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Cold and flu season arrives with the start of the new school year.
Even though my children are homeschooled, we still feel the effects of the germ invasion. Preparation is the key to wellness. If you wait until you are sick and then scramble around for a remedy, it’s already too late. Most remedies work to prevent or shorten duration of an illness but work best if taken at the first sign of getting sick. A scratchy throat. A headache. Sore muscles.
Elderberry elixir is one of my favorite remedies to keep on hand for times when I know I’ve been exposed to something icky or I feel under the weather. It’s shelf stable so it can be made ahead and then stored in the medicine cabinet until it’s needed.
Elderberries are renowned for their immune boosting properties and for being able to stop viruses from replicating. Don’t believe that? Google it! They are antiviral, antibacterial and antioxidant-rich. They are full of vitamins, especially the all-important Vitamin C! A force for germ-fighting good on it’s own, paired with other herbs it is an immune boosting powerhouse!
If you can find fresh elderberries, great! If not, you can buy them already dried and they work just fine.
I was inspired to make elderberry elixir from a post I read at Cauldrons and Crockpots. I started out with a basic recipe and it’s compounded from there.
You can mix any herbs you desire to the elixir. These are what I chose for my most recent batch.
Bulk herbs are also available from Mountain Rose Herbs.
I make a big batch of this in a half-gallon mason jar but you can make it in a pint or quart jar to suit your needs. To save us all from having to do math, I’m posting the recipe in “parts”. A part is any measurement that you choose. If your recipe says 1 part elderberries and 1/2 part elderflowers you would choose either a cup, 1/2 cup, teaspoon or whatever for your part and go from there. So, if you chose a cup for the elderberries you would use 1/2 cup for the elderflowers and so on. It’s easy!
Here’s how you mix the elixir:
Layer your herbs and spices in the jar. If you are using fresh elderberries use half the amount as you would dried.
Shake the jar to mix the herbs and spices and fill 1/3 of the jar with raw honey and the rest with brandy. You’ll need to shake the jar or stir the herb mixture as you go to get the honey down in there.
Put a lid tightly on the jar and label it with the date (and with what you put in it). Place on a shelf for 6 weeks and then strain and bottle it (blue cobalt 2oz dropper bottles shown). Store it wherever you keep you other herbal tinctures.
I don’t recommend this for pregnant or breastfeeding mamas or for those with autoimmune diseases. It’s a powerful immune stimulant and while safe for most, if you are any of the above, take caution and consult your own herbalist or healthcare provider. You can always use herbs that are not contraindicated while pregnant and breastfeeding to make it more friendly for you.
The recommended dosage is for adults, at first sign of illness take 1/4 tsp. (or 1-3 droppers full) every couple of hours until symptoms subside. If you are already sick, take it every hour or as needed. Kids can get half the adult dose. I prefer it in a little glass of water as it is very potent!
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What’s a quick and easy way to pack a bunch of immune-boosting foods together into a delicious drink? The answer is my Healing Elderberry Smoothie. It’s quick and easy to make and could be the yummiest way you’ll ever have to give your immune system just what it needs to keep you feeling your best.
Benefits of Elderberry
This smoothie contains a number of powerful ingredients to nourish your body and boost your immunity. It has lemon, which is not only jam-packed with vitamin C but is also well known for fighting off infections and preventing and treating the growth of bacteria.
Additionally, this smoothie has honey, which we already know helps soothe a sore throat. But did you know that honey, in its raw form, has also been used for hundreds of years to treat infections and aid in wound healing? Yup, it’s true!
My recipe calls for manuka honey, which has even more antibacterial properties than the typical honey you find at your grocers. This kind of honey can also improve oral health, ensuring your mouth has just as much good bacteria as it does bad. And manuka honey helps our digestive systems – gut health is vital for keeping our immune systems strong.
You may need to visit your local health food store to find manuka honey, but don’t worry if you can’t locate some. Organic raw honey will work just as well in this recipe.
Substitutions and Variations
If you don’t eat or are sensitive to dairy, you could try substituting the Greek yogurt with coconut yogurt or lactose-free yogurt. These are vegetarian, vegan, Whole30, and gluten-free options.
While this recipe calls for honey, you can substitute it for another sweetener like Agave nectar, molasses, maple syrup, or stevia according to your preference. Remember not to overdo it with the added sweetness. A little goes a long way.
If you want to skip the added sugar altogether, use a well ripened-banana and a dash of vanilla extract. The riper the banana, the sweeter it tastes.
