Elderberries are not a culinary berry per se, but rather a well-respected folk medicine. This herbal remedy, also known by its Latin name Sambucus, is processed into an extract and used in tinctures, syrups, and honey. Elderberry preparations are ready to go the distance for the cold and flu season and are particularly popular because they are safe and effective for children (and taste really good!). Elderberry boosts the immune system with antibacterial and antiviral properties, and is considered one of the best flu prevention plants around (when taken regularly). I consider it a good plant protector for coronaviruses as well. And that deep purple color tells you it is rich with antioxidants, which protect our cells from all sorts of damage.
Elderberry also helps to relieve symptoms while infirm by clearing mucus and helping the body sweat out the infection. It also helps to reduce allergy symptoms, because it is an anti-inflammatory. As with all (well, most) herbal remedies used in times of acute sickness, the goal with elderberry is to take it at the first hint of an illness and go big and often (3-5x daily) while symptomatic. And when non-symptomatic, most folks like to take a spoonful daily as good immune insurance. We make our own elderberry syrup each year, but it’s readily available for purchase in most markets and on Fullscript or other supplement resources.
If you have access to fresh elderberries (or if you'd like to buy dried organic elderberry in herbal markets or online), now is the time to make your own elderberry syrup to prepare for the change in season just around the corner! This year, our 11-year-old harvested and prepared the batch all by himself AND took all of the photos for this blog post for dear old mom. Making elderberry syrup is a really fun activity for the little ones! It's impossible to mess this one up; double or triple the recipe if you want to have a stock in your fridge for a couple of months.
This recipe is additionally supportive for colds, flu, and allergies as the added clove, ginger, and cinnamon warm the interior, are antimicrobial, and calm inflammation. Once you have your gorgeous purple syrup, add 1-3 teaspoons to water, or just take it right off the spoon. You can also drizzle it on oatmeal, yogurt or ice cream. Our kids like to mix it with fizzy water for a refreshing drink. Use once daily -- and more than that if any hint of allergies or infection tries to settle in. I consider elderberry syrup safe for children over 1 year; just reduce the dose for the littlest ones.
DIY Elderberry syrup
3/4 cup dried elderberries (or 1-1/2 cups fresh elderberries)
3 cups water
1 teaspoon cinnamon powder or 1 cinnamon stick
1/2 teaspoon powdered clove or 4 whole cloves
1 tablespoon fresh ginger or 1 teaspoon dried ginger
1 cup raw honey
In a large pot, bring everything but the honey to a boil.
Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer until the liquid has reduced by half, about 40 minutes.
Allow the liquid to cool, and then drain the liquid using a fine mesh strainer or cheesecloth.
Press all liquid out of the berries using the back of a spoon, and discard the solids.
Add the raw honey and mix well.
Store in an airtight glass container in the refrigerator for up to two months.