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Three Ways to Use Elderberries & Elderflowers to Ward Off Sickness (Besides Elderberry Syrup)  RSS feed

 
Posts: 44
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I posted this article with these recipes recently to my author site but I thought folks here might find them useful too.  I haven't figured out how to insert Instagram photos directly into posts here, so if you want to see the pretty pictures you'll need to look at the original post though.  ;)

Everybody knows how effective elderberry syrup is at beating the flu, but there are many other ways to use elderberries and elder flowers to get healthy.  Some even work better than elderberry syrup!

Here are three simple but helpful medicinal remedies you can make with elderberries and elder flowers from my book, Elderberries: The Beginner’s Guide to Foraging, Preserving and Using Elderberries for Health Remedies, Recipes, Drinks and MoreElderberries: The Beginner's Guide to Foraging, Preserving and Using Elderberries for Health Remedies, Recipes, Drinks and More (aff link) 

Elderflower Tea

Elderflower tea is said to help cure stuffy noses and ward off colds that are starting to develop if taken often at the first sign of illness. This is a lovely tea to sip to fight off whatever bug is going around.  It’s also great for seasonal allergies.  As a bonus, it tastes delicious!

Ingredients:

* 2 heaping tsp dried elderflowers

* 1 cup boiling water

Directions:

1.  Steep the dried elderflowers in one cup of boiling water. Stir.
2.  Infuse for five minutes. Strain and add a squeeze of lemon and some honey.

Dosage: Take three to four times per day at the first sign of symptoms. Children can take half a cup, three to four times a day.


Elderberry Tincture

Ingredients:

* One pint (two cups) fresh or half pint (one cup) of dried elderberries

* One pint of 100 proof vodka

Directions:

1.  Wash and sort the elderberries, tossing any stems or moldy berries. Fill a pint jar or other glass container with the elderberries, nearly to the top, and mash gently with a fork.
2.  Pour in the vodka to completely cover the berries. Screw on the lid.
3.  Shake the jar daily, topping it off with more vodka if needed. Let steep for 4-6 weeks.
4.  Strain through a colander into a clear jar, pressing the berries to release all of their juice. Transfer to small bottles with droppers and store away from light. It will keep for several years, though it will lose potency somewhat after time and will be most effective the first year.[/list][/list]

Dosage: Adults may take 10 drops up to three times a day as an immune booster and to prevent illness. In times of illness, adults may take up to 30 drops, three times a day (20 drops is a quarter teaspoon). Drops may be administered in a glass of water or under the tongue.

* Note that this has alcohol, so use your discretion about administering to children. Standard traditional dosage of elderberry tincture for children over two years old in times of illness is 7-10 drops, up to three times a day, in a glass of water or tea. You may wish to avoid the alcohol and administer elderberry syrup or oxymel instead, or provide elderberries’ benefits with elderberry apple juice instead, gummies, popsicles or other alcohol-free remedies.  Another workaround is to dissolve the extract in very hot water and allow it to cool.  The small amount of alcohol will burn off.


Quick Elderberry Apple Juice

We all know the benefits of elderberries for the immune system and to help kick colds and flus to the curb, but sometimes you’re too busy with sickness to make a new batch of elderberry syrup or you’re out of honey. Here’s a super simple way to get the benefits of elderberries in sick kids (or grown-ups!), along with needed liquids.

Each quart of juice has as much elderberry goodness as an entire batch of elderberry syrup. Have the family sip it throughout the week in times of illness or when you want to give everybody’s immune system a boost.

Ingredients:

* ½ cup dried elderberries

* one quart apple juice (preferably organic), divided

Directions:

1.  Measure two cups of the apple juice into a saucepan and add the elderberries. Bring to a simmer and simmer gently for 30-45 minutes.
2.  Use a potato masher to gently mash the elderberries, then strain through a fine mesh strainer into a 2-cup measuring cup or clean jar.
3.  Carefully pour the liquid into a large jar or back into the apple juice container.  Pour in the rest of the apple juice, shaking or stirring gently to mix.

Dosage: Encourage kids (and adults) to drink this throughout the day. There is no maximum dose. Keeps for several days in the fridge.