For variation, you could use your favorite frozen fruit, such as raspberries or cherries.
If you have any leftover smoothie that you can’t drink right away, you can make popsicles! Just put them into popsicle molds and stick them in the freezer.
Don’t have popsicle molds on hand? No worries! Pour the remaining smoothie into an empty ice cube tray. When they’re ready, you can add a couple of little frozen cubes of goodness to your next smoothie or add a cube or two to warm oatmeal.
For another DIY option, pour the leftovers into small wax-coated paper cups, cover with plastic wrap secured with a rubber band, then insert a popsicle stick and pop it into the freezer. When it’s ready, remove the plastic and cut away the cup. If you have kids, this can be a fun activity to do together.
Now, are you ready to see the recipe? Let’s do this!
Healing Elderberry Smoothie
Drink to better immune health with this delicious smoothie. Your taste buds will be delighted, and your sore throat soothed by just the right mix of fruit and honey in this healing drink recipe.
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Servings: 4 servings
A Delicious Way to Boost Immunity
This recipe is a delicious way to get a blast of powerful nutrients and immune-boosting benefits all in one. But don’t wait until you start to feel a cold coming on to drink it. Whip up a batch every so often to help keep your immune system functioning at its best.
If you try this recipe out, let me know what you think in the comments (tag me on Instagram @reallifeoutlaw). I’d love to see how yours turned out!
Have you tried any of these before? Do you have further questions about them? Let me know in the comments!
Be Well & Thrive!
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Elderberry Syrup is one of my favorite cold and flu preventatives and also my go-to remedy to soothe a cold or flu that has already arrived. It is fantastic for coughs as well. It is very inexpensive and so easy to make yourself. A quart of it costs about $5 to make at home versus the upwards of $9 per 4 ounces you will pay at a health food store.
Black Elderberries, or Sambucus Nigra, have been used for thousands of years to strengthen the immune system. They are a wonderful source of vitamin C. Elderberry Syrup can be taken daily as a tonic and dosage increased when one is ill.
I use the recipe from Rosemary Gladstar from her book “Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health”, but there are many variations to making this syrup. I added comments where needed. This recipe is easily doubled, tripled, and even quadrupled!
Caution: Use only blue elderberries; the red ones are potentially toxic if eaten in large quantities. Never eat elderberries that haven’t been cooked first.
Another word of caution – Elderberry stains….everything! Be careful!
*Because I use raw honey, I do not reduce further after adding because it will kill the enzymes in the honey. Reduce prior to adding the honey or use sugar(evaporated cane sugar).
You can also add freshly grated ginger to this recipe for added medicinal benefits.
I usually give my kids, toddler and up about a tablespoon daily during cold and flu season. I take 2 tablespoons daily.
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I posted an elderberry recipe awhile back that I used for a few years and loved. I have revamped the recipe and rather than update the old one I thought it would be more effective to rewrite. That post talks a little bit about the benefits of elderberry but you can also visit Herbwisdom for additional information.
There are literally thousands of websites that talk about elderberries. They are that awesome!
Elderberry on its own is a very powerful immune booster but combined with spices it can be even more powerful. I am still using dried elderberries for my recipes. They are easy for me to obtain and they work great. They may not be as potent as fresh but they serve their purpose dried.
Elderberries just placed into water. Some look red because of the water and lighting. There is nothing in the pot but black elderberries.
Adding elder flowers to the syrup can help you sweat out a fever.
Ginger is a wonderful immune system activator all on its on. It also great for digestive issues that often accompany colds and flu.
Cloves are a multi-tasking spice. They help colds and flu while also relieving nausea and other stomach issues. They have analgesic properties as well.
Cinnamon is very warming and also carminative which means it helps with gastric issues
Lemon is full of vitamin C and promotes immunity and fights infection
Honey, oh wonderful honey! I used to use sugar because I felt that honey is a medicine all on its own. While that is true, I now think that adding honey to the elderberry add something really special. It is full of enzymes and helps with coughs. It also helps thicken the syrup beautifully
Please note that if you want to make a shelf-stable version that does not need refrigeration you must use sugar, and a lot of it. You need to can it so it is sealed. For information on how to do this, please see PureCajunSunshine. The directions there are wonderful as well as the information about elderberries provided!
We take about a tablespoon daily in my home during cold and flu season as a preventative with one or two day breaks here and there. I put suggested dosage amounts during illness in the recipe below. If you are pregnant or nursing the minimum dose would be appropriate. I personally take elderberry during pregnancy and while nursing.