Elderberry Syrup

elderberry

Elderberry is an antiviral herb high in antioxidants, and has been shown in studies (1, 2, 3) to be effective against the common cold and ten strains of influenza, reducing the duration and severity of symptoms. There is also evidence of elderberry possibly being effective as a prophylactic in preventing viral infection, as it appears to fortify cell membranes to prevent virus penetration.

Controversy
There are a lot of conflicting opinions on social media regarding whether elderberry is safe for people with autoimmune conditions and whether it’s safe for anyone to take for long periods of time as a prophylactic. Some have expressed concern that elderberry increases inflammatory cytokines, so it’s important to note that it also increases anti-inflammatory cytokines. Whole plant extracts tend to have built in checks and balances like this, unlike isolated compounds used in other substances, such as pharmaceutical drugs.

The other concern is with long term use of elderberry. Some people insist that it’s safe to take daily for months at a time, while others strictly only use it during active infection. My opinion, based on my own research and experience with elderberry (and I have an autoimmune condition), is that the middle ground is generally the place to be. Common sense tells us that it’s probably not a good idea to have the immune system ramped up on high alert all the time, especially when you have an autoimmune disease that already means you have an overactive immune system. In my opinion, it is okay to use elderberry prophylactically when the benefits outweigh the theoretical risk. For example, if someone in my house has flu, I would take elderberry prophylactically to protect myself until it’s gone. If I worked in health care or at a daycare where my exposure to viral infections was very high during “cold and flu season,” I would take elderberry prophylactically in an on and off pattern, giving my body a week off from it here and there, during the times when I am at high risk of viral exposure. If I am someone who mostly stays home during peak flu season, and I am not at high risk of contracting viral infections, I would take elderberry only at the onset of symptoms and stop once the infection is gone. But keep in mind that when it comes to any kind of remedy, nothing is one size fits all, so it’s always wise to pay attention to how your body responds to elderberry.

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Recipes
Elderberry can be prepared many different ways ranging from tinctures to syrups, and there are as many ways to make elderberry syrup as there are to make chicken soup. Everyone has their own way of doing it. Today I’m going to share three tried and true elderberry syrup recipes of my own, ranging from the simplest with the least ingredients to the most potent formula with added ingredients for extra immune support.

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Basic Elderberry Syrup
(Makes about 3 cups)

Ingredients
1 cup dried elderberries
6 cups distilled water
1 1/2 cups raw local honey

Instructions
1.Bring berries and water to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer on low about 30 minutes.

2. Strain out berries and return liquid to pan.

3. Simmer until liquid reduces by about half.

4. Remove from heat and cool completely.

5. Add raw honey and stir until well blended.

6. Bottle and store in the refrigerator.

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Better Elderberry Syrup
(Makes about 3 cups)

Ingredients
1 cup dried elderberries
6 cups distilled water
3 TBSP fresh grated ginger
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 1/2 cups raw local honey

Instructions
1. Bring berries, ginger, and water to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer on low for about 30 minutes.

2. Strain and return liquid to pan.

3. Add cloves and cinnamon.

4. Simmer on low until liquid reduces by about half.

5. Remove from heat and cool completely.

6. Add raw honey and stir until well blended.

7. Bottle and store in the refrigerator.

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Best Elderberry Syrup
(Makes about 3 cups)

Ingredients
1 cup dried elderberries
6 cups distilled water
3 TBSP fresh grated ginger
2 TBSP dried rose hips
1 TBSP elder flowers
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 1/2 cups raw local honey

Instructions
1. Bring berries, ginger, rose hips, flowers, and water to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer on low for about 30 minutes.

2. Strain and return liquid to pan.

3. Add cloves and cinnamon.

4. Simmer until liquid reduces by about half.

5. Remove from heat and cool completely.

6. Add raw honey and stir until well blended.

7. Bottle and store in the refrigerator.

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Usage Guidelines
Daily support: Adults and children over 12, take 1 tablespoon 1x per day. Children 12 months-11 years, take 1 teaspoon.

Acute support: 3x per day

(For children 6 months-11 months: Substitute pure maple syrup instead of honey. 1/2 teaspoon-1 teaspoon)

Notes

  • Although the suggested amounts listed above work well for most people, some people are more sensitive to elderberry. If loose stools or other GI discomforts occur, back the dosage down. This occurs sometimes when too much is taken.
  • Ginger root is easiest to grate after it has been hardened up in the freezer for a bit. No need to peel the ginger for this recipe, as it’s going to be strained out anyway.
  • The elderberry syrup will not be very thick as some people may imagine a syrup to be (e.g. corn syrup). It will be a bit on the runny side. This is normal.
  • Some people like to buy decorative bottles for their elderberry syrup, but you can use just about anything from a mason jar to a repurposed apple cider vinegar bottle.
  • You can use measuring spoons or medicine cups to take the elderberry syrup. I have found that pouring it into medicine cups is less messy.
  • The shelf life in the refrigerator is several months to a year, as long as you use raw honey and don’t heat it. Just keep an eye out for mold and discard if it occurs. (I’ve never had to throw any away.)
  • When substituting pure maple syrup for the honey, the shelf life may be shorter.
  • You can freeze elderberry syrup for a longer shelf life. I sometimes split my batch up into smaller containers and freeze some portions for later use.

