When the kids were young I discovered that the Elderberry was one of the best immune boosts for their discerning taste buds. Many products can be found on the natural foods store shelves under variations of the name Sambucus–which is the latin name for the bush, Elderberry. We tried a few and I could see that the costs would begin to make this habit a bit prohibitive.
I ordered some bulk dried Elderberry berries (flowers are available too for teas) which goes by the latin name of Sambucus nigra, and began making one of the two recipes that I will share with you.
As winter let us know it was on the way, with more time indoors and energy used up to stay warm, and of course, more kids showing up at school with sniffles, I would begin the boys on a round of Elderberry syrup that would last two weeks or so, til the bottle was used up, or we just plain forgot because we had had enough!
Elderberry berries have been used for just about forever because they do benefit the immune system by way of the phytonutrient that makes the berries a dark purple-black color: anthocyanins. In fact, a good bit of research in Germany is demonstrating that “purple anthocyanins found in elderberries possess approximately three times the antioxidant capacity of carotenoids. Per gram, purple elderberry anthocyanins exhibit more protective antioxidant activity than beta carotene, vitamin C or vitamin E.” This means high antioxidants for you and me, and good for stress relief, cell protection, heart protection, and immune support. http://www.medicinehunter.com/elderberry2.htm
Check this recent abstract from the journal Phytochemistry regarding H1N1: http://www.greenmedinfo.com/content/elderberry-flavonoids-bind-and-prevent-h1n1-infection-vitro.
Is that enough to get you interested?
Elderberry Syrup–great for young ones and those who prefer a little sweetness….”a little bit of sugar makes the medicine go down”
Get some berries from a reputable source. Find the source closest to home! On the sidebar is a great supplier of herbs, Mountain Rose Herbs.
Regarding quantities, I am not married to recipes, but will give you guidelines. There’s more freedom and power in learning how to put this all together for yourself!
Our goal is to make a strong infusion. Infusions are like tea, but way, way, beyond tea. This is how I do it:
Recipe 1, Simple Elderberry Syrup
Using a quart mason jar, Add about 1 full cup of dried elderberries. Adjust quantity of berries so that the jar is 1/4 full. Add boiling water to the berries and completely fill the jar. Put a lid on and screw on the band. Let brew, steep etc… for at least 8 hours! May as well make it overnight, at which time it will be cool.
Strain berries, press out as much of the dark juice as you can. I often pour another two cups of boiling water on the berries to make another, weaker infusion, to drink later.
Pour the dark juice into a saucepan. Get a chopstick, popsicle stick, or other slightly absorbent “measuring device.” We simply want to know how deep is the juice in the pan, and we want to boil to down to half. By dipping a stick straight into the juice, a mark will be left. You can measure over the course of boiling with the same, unrinsed stick, and see when half of the juice is left.
Let the mixture cool until around 100 degrees F., and then add honey, up to a cup! If you are using raw honey and want to preserve the enzymes, pay close attention to you temperature. Just let the honey melt at low temperature while stirring. Don’t exceed 110 degrees just to be keep that honey “raw” (hive top temperature is about 118 degrees I’ve heard).
If one cup of honey sounds like a lot, start with half a cup. The sugar is actually going to help preserve the syrup, but here’s a few options.
Limit the sugar, add 1/4 cup peach schnapps, brandy, or vodka to assist in preservation.
Or, Limit the sugar, avoid the alcohol, and add two cloves to the boiling juice (high antioxidants also) and store in the fridge, and plan on using up the syrup in the next two weeks. Make smaller quantities.
Recipe 2: Elderberry with Reishi & Echinacea
Follow the above method, but use a about 3/4 cup elderberries, 1/4 cup dried Echinacea root ( I prefer Echinacea angustifolia), and 10-15 slices of dried reishi. Give a really good squeeze to the herbs when pressing them out. Reishi holds a good bit of liquid.
Recipe 3 Elderberry tea juice
Using the same quantities as above for either the simple elderberry or the triple immune combo of all three herbs, let the tea steep the same overnight length of time.
After straining the tea, simply add your favorite juice concentrate to the desired level of sweetness. I keep ours pretty tart, but add enough juice concentrate to be able to tolerate the bitterness of the echinacea and strageness of the reishi. You can even add some powdered Vitamin C for an extra kick. You may know aleady that Vitamin C is better utilized when consumed in the presence of bioflavinoids, of which the Elderberry has high levels! We’ll use this up over the next week to 10 days.
As far as doses go, I offer my teen children about 1/2 cup of the juice morning and night. When the boys were young we used the syrup and I gave them about 1 full ounce twice a day. Note that the syrup recipe yields a doubled concentration of the elderberry.
Sterilize any bottles or carafes that you use and keep it clean from contamination! Refrigerate all versions of these recipes!
Other variations we’ve tried:
Add juice of two lemons to the dark juice before boiling down.
Add one star of anise, 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds, 2-4 cloves, broken pieces of cinnamon before boiling down.
Use concentrate of raspberry or peach and white grape juice. The flavors blend nicely.