Cold and flu season technically runs November to February, but if you or anyone in your family interact with ANYONE else, chances are you get sick year-round.
That’s why I keep charcoal gummies in my freezer. If someone gets the stomach virus, I want to nip it in the bud ASAP and prevent the rest of us from catching it. (Can we just admit that holding hair for a kid in one hand, and a vomit bucket for yourself in another hand, is not a fun place to be?)
It’s also why I made two batches of elderberry syrup a couple months ago. I admit to being skeptical at first, but let me tell you how awesome homemade elderberry syrup is (and how easy it is to make!).
A few weeks ago (right after I made my first batch of elderberry syrup), my in-laws visited for Grandparent’s Day. The weekend before arriving here, they were at a high school class reunion.
At some point during the reunion activities scheduled in those two days, someone sneezed or coughed or breathed too hard and too close to someone else. By the time the reunion was over, 85% of the attendees had fallen sick. In fact, there’s now a running joke among the class that they caught the “Bridgeport Crud!”
My mother-in-law was one of those who caught it, and a doctor at a local walk-in clinic diagnosed her with a virus of some sort. Other attendees went to their own doctors and they were all given different diagnosis… one was told bronchitis and another was told pneumonia!
Regardless of what it really was, it was passed on to my father-in-law. He woke up the first morning at our house feeling off. Thankfully, he felt better later in the day.
By that night though, he felt awful. He was ready to pack up and head home, cutting the trip short by two days!
I asked him to stay one more day and to let me give him a few homemade remedies first, including elderberry syrup. Besides, it was raining outside. His choice was either drive 6 hours in pouring rain, OR spend the day resting, taking natural medicines and watching his favorite nature shows.
He chose the latter.
My family and I started taking elderberry syrup a couple weeks before their arrival to boost our immune systems and as a general precautionary measure (we start taking it the first week of October). Once my father-in-law caught the crud though, we extended the precautions it to everyone in the house:
- The adults took one tablespoon once a day.
- The kids took one teaspoon once a day.
For those who were sick (i.e. my father-in-law), we upped the dosage to one tablespoon THREE times a day.
In full disclosure, I gave my father-in-law a combination of other natural remedies too:
- He massaged a combination of Thieves, Raven and Purification essential oils on his chest, three times a day.**
- This same combination of oils was also diffused in the main living area.
- I gave him one tablespoon of BactaMune by TriLight Health three times a day.
- For dinner, I made tried-and-true, homemade chicken noodle soup.
- Gave him magnesium lotion to help him get a good nights’ sleep.
- And of course, the one tablespoon of elderberry syrup (tutorial below), three times a day.
On top of this, I sprayed my Thieves cleaner and wiped down EVERY door knob and light switch in the entire house twice a day. (This sounds like a lot of work, but it only took about 15 minutes.)
Call me crazy if this sounds like overkill, but if nearly the entire high school class of 1967 got sick in 2 days and they weren’t even in the same house, I wasn’t taking any chances!
**Note: I know there are a lot of essential oil companies out there and I’ve certainly tried my fair share of brands. But after testing and researching and more testing, only one is worth spending money on (in my opinion). For a couple years now I’ve been committed to Young Living oils, and you can read more about their oils and my decision HERE.
What’s really important though, is whether or not all this worked….
And it did! My father-in-law woke up the next day feeling rested and so much better!
Now, was this because of the elderberry syrup? Or because of everything else?
Well, my first instinct would be that it’s everything combined together, except…
NONE OF THE REST OF US GOT SICK EITHER!
Sorry for the all caps, but this is a big deal. They were carrying something HIGHLY contagious, and the rest of us ONLY took elderberry syrup. And just once a day, at that!
Another big question though… Was our experience subjective?
It’s hard to say, but this article says elderberries are a potent immune booster and can mitigate flu-like symptoms.
In fact, this study concluded that the effects of elderberry flavonoids were comparable to the flu medicine Tamiflu!
Elderberry is found over the counter in common cold and flu brands like Zarbees, Sambucol and Sambucus, but for the price of JUST ONE of those medicines, you can make several batches of homemade elderberry syrup.
Considering this actually WORKED for us and it’s significantly cheaper (and super easy to make), it’s something I’m going to be keeping on hand throughout the year.
The tutorial for how to make elderberry syrup is below, but I want to share a few important notes with you guys before you dive in.
Don’t go foraging for elderberries (and especially don’t eat them raw).
There are only a few elderberry plants that are edible in general, and the leaves and stems from nearly all elderberry plants can be dangerous.
If you use fresh berries for this recipe, I recommend finding a reputable local source. Otherwise I recommend these dried elderberries online. (This is a reputable brand and the best deal I’ve found!)
Note: Prices on Amazon change all the time. If you’re buying elderberries during cold and flu season, the price will be higher than the off season.
