Sunday, October 4, 2015

How to make elderberry syrup - a great medicine (and preventative) for colds and flu


I love making medicine. Growing and putting food by (because food is medicine), cultivating medicinal herbs, making tinctures and salves, collecting and drying wild plants for teas... it makes my heart sing, and it saves a lot of money.

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.

Wow, right?

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!

You need:
- 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!



If you liked this tutorial and would like to learn more from me, why not sign up for my newsletter, get free tips on homesteading, and also receive my free e-book "Essential Guide for Three Important Homesteading Skills"?


19 comments:

  1. How do you store it, in the fridge?

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    1. Yes, good point! You store it in the fridge. I just amended my tutorial - thanks!

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  2. My dad used to make elderberry wine. It was the best. It made pretty good medicine in a different way!

    It seems that you're just having so much fun. Seems like the possibilities are endless.

    I was thinking about you today when we went drove over to Lassen National Park and went hiking to Bumpass Hell. That's a Yellowstone-like sulfur pit with fumaroles, mud pots and boiling springs. That wasn't what made me think of you. It's was the hike in. It reminded me of your beautiful mountain hiking pictures.

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  3. Love your blog! Love the things you do. Look forward to every update.

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  4. Your posts always make me smile - your enthusiasm is contagious! I especially love the "free radical-butt-kicking antioxidants"...never heard it put like that.

    thank you

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    1. Thanks, Michelle! Can you just see the free radical-butt-kicking antioxidants with their little helmets and armor on, spears in hand, ready to fight?

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  5. I have an elderberry tree in my backyard. It's very prolific and the berries are red. For years now, I've taken the dark almost black berries and made smoothies out of them. They don't look blue like yours but they have not made us sick, on the contrary, they boost our immune system greatly. Thanks for the syrup recipe.

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    1. Here's to elderberry power, Tuyet! From what I have studied, red elderberries are toxic, but if you have consumed them for years and they have helped, that's great!

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  6. I would use wisdom in consuming the raw elderberries. Last year a friend went elderberry picking with a group of us who always go. Since she asked to join us, no one realized she did not know anything about them. She put in a smoothie for her and her 18 year old daughter. Made her sick and the daughter had to be hospitalized for several days. I make the syrup each fall as medicine.

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    1. Marla - NEVER eat raw elderberries! ALWAYS cook them!

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  7. I just found what I think is an elderberry tree/bush at the side of the road near our house in the middle of no where and not near any houses or barns. I went over there to make sure I did not have to hop a barb wire fence and sure enough it was close to the road and loaded. There isn't any other nasty plant that you know of that looks like elderberry is there? The berries super ripe and pop between my fingers when I pinch them making a beautiful purple juice. The berries them selves are mostly silvery but a few are dark purple. I guess I should send you a picture. I have not seen an elderberry since I was a girl in Iowa but I remember them allrightey. The only thing I know to do with them is make wine and your syrup. What else can you do with them? PS they're not near an intersection so I don't think they'll be covered with car exhaust crud. Who knows? I be happier if they were out in the middle of a field but they aren't.

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    1. The picture you showed me on email does look like elderberries. I have only used them for elderberry syrup. Google it to see what else you can do with them. Me, I like the medicine!

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    2. OK so I have a question about the stems. I know you say don't be too obsessive about getting them all out because we're going to strain. But what happenes to the cyanide if it's in the boiling liquid because stems got in? The cyanide is in the stems (as well as the green berries and leaves) so does the boiling neutralize it or something? Thanks, O medicine woman!

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  8. Corina, do you think I could preserve the juice with a water bath or pressure canner? When the time came to use the juice I could add the honey for sweetness? I would enjoy your thoughts on this and thank you for all you do. Tanya

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    1. Tanya,
      I think you should research this somewhere. I think the long, intense heat of a water bath or pressure canner might destroy the medicinal qualities of this syrup. The honey acts as a preservative. I will freeze some of mine this year, since I made 6 quarts this year!

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  9. Love your recipe Corina, this year I also added cloves and cardamon. After making jelly I do can some of the syrup minus the honey, the medicine is still intact. I then mix in the honey when I'm ready to use it, or give it to those who can't have sugar.
    use it. You could add some hooch (brandy) too.

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    1. Ohhhhh, now here's an idea: Brandy and Elderberry syrup! Good medicine indeed!

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