Remember that elderberry works best if taken often throughout the day, rather than in large single doses.

And, of course, the standard disclaimer:  Please note: The information in this post is for educational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. It is always recommended that you consult with a qualified healthcare practitioner before using herbal or pharmaceutical products, particularly if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or on any medications.

Here's to good health!

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gardener
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This is great information. Elderberries are native to many parts of US and are really great antivirals.  It's also easier to get kids to eat sweet medicine.
John S
PDX OR
 
Alicia Bayer
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Yes, they grow wild in all 50 states (either black elderberries or blue, which both have medicinal properties) and throughout Canada, Europe, Mexico, Australia....  Elderberries were one of the first wild foods we foraged as a family, because I was tired of paying the prices for organic dried elderberries for anti-flu syrup and decided to find out how to find our own in the wild.  :)
 
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So many think you need to add sugar to make syrup but a tea or simply the tincture in a bit of juice or hot lemon and honey is very tasty and helpful .
 
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Thanks for your post! I wanted to add that elderberries have natural bloom (looks like a covering of dust that is easily wiped off) on them similar to that found on blueberries, huckleberries, currents etc.  I prefer not to wash off this beneficial prebiotic* but instead harvest from an area that is free from contaminates. Examples would be away from industry/population/railroad tracks, away from roads including dirt roads, airports and areas sprayed to control invasive species.

I also prefer to make an herbal decoction rather than a tea. Tea as most people think of it is boiling water poured over plant material and steeped for a few to 10 minutes. It is my thinking and understanding that this is great to get a warm cup of flavored water. This has its place, for sure, it is calming, relaxing and enjoyable.  However, I make decoctions with all my medicinal herbs I wish to drink as "tea." To make a decoction fill a pot with 4-6 cups of the best water available to you. Crush while sprinkling the dried plant material over the surface of the water.  Some will sink, but add enough that had it not, the entire surface area of the pot would be covered fairly tightly with the plant material.  With the lid off, bring to a boil, lower to a simmer and continue to simmer until half the water has evaporated. This process of reducing should take 15-20 minutes but not longer than 30. If it is taking too long or evaporating too quickly, adjust your heat settings.  At this point you're good to strain out the plant matter and enjoy! You can scale up these basic directions as I do, making a half gallon of decoction for a couple days at a time. I store left over decoction in the fridge and gently reheat on the stove. I don't make more then what I can consume in 3-4 days.

Depending on what plants you are using and why you are drinking them, remember that acid (dairy, oat milk, honey) allows the body to absorb calcium and iron in the plant. A good (and common) example of decotions I add an acid to are dandelion root and nettle leaf.


Happy brewing!

*prebiotics are basically undigested plant fibers that act as fertilizer/food for the beneficial bacteria that already exists in the gut
 
Sharon Carson
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Thanks for the educational tips .I never thought of honey as acid.  I usually do a similar thing by simmerring herbs on my wood cookstove but only with roots or things like rosehips . I usually make infusions and use raw honey to sweeten when using medicinal herbs . I grow my own elder for ease of harvest and to be sure its "Clean' I never wash my fruits (berries). I rub the berrys off and make tinctures, dry them or make wine . Have you ever worked with high bush cranberries? (Crampbark) ?
 
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Do red elderberries have the same properties?
 
Jennifer Paulson
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Sharon Carson wrote:Thanks for the educational tips .I never thought of honey as acid.  I usually do a similar thing by simmerring herbs on my wood cookstove but only with roots or things like rosehips . I usually make infusions and use raw honey to sweeten when using medicinal herbs . I grow my own elder for ease of harvest and to be sure its "Clean' I never wash my fruits (berries). I rub the berrys off and make tinctures, dry them or make wine . Have you ever worked with high bush cranberries? (Crampbark) ?



I have eaten the berries but have not harvested the bark for medicine. I have had other plants on hand that served my purpose so it was not necessary to harvest. I do love the bounty of nature!
 
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Barbara Kochan wrote:Do red elderberries have the same properties?

I don't know about the red elderberries growing where you live, but here in north-western Europe the red elderberries are poison!
 
