Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Healing Properties of Elderberries

It's time to take a step away from preparing food for the dining table, and to focus for a moment on an amazing little berry, the Elderberry!  These incredible berries are bursting with antioxidants, and have been shown to reduce the severity and duration of the common cold and flu, and boost the immune system.  If taken throughout the cold season on a daily basis (1 teaspoon a day in "syrup" form), you may even be able to ward off sickness before it even occurs! It is said to be an anti-inflammatory, so can also be used to ease the stiffness and pain of rheumatoid arthritis.  It may also aid in easing digestive disorders, as it can cause anti-inflammatory effects in the digestive system.  It is basically just a very good tonic for the cold, damp and dreary winter months.  I started making my own Elderberry syrup for cold season last year, after becoming tired of paying the high prices in the market for the pre-made variety. I have been able to find the dried berries, latin name: Sambucus Nigra (Common Black Elder berries) in a few different markets, from "The Herb Store", located in the Nob Hill district of Albuquerque, to the easily accessed Whole Foods Market (In the bulk herbs section, Frontier Herbs company). The berries are very small, and dark purple to black looking, and are actually quite affordable in price in the bulk sections of the markets. I add a combination of other spices that are warming and soothing, and also add great flavor and make this medicine an easy one to swallow!  I also use lemon and honey which is very soothing to the throat, and can help relieve coughing, sore throats, and bronchitis. This syrup can be taken in the amount of one teaspoon per day for an over-all health tonic, or if you do become sick you may take a teaspoon every hour or two for a few days to promote a speedy recovery!

A note of warning!  Raw Elderberries do contain traces of cyanide, but it is completely removed by cooking.  I do not suggest EVER consuming the berries or any other part of the Elder raw, so please make sure to cook thoroughly before consuming.

Elderberry Syrup 


2 1/2 cups water
3/4 cup Elderberries, dried (Sambucus Nigra)
1-2 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled
4 cinnamon sticks
10 cloves, whole
1 lemon
1 cup honey


1. In a small, non reactive pot, add the water, elderberries, ginger, cinnamon sticks, and cloves.  Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat.  Cut the lemon into large pieces, and add to the pot.  Reduce heat to maintain a strong simmer, cover and allow to simmer about 20 minutes.  Stir occasionally (I like to use a wooden spoon for this, it is now stained bright purple from the berries, but I use it only for cooking berries), mashing the berries, lemon and ginger with the back of the spoon.
2. After simmering for 20-30 minutes, remove from the heat, and allow to rest, covered, for about 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, strain the contents of the pot through cheesecloth into a medium size bowl. You will wind up with a deep purple liquid in the bowl, and all the berries, cloves, ginger, lemon chunks and cinnamon sticks will be in the cheesecloth.  You may discard all this leftover product, we will only be using the liquid.  Allow to cool at room temperature for about an hour.
3. Add the cup of honey to the slightly cooled bowl of liquid, and stir to combine well.  Store covered, preferably in a glass jar, in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks.  You may also freeze it in ice cube trays (and once frozen place into a zip-type storage bag) and defrost only what you need, when you need it, if you do not intend to take it daily.

I really hope that this will help someone out when they need it!  I did get sick this year, but I feel that this syrup really helped my immune system to bounce back from it all!  It was also very soothing, and really helped me to feel better while I was sick!  And it really does taste pretty great (for medicine!!!)!  Because it is tasty and looks appealing, make sure you do keep it out of the reach of children, and only administer under parental supervision. Please discuss the use of Elderberry Syrup with your child's health care provider prior to ever giving to a child.

The Natural world offers so many beneficial plants, not only for food, but also for our medicinal needs.  Elderberries are just one of the very great plants that can aid humankind in many ways!  I hope you will reap the benefits of Elderberries, for your health!

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