Instant Pot Chicken Soup

chickensoupcropwatermark

This is a no nonsense chicken soup recipe made with real food. You won’t find any cream of crap soup cans in this recipe, but it is quick and easy for busy evenings, or when you are feeling under the weather and don’t want to exert too much energy for a nourishing meal. Perfect for snow days and sick days, this chicken soup is full of antimicrobial herbs and nourishing veggies for immune system support, or even just adding a little bit of hygge comfort to your life.

The quality of the soup will depend on the quality of the ingredients you use. Ideally, we should use organic free range chicken, a high quality salt like Celtic sea salt or Himalayan pink salt, herbs grown in our own gardens, homemade bone broth, you get the picture. But you know what? You can still get the job done with whatever you have to work with, and it will still be delicious. Feel free to add or omit, increase or decrease to suit your taste and resources. Truth be told, I don’t even measure the herbs when I throw them in. I grab the jars of our dried homegrown herbs and just eyeball it. It’s good every time. Just get witchy with it and don’t overthink it.

I hope you enjoy this recipe from my family to yours!

Instant Pot Chicken Soup

Ingredients
3-4 lbs (give or take) full chicken
4 carrots, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup kale, chopped (frozen or fresh)
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon sea salt
A few cranks from the pepper mill
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1 teaspoon dried parsley
4 cups chicken broth
1 cup filtered water

Instructions
1. Put veggies, herbs, and seasonings into the pot
2. Add chicken on top
3. Pour in broth and water
4. Close lid and set vent to sealing
5. Select “soup” and let cook under pressure
6. Allow pressure to release naturally
7. Once pressure is released, open pot and place the chicken into a large bowl
8. Debone chicken, adding meat back to the pot
9. Stir and serve!

Variations:

  • Add up to a tablespoon of fire cider to your soup bowl for an extra kick of immune support.
  • Sub any leafy green in place of the kale. I have used bok choy and spinach with good results.
  • Use water instead of broth if water is what you have to work with, or if you prefer a milder taste.
  • Use boneless chicken breasts for a quicker and easier time. This is not nearly as flavorful or nourishing as a whole chicken, but works in a pinch.

 

Inside Our Natural Medicine Cabinet

natural medicine cab cover

Sometimes people look at me in disbelief when I tell them we don’t keep any pharmaceuticals in our home, including over the counter meds. The one exception is ibuprofen, which we rarely ever use. Besides the ibuprofen, I’m not exaggerating when I say we have an all natural medicine cabinet. So what does a natural medicine cabinet look like? You might be surprised to hear that many natural remedies are foods, so they aren’t actually all stored in a medicine cabinet. Before I walk you through the contents of my family’s natural medicine cabinet (and basket, bag, fridge, and herb shelf), I want to stress a few important points.

  • Not everyone needs all this stuff. Really. What you need will vary from what another person needs.
  • Some of the things we have came from experimentation to learn what works for us and what doesn’t, which things are our favorites, and which ones aren’t so much.
  • Everything we have was purchased/grown/foraged/created for a specific purpose. I recommend starting there and trying to avoid just buying all kinds of random things aimlessly because you think they might help you. Be intentional about it.
  • Start small. Replace what you can when you can. You don’t have to go totally natural overnight. Keep it real. Keep it simple.

My original plan for this post was to write a quick note on why we have each item/what we use it for, but after I got through about ten herbs, I realized that would be way too much time and a very lengthy blog post. Therefore, I am going to list everything for you, with the exception of all our first aid supplies, and you can feel free to ask me any questions you may have about these items. Check back for future posts on natural health and beauty items and natural cleaning products.

LOOSE HERBS

Yarrow
Ginger
Thyme
Wild Cherry Bark
Peppermint
Elderberries
Mullein Leaf
Lemon Balm
Catnip
Skullcap
Meadowsweet
Raspberry Leaf
Marshmallow Root
Basil
Oregano
Fennel
Rose Hips
Goldenrod
Motherwort
Red Clover
Dill
Nettle
Stevia
Calendula
Rosemary
Corn Silk
Sage
Lavender
Yellow Dock Root
Rose Petals
German Chamomile
Spearmint
Elder Flowers
Hawthorn Leaf & Flower
Hawthorn Berries
Alfalfa
Dandelion Root
Eucalyptus Leaf

herb shelf

TINCTURES

Shatavari
Hawthorn leaf, flower, & berry
Peppermint
Nettle, raspberry leaf, red clover
Yellow dock root, dandelion root, nettle, rose hips
Ginger and fennel
Olive leaf
Lemon balm, catnip, roman chamomile, meadowsweet, lavender
Yarrow
Motherwort
Mullein leaf
Chickweed
Wild cherry bark
Angelica
Wombstringe
Afterease
Placenta

