
During cold and flu season, adults can take one Tablespoon of elderberry syrup per day, and children can take one teaspoon. You could take this as a preventative by consuming the same amount above every single hour when you start feeling sick.
Store this in the fridge!
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