It’s the cold and flu season, and both of these viruses and others are running rampant through schools, work places — and our homes. We’re all desperate to find a way to fight off these germs, aren’t we? We wash our hands, scrub our counters and our little ones, and teachers everywhere are pumping gallons of antibacterial gel into little hands.
Many of us look for any additional weapons that we can add to our arsenal — particular natural ones like vitamin C, chicken soup, and as much rest as we can manage. For hundreds of years, syrup made from elderberry juice has been used as a home remedy to treat these ailments, and many mothers use it as preventative measure as well. Elderberries contain the antioxidant anthocyanin which clears the body of free radicals that damage cells at the DNA level. Elderberry syrup also exhibits antiviral properties which could prevent (or reduce) the severity of some common infections as well as exerting anti-inflammatory effects which can reduce pain and swelling. A recent study suggests that, for cold and flu, elderberry substantially reduces upper-airway symptoms.
You can find a local source for Elderberry Syrup, hunt it down at your local natural grocery store, or — Hooray! — make it yourself in the comfort of your own kitchen. Dried elderberries are easily ordered on Amazon, and the rest of the ingredients can be found at your regular grocery store if you don’t already have them on hand. My preference is to use my Instant Pot (so easy and hands off!), but you could also simmer all the ingredients together on the stove for a few hours instead. I’m no medical professional, but I’ve read up to three months in the refrigerator. (Ours rarely lasts that long 😂) — BUT there are no preservatives, so I choose to make a relatively small batch at a time and keep an eye out for mold if when we don’t go through it quickly.
Meg’s Elderberry Syrup
- 1 cup dried elderberries
- 3-4 cups filtered water
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 knob of ginger
- zest and juice from 1 lemon and/or orange
- 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup raw honey
Put the dried elderberries, filtered water (You don’t lose any liquid in the Instant Pot. If you’re simmering on the stove, you may want to use more water.), cinnamon stick (I break it up), ginger, and zest and juice from the fruit into the pot of the Instant Pot. Set on the manual setting on hight for 10 minutes. You can quick release, but usually let it go natural release. Then, I mash the berries really well with a wooden spoon. Set the instant pot to the sauté setting. Stir and mash the mix until it reduces by about one third. Allow it to cool a bit before straining (strainer, cheesecloth, nut milk bag — any of those options will work). For my batches, I add 1/4 to 1/2 cup of raw honey — this part is entirely to taste. My kids prefer it more sweet than I do. (To make the recipe vegan, you may choose to swap in agave or maple syrup.) You want to add the sweetener when the mixture is warm enough to dissolve it but not hot enough to kill all the antibacterial and antifungal goodness of the raw honey.
I keep mine in a sealed glass mason jar in the refrigerator and administer it each morning at breakfast. I’ve found that a syringe is the easiest way to pass it out to the kids. However you dole it out, here’s to a healthier family — and YOU — this season!