Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Boost Your Immunity with Elderberries

What are Elderberries?

Elderberries are a small berry, usually purchased dried or in teas or syrup.  Their scientific name, Sambucus is present in the elderberry syrups available at most grocery or health food stores.  Some of these have honey, but there are many without honey that contain fructose, like Nature's Way Sambucus for Kids Bio-certified Elderberry, 8-Ounce  or agave nectar. 

Why Elderberries?

Elderberries are extremely high in vitamin C, as well as containing vitamins A and B.  They are used for immunity boosting during cold/flu season, for sinus infections, colds, flu (they were used in Panama to treat a flu epidemic in 1995), tonsillitis, and also have a mild diuretic capacity.  

How to take Elderberries?

I like to make elderberry syrup this time of year for my family and for friends.  It's very simple, and it enables me to choose the sweetener to add rather than giving my kids honey, agave syrup, or fructose when they aren't well.  

My basic recipe is a compilation of ones I've found online, and I get all my ingredients from Amazon dry, so they last as long as I need them.  I'm including my affiliate links to the products I need, and it helps me out if you order that way, but of course if you have local access or better deals, buy wherever you find the best fit for your family.

Elderberry Syrup

Basic Ingredients, but you could add rose hips, echinacea (just add some echinacea tea bags!), orange peels, or other good immunity boosting ingredients.

I use 1 cup elderberries for 4 cups of water and add 2 sticks of cinnamon and 4 cloves plus just a chunk of ginger sliced (everything gets strained out, so you can use powdered spices, but it can be a little gritty).  I bring this combo to a boil and then simmer for about 40 minutes until it is reduced to half.  Then I put that in 2 pint sized mason jars and top with organic maple syrup (I get it from Costco and I think that's the best deal, but depending on where you live you might be able to find something better).  Coconut nectar would be a delicious (but pricy) alternative, as would brown rice syrup.  If you planned to keep it refrigerated, you could use blueberries (and blend), orange juice concentrate, or even no sweetener (it may be harder to sell your kids on it in this case).

Once it's jarred I use the basic canning method of putting the lid on and covering in water in a large pot and boiling until the lid pops down.  I keep out until it's been opened and then keep it in the refrigerator after that.  It last for at least 30 days in the refrigerator, but I have heard stories of it lasting much longer, I've just never kept any around that long.

I add it to smoothies, put it in tea, it can be mixed into oatmeal, and I've dabbled with trying got make fruit leather with it (I think it needs to be mixed with fruit instead of syrup for this to work).  

The general recommendation is 1 Tbsp a day for adults and 1 tsp a day for kids to keep the immune system rocking.  If you are sick, you can do the same servings a few times a day.  The syrup is very soothing on a sore throat (and I like to increase the cloves if I'm using it for a sore throat because it's naturally numbing).  

Elderberry Herbal Infusion

I use many of the same ingredients for my herbal infusion and drink it all day long.  It tastes like chai and is wonderful for Autumn.  It is nice warm, but I generally just make it on the counter and drink it that day at room temp or in the refrigerator and drink it cold.  

I fill a big pitcher with warm water then add:
I let it sit for 2 hours or if I'm really good I prepare it the night before and have it ready for the next day.  Since I drink coffee in the morning, I usually just make this up first thing, and when I'm done drinking coffee, I switch over to this.  It's good with a little syrup, but I don't think it needs it.  Sometimes I add rose petals, because they are beautiful and rose is great for the skin, but not always.  After a night of wine or beer drinking, I sometimes add some Organic Roasted Dandelion Root Tea Traditional Medicinals 16 Bag  to help cleanse the liver a bit.

Your turn! 

Okay, make some syrup or tea and tell me what you added, how did you make this recipe your own, how did it help your family?  

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