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I was pruning some elder yesterday (2nd February) here near Rome Italy and noticed flower buds-corymbs(?) already an inch long...in a bit of a sheltered sun trap, some bushes have kept their leaves from last year, and neighboring almonds and apricots are already flowering...
Is there a specific medical property to elderflower 'champagne' (the highly explosive fermentation with natural yeasts that to me tastes like litchees)? Or do I just have to content myself with it tasting so refreshing?
I harvest a lot of cloud/wood/jews ears funghi from dead elders. They're very good cooked, I'm not mad on the sweetened cold drink they make in China, but for sure it must have lots of medical benefits - can anyone enlighten me? Grazie mille...
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Almond in flower 30 January
 
Alicia Bayer
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Barbara Kochan wrote:Do red elderberries have the same properties?



There's not a lot of information about medicinal benefits of red elderberries, but we do know that they were used for medicinal purposes by many Native American tribes and have been used by some herbalists. 

People generally say that red elderberries are toxic, but this is not truly accurate.  They are toxic when uncooked, but you shouldn't eat black or blue elderberries uncooked either.  Even the USDA says this of red elderberries:

"The fruit is high in ascorbic acid.  Stems, bark, leaves and roots contain cyanide-producing toxins but berries may be consumed as jelly or wine after cooking.  This versatile plant can also be used to make dye, insecticide, medicine, and musical instruments."

Note that they also warn:  "Warning: Red elderberry fruit may be toxic when taken internally without sufficient preparation."

Native American tribes relied heavily on red elderberries as a food source.  They would dry, soak or otherwise process the berries and then use them as winter food.  The biggest problem with red elderberries is that they don't taste very good at all.  Some dedicated foragers have made red elderberry fruit leather and jellies, but most people don't consider them worth the bother -- especially since black and blue elderberries are so abundant and are so much better tasting with their proven health benefits.  That said, here's a wonderfully informative blog post by one forager who made red elderberry fruit leather and also researched how some tribes used red elderberries.

This herbalist's site also has a bit of information about red elderberries and her experiences making red elderberry jelly.

Two people commented on the post with their experiences using the flowers of red elders for teas and tinctures, and reporting good benefits.  Both seem to be herbalists and one apparently teaches classes where she/he uses red elders for preparations in classes.  I would not recommend ever using a plant medicinally based on just web comments, but if you have an abundance of red elderberries in your vicinity it would certainly be worth looking into further. 

In my book, I have maps that show the range in the US and Canada of black, red and blue elderberries and I have pictures of the difference in the way the leaves and flowers look with red elderberry (Sambucus racemosa).  Black and blue elderberries have very similar shapes of leaves, flower heads and berry clusters, while red elderberries look quite different.  Red elderberries form a cone shape in their flowers and berries, for instance.  I advise against gathering red elderberries in the book, but mostly just because they do not taste nearly as good as black or blue elderberries and so much less is known about their medicinal benefits. 

Also note that unripe black elderberries have a reddish tint but they are not the same as true red elderberries.  Red elderberries are bright fire-engine red and again, the shape of the fruit or flower clusters is completely different from elderberry's classic flattened umbrella shape.  See the picture below for an example of red elderberry clusters.

Hope that helps!
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Alicia Bayer
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geraint britton wrote:I was pruning some elder yesterday (2nd February) here near Rome Italy and noticed flower buds-corymbs(?) already an inch long...in a bit of a sheltered sun trap, some bushes have kept their leaves from last year, and neighboring almonds and apricots are already flowering...
Is there a specific medical property to elderflower 'champagne' (the highly explosive fermentation with natural yeasts that to me tastes like litchees)? Or do I just have to content myself with it tasting so refreshing?



What a beautiful property!!!  Wow!  We are buried in snow here in Minnesota at the moment.  It was nice to "visit" where you are for a moment through the photo. 

If you don't use anything to stop fermentation like campden tablets, then all of those natural probiotics are still present in your champagne and I imagine there is a fair amount of elderflowers' beneficial properties in there.  We like to make elderflower soda (also known as Socată or Suc de Soc) for the kids here in the springtime, and if you let it keep going it becomes a sparkling wine or champagne.  Here's my recipe for that, if anybody would like to try it.  I have never considered it medicinal necessarily, but it's delicious and full of elderflower goodness so I consider it beneficial just for that!

