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By Crystal Baldwin
Those dreamy elderflowers that appear in the spring turn into beautiful, rich dark berries in the fall creating another amazing medicine from the Elder Bush.
Medicine as thy food is the perfect saying when it comes to elderberries as they taste delicious and are so good for you! Elderberry syrup not only tastes good and is easy to eat but it is great medicine and support during the winter months.
Elderberries are very well studied for their immune-boosting properties. When taken in the first 48 hours of onset of a cold or flu, they can sometimes ward off a full-blown attack or reduce the length of your illness by days.
Just like elderflowers the berries are also high in anti-oxidants and contain chemical compounds called anthocyanidins, which have been found to possess immunostimulant properties. What does that mean to you? In short, they are going to help your body fight off the invading bacteria and virus and decrease your symptoms and length of illness.
The anti-oxidant properties in elderberries reduces inflammation in the body which, can help reduce the respiratory symptoms associated with cold & flu. That means they can open up swollen sinuses, decrease a runny nose and help to keep your lungs open.
Because elderberries are such a wonderful tonic for your immune system, incorporating them in your daily diet when you are not sick is very beneficial. Pour that delicious elderberry syrup on your pancakes or add a little in a glass with ice and seltzer water. Use it as the sweetener in your cup of tea in the evening or make a fun cocktail with it.
They are also reported to lower blood sugar levels (and often used to treat diabetes) so you don't have to feel as guilty about using it. Remember the leaves and branches of the elderberry bush are toxic and can make you have an upset tummy, diarrhea or stomach cramps so only use the berries in your remedies. Raw, fresh berries are also slightly toxic so always cook them first.
Here is a recipe for a simple elderberry syrup
Directions: Place the elderberries and water in a saucepan and bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, uncovered for about 30 minutes or until the water has reduced by about half.
Remove from heat and strain berries through a cheesecloth or nut bag, squeezing out as much of the goodness as you can. Measure out the amount of liquid left and add that same amount of honey to the elderberry juice (or less if you want less sweetness, but it will be thinner). Stir to incorporate all of the honey.
*note you may need to slightly re-warm the elderberry juice to get the honey to dissolve, don't over-heat the elderberry juice or you will kill the nutrients in the honey.
Also, do not add the honey into the elderberry juice and cook it on the stove, again you will ruin the nutrients in the honey and turn the honey into a toxic glue that will stick to your mucous membrane. It's best never to cook honey.
Feel free to add other tasty and immune boosting herbs in your syrup like cinnamon Chips, hibiscus flowers, rosehips, Ashwagandha or herbs that you enjoy. Just add more water for the additional herbs you add to the syrup as they will absorb some of the water as they cook.
Store your elderberry syrup in the fridge for several months, discard if you see it has developed mold. You can also pour your syrup into ice cube trays and freeze them to store for later use. I like doing this because when I start to feel sick I don't always feel like making elderberry syrup. With the ice cubes I always have it on hand.
Dosage: As a daily, preventative tonic take 1-3 Tablespoons a day for adults and 1-2 teaspoons for children. At the first signs of illness (those first 48 hours especially) take often and liberally.
How to use the syrup: Pour over pancakes or drizzle on cake. Add with seltzer and ice for a refreshing drink. Replace your sweetener in a cup of tea. Blend with your favorite alcohol, fruit and other herbs (brandy is a good choice) to create a cordial. Make fun cocktails & mocktails with it. Or make one of my favorites- elderberry cordial chocolates.
Elderflowers are wonderful medicine too- read more here
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