Elderberries are now in season, and I highly recommend taking advantage of them to combat the upcoming “tripledemic”! In case you didn’t know, elderberries have antiviral properties AND they help enhance your immune system by propping up the cytokine response (in a good way, not in the COVID-cytokine-storm way). Several papers have been published that detail both the antimicrobial activity against certain strains of Strep and the inhibition of viral replication, particularly in influenza. I could post more papers, but I think you get the point.
So how does one capitalize on the benefits of elderberries? In my house, we make elderberry syrup! If you aren’t fortunate enough to have your own elderberry bush, you most likely can source from a farm near you. It’s farmer’s market season, and I buy my elderberries from a local lady, then freeze them in one pound batches. But if you can’t find fresh ones, you can purchase dried elderberries online. My most trusted online source is Mountain Rose Herbs.
Note: raw elderberries are extremely irritating to the gastrointestinal tract. Please do not consume them without cooking them first!
Once you acquire your elderberries, you’ll need raw honey (make sure it is raw, unfiltered, and preferably local), filtered water, some fresh ginger, cloves, lemons, and cinnamon.
Combine the following in a large pot:
- 6 cups of fresh elderberries (or 3 cups dried)
- 6 cups of filtered water
- 3 whole cloves
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- juice of two lemons
- zest of one lemon
- 2-inch knob of ginger, freshly grated
Bring to a boil, then simmer until reduced by half (about an hour). Set aside to cool. Line a strainer with cheesecloth, and don some gloves – this part will stain your hands! Strain the mixture thru the cheesecloth, then throughly wring it out to obtain every last drop of that berry goodness. Use a candy thermometer to check the temperature and once it’s below 95F, add 2 1/2 cups of raw honey. I bottle my syrup in hinged jars I bought from Amazon years ago, but you can find gorgeous ones at Ikea right now for dirt cheap. The bottle can live in the back of your fridge for about 8 weeks; then you can repeat the steps above as often as you need to get you through cold and flu season. Unfortunately, this syrup cannot be canned. The high heat of the canning process will destroy the beneficial enzymes of the raw honey. Leaving the honey out until later isn’t a solution – the acid content of the syrup is not high enough to safely can it.
Some sources recommend taking the syrup daily as a preventative, while other sources caution against this, particularly in those with autoimmune diseases as the increased immunity can exacerbate symptoms. I personally take it a few times a week or if I know I’ve been exposed to some who is ill. I also give it to my children regularly. The dose for adults is one TABLEspoon while children should receive one TEAspoon. Again, you can take this daily if you’d like as a preventative, but if you (or your children) are sick, then the frequency should be every two to three hours until your symptoms resolve. Cheers!!