Raw honey is not for infants under 12 months old.
Raw honey has exceptional health benefits, including managing seasonal allergies and boosting the immune system. That’s why I’ve included it in my elderberry syrup recipe. Well, that and elderberries are quite tart and medicine won’t work unless it’s you actually take it!
If you’re making this for your little ones, you can use a different sweetener altogether OR put the syrup back on the stove after its strained and add the honey, simmering for about 5-10 minutes to pasteurize it.
I found local raw honey at a health store in my town. This raw honey is good too, and I’ve seen it in my local Walmart. This honey is from Brazil though, so chance are it won’t offer allergy relief (unless you live in Brazil!).
Ginger, cinnamon and clove are optional.
I included all of these in my batches, because I think it adds a layer of yumminess to the syrup and they have benefits too. However, the syrup will work just as well and taste just fine if you omit one or all of these.
You probably won’t find a knub of ginger small enough for what you need for this recipe, so I recommend buying about a 4″ pieces and grating the whole thing. Measure what you need for this recipe, and then freeze the rest for a future batch!
Use a strainer or a nut milk bag. Don’t use a blender.
Numerous sites discuss the dangers of eating the seeds of elderberries. Because a blender will pulverize the berry AND the internal seed (especially if you have a Blendtec or Vitamix), I don’t recommend using it to make elderberry syrup.
Instead, smash the berries with the back of a wooden spoon through a fine mesh strainer OR place them in a nut milk bag and squeeze like crazy. Both of these methods will ensure no seeds make it into the final syrup.
Save the elderberry mash for flavoring kombucha!
Instead of throwing away the elderberry mash (the solids that are left after you’ve smashed the berries through the strainer), use them for flavoring your kombucha! You’ll get a double whammy of immune boosting AND gut boosting benefits, and get the most out of the investment in elderberries.
To do this, place 1-2 tablespoons of elderberry mash into a tea bag. I have cotton tea bags like these, and was able to put 2 tablespoons of mash into each of my 4 tea bags.
To brew, use 1 tea bag per 1 gallon of kombucha. If you don’t need all the elderberry mash right away, there are tree ways to save them for later:
- Filling up the tea bags and placing them directly in the freezer. You’ll simply pull a tea bag from the freezer and put it in the water when you’re ready to make kombucha.
- Freeze the elderberry mash in 1 tablespoon portions, in an ice cube tray.
- Use a cookie scoop to portion the mash onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. (This is the same method I use to freeze tomato paste.)
Need help making kombucha? Here’s my original kombucha tutorial and recipe. To use the elderberry mash, follow the directions for rose hip and hibiscus kombucha, substituting the mash for the herbs in step 1.
It may not seem like much, but using up every bit of food that comes in the kitchen is great way to save money. I believe so much in avoiding food waste that I dedicated an entire lesson to it in Grocery Budget Bootcamp! Every little bit adds up!
How to Make Elderberry Syrup
Elderberry Syrup Supplies
- 2/3 cup dried elderberries (these are the ones I use)
- 3 ½ cups water
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon (optional)
- ½ tsp ground clove (optional)
- 2 Tbsp fresh ginger, finely grated (optional)
- ½ cup raw honey (or to taste)
- Fine mesh strainer
- Glass bowl
- Wooden spoon
- Quart jar with a lid for storage
Elderberry Syrup Method
Combine dried elderberries, water, cinnamon, clove and ginger in a medium pot and bring just to a boil. Cook until the liquid has reduce to almost half, about 45 minutes. (Mine took exactly 45 minutes both times, but you can set a timer for 30 minutes and check if you don’t want to forget about this being on the stove!)
Place a fine mesh strainer (I have this set) over a big bowl (I have this set) and pour the liquid through the strainer. Mash the solids against the strainer, doing your best to get as much of the fruit through the strainer as possible. Take your time here so you’re not wasting precious elderberries!
When you’re left with mostly seeds, use the elderberry mash for kombucha OR compost it (here’s an easy way to get started with composting). Let the syrup cool to room temperature.
When the syrup is cool, pour into a quart jar. Add the honey and stir well. Store in the fridge!
Elderberry Syrup Dosage
I mentioned our dosing above, but this is because we were surrounded by people who were sick. If that weren’t the case, I’d reduce our dosage to ½ teaspoon daily for kids, and ½ tablespoon daily for adults.
Other Home Remedies
I’m (very) slowly added home remedies to my arsenal as I get more familiar with how food and minerals act in our bodies. Here are a few other simple tutorials I think you’ll find helpful!
- Charcoal Gummies (just 2 ingredients, for the stomach flu/virus/bug)
- Magnesium Lotion (for stress, anxiety and sleep)
- Magnesium Oil Spray (just 2 ingredients, same benefits as magnesium lotion, but a bit easier to make for first-timers)