GLYCERITES

Echinacea
Chamomile, Lemon balm, catnip, fennel, and ginger

ESSENTIAL OILS

Peppermint
Lemon
Lavender
Cedarwood
Tea Tree
Bergamot
Elemi
Coriander
Clary Sage
Frankincense
Grapefruit
Carrot Seed
Spearmint
Copaiba
Rosemary
German Chamomile
Eucalyptus
Oregano
Nighty Night
Sweet Dreams
Sniffle Stopper
Sweet Slumber
Germ Destroyer
Relax

EOs

OTHER

Cod Liver Oil
Kids’ Cod Liver Oil
Liquid Chlorophyll
Probiotics (Adult, Kids, Infant)
Pickled Garlic
Fire Cider
Ear oil (Mullein & Garlic)
Oil of oregano
Colloidal silver spray
Lavender hydrosol
Chamomile hydrosol

SYRUPS

Herbal Sleep Syrup
Elderberry Syrup
Ginger Syrup
Pure Maple Syrup
Raw local honey
Blackstrap molasses

fridge shelf

VITAMINS

Vitamin C powder
Vitamin C spray
Kids’ Multi
Prenatal Multi
Baby vitamin D3 drops
Vitamin D3+K2 drops

CAPSULES/TABLETS

Activated Charcoal
Blood Builder
Papaya Enzymes
Digestive Enzymes
Cranberry Capsules
Placenta Capsules

HOMEOPATHY

Arnica
Aconite
Bellis Per
Calendula
Carbo Veg
Cauloph
Chamomilla
Cimicifuga
Gelsemium
Hypericum
Ipecacuanha
Kali Carb
Kali Phos
Phytolacca
Pulsatilla
Secale
Sepia
Staphis Agria
Nat. Phos. 6x
Oscillococcinum
Camilia drops

medicine cabinet

TOPICAL

Calendula Salve
Green Salve
Comfrey Salve
Healing Balm
Coconut oil
Sesame oil
Almond oil
Olive oil
Avocado oil
Neem oil
Castor oil
Vitamin E oil
Magnesium lotion
Aloe Vera gel
Arnica Ointment
Bentonite Clay
Baking Soda
Goldenseal & Oregon Grape Root Powder
Shea Butter
Cocoa Butter
Epsom Salt
Beeswax
Colloidal Silver Gel

EQUIPMENT/SUPPLIES

Stethoscope
Fetoscope
Otoscope
Pulse Oximeter
Sphygmomanometer
Thermometers
Nose Frida
Strep A Swab Kit
UTI Test Strips

*You may notice some Garden of Life brand products in the photos. In December 2017, Garden of Life announced that they were acquired by Nestle. Therefore, for ethical reasons, my family will no longer be using Garden of Life products effective immediately.

 

Communing With Plants

communing cover

Since the dawn of time, humans and plants have had an intimate relationship, as plants have provided so much life for us in the form of food, medicine, tools, and more. They exhale and we inhale, doing a sacred dance of breaths between us. We have cared for them, and they have cared for us. Even today, 25% of pharmaceuticals are derived from plants, and the World Health Organization recognizes that traditional plant medicine is the main healing modality in much of the world. But we here in America have lost our way. Most people in industrialized nations are no longer in touch with plants. The human-plant relationship has suffered due to cultural disconnection and modern conveniences that always come with a price. When we no longer spend time with plants, and when we take them for granted, we all surely suffer. Generational wisdom is lost in the pages of time. When you can buy a plant under the fluorescent lights at the grocery store, wrap it in plastic, and drive it home to your refrigerator, you aren’t fostering connection with the plant the same way you would if you had spent time with the plant, your hands in the soil, communing with its pollinators, watching, listening, smelling, feeling, learning.

Plants are conscious beings, and they thrive with love and connection just like the rest of us do. There is something extra special about a well loved plant that has given its permission to be used by us, and is eager to help. That is where I find myself in my relationship with plants. Getting to know them, respecting and honoring them, and being truly grateful when they help me. My relationship with plants connects me with my ancestors and those who came before me. It connects me to my instinctual wisdom, and makes me a more conscious human being. Since I have opened my heart to the wisdom of our green friends, I have found them presenting themselves to me in funny ways. Right when I am in need of some blood strengthening and liver support, yellow dock appears in my herb garden. Birds must have carried her to me. Right when I’m defending pokeweed from those who disrespect her and fear her, I see a little pokeweed poking over my fence to say hello. Right when I’ve got a bleeding wound on my finger in the woods, I hear the whisper of wild yarrow at my feet. Every intention I set for the new year has coincidentally revolved around one common theme: Connection. I can only hope this means more connecting and communing with plants, too.