Sunday, December 22, 2019

Nature Knows - Elderberry Syrup

Share your love, memories, and germs with your friends and family season is in full force! We have experienced a wild virus season at our house already and it's just getting started. Yuck!

This wasn't always as complicated. Even last season, we just jumped in to the germ pot and came up kickin' with cold medicine. Now that we're thinking about seizure triggers, gluten, and repairing the gut, we've had to change our game. Oh the hours of sleep lost to coughing before we decided to put the kitchen apothecary to work! The good news is that we found an awesome local-to-us honey and the kidlet now believes me that lemon essential oil helps clear up the phlegm "fun".

Last year we purchased elderberry syrup and gummies at about this time, which is also when we started contemplating tossing out the white flag. Most of what's out there works just fine, but as I started researching more, this little gem didn't seem as though it was too far out of reach to make at home. Nature knows what we need. Also, the less mystery chemicals we consume as we try to figure out seizure and belly ache triggers, the better!

A word to the wise about elderberries - they have some huge health benefits, but are also a berry that needs to be cooked/heated before being consumed. Elderberries contain the chemical lectin and a cyanogenic glycoside called prunasin. When this reacts with our digestive system, it creates hydrogen cyanide. If you eat the elderberry raw, you could build up a toxic collection of hydrogen cyanide in your body that is likely to make you sick or could potentially cause death. When you heat the berries, the cyanide inducing glycoside in the seeds breaks down and the berries are safe to eat. The rest of the plant? Also toxic.

As always, there are a few schools of thought on the level of toxicity one must reach. I assure you, elderberries don't taste great raw, so you'll want to cook them anyway. I'm just a mom, trying to find a simpler way to support our health and this should not be taken as medical advice. Given that there's a potential for an adverse affect, it's pretty important to follow the directions on this one!

Generally, in elderberry syrup, you'll find the black elder or sambucus nigra. High in antioxidants, many people use elderberry as immune support to shorten the symptoms of influenza or the cold.  We found success last year in both shortening the impact of influenza and reducing the number of times we got sick during the yuck season. This year, flu season hit much sooner and in different strains. Now we're ready to prevent round two!

We add star anise to our elderberry syrup. Star anise has a bit of a black licorice flavor. You can leave this out if that's not your thing. Star anise is rich in antioxidants, vitamins A and C. It supports digestion and nausea. You might even find it in a flu fighting chicken soup recipe!

The hardest part of elderberry syrup? Convincing the people to try mom's crazy idea. (Nothing is as bad as Formula 44D - 1980s green and cherry version).

Here's how we make elderberry syrup: 
-1 cup dried elderberries (from the food coop)
-4 cups water
-1 tsp whole clove
-1 or 2 cinnamon sticks (use 2 teaspoons of powdered cinnamon if you don't have sticks)
-2 T ginger (use raw ginger if you'd rather, powdered ginger root is great if it's what you have on hand!)
-1 star anise (optional)
-1 cup raw honey (local or other - wait until the end for this)

elderberry syrup straining and cooling on a mesh strainer Add the dried elderberries and water to a saucepan. Allow to soak for 30-60 minutes. Add the cloves, cinnamon, ginger, and star anise. Bring to a boil. Cover and allow to simmer for 45 minutes. (You should have 2 cups of liquid remaining).

Strain the goodies out from your liquid. Allow the liquid to cool. Once cooled, stir in the raw honey. I find it easier to stir it in a little, then dump it all in a large mason jar and shake!

elderberry syrup in pouring jar and mason jarThe elderberry syrup keeps for about a month in the fridge. You can absolutely freeze a batch, make cubes with it for a spritzer or add it to tea. Take a tablespoon daily.

Stay warm and be well!