Enjoy your elderflowers!
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Alicia,

Re: Elderberry Apple Juice

Is there a reason you say to cook the elderberries in only half of the apple juice?

I'm wondering if it would be bad to make it like you say, but not dilute it to half strength, and use it more like the syrup. I'm thinking that when i am canning apple cider in the fall, it would be convenient to make this with some of the less exciting batches.

Here in Montana, our red elderberries look rather black (but sill have the red stems and form).
 
Alicia Bayer
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Fred Tyler wrote: Is there a reason you say to cook the elderberries in only half of the apple juice?

I'm wondering if it would be bad to make it like you say, but not dilute it to half strength, and use it more like the syrup. I'm thinking that when i am canning apple cider in the fall, it would be convenient to make this with some of the less exciting batches.



The reason the elderberries are simmered in just 2 cups of the juice is just convenience.  It's much easier to simmer them in that amount than a whole jug, and then the super-strength juice can simply be added back into the original container with the rest of the juice.  In times of illness, you can just sip the full-strength elderberry-apple juice throughout the day, too, without mixing it back with the rest of the apple juice. 

As for canning, high heat kills the flavonoids that give elderberries their antiviral benefits, so canned elderberry juice or syrup loses most of its medicinal benefits.  That's why elderberry recipes generally call for bringing the liquid just to a simmer and simmering gently, to retain those as best as possible.  That's also why tinctures (and to a lesser degree oxymels, which are steeped in vinegar instead of alcohol) are the most effective at all.  Elderberry apple juice will still have healthy components but since there are much tastier ways to use elderberries (like elderberry lemonade), I wouldn't bother canning elderberry apple juice. 

Besides drying your extra elderberries, you can also freeze them.  Keep in mind that freezing has also been found to destroy some of the beneficial flavonoids, especially with longer freeze times.  That will still retain more than canning though.  Frozen elderberries work fabulously for elderberry wine, too, if you are a wine drinker.

If you want to use a lot of your extra elderberries for other purposes, we also put up quite a lot of elderberry pie filling and elderberry jam and jelly.  Elderberry pie filling can be used for a lot more than pies, incidentally.  I like to put a scoop in cupcakes to make lemon cupcakes with elderberry filling, for instance (see picture below of some gluten free elderberry-lemon cupcakes my son and I sold at our farmers' market last year and here is that recipe), or you can use it as a topping for ice cream, yogurt. oatmeal, pancakes and waffles.  I use elderberry jam for things like frostings and thumbprint cookies throughout the year, too. 

(photos below:  GF lemon cupcakes with elderberry pie filling, elderberry cupcakes made with elderberry jam stirred into the batter, acorn waffles with elderberry pie filling as a topping (I have an acorn foraging book and cookbook too) elderflower fritters with elderberry jam, and elderberry cream cheese spread for crackers)

I have recipes for all of these in my book and would be happy to post any particular ones you're interested in.  HTH!

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Alicia Bayer wrote:
Elderberry Tincture

Ingredients:

* One pint (two cups) fresh or half pint (one cup) of dried elderberries

* One pint of 100 proof vodka

Directions:

1.  Wash and sort the elderberries, tossing any stems or moldy berries. Fill a pint jar or other glass container with the elderberries, nearly to the top, and mash gently with a fork.
2.  Pour in the vodka to completely cover the berries. Screw on the lid.
3.  Shake the jar daily, topping it off with more vodka if needed. Let steep for 4-6 weeks.
4.  Strain through a colander into a clear jar, pressing the berries to release all of their juice. Transfer to small bottles with droppers and store away from light. It will keep for several years, though it will lose potency somewhat after time and will be most effective the first year.[/list][/list]

Dosage: Adults may take 10 drops up to three times a day as an immune booster and to prevent illness. In times of illness, adults may take up to 30 drops, three times a day (20 drops is a quarter teaspoon). Drops may be administered in a glass of water or under the tongue.

* Note that this has alcohol, so use your discretion about administering to children. Standard traditional dosage of elderberry tincture for children over two years old in times of illness is 7-10 drops, up to three times a day, in a glass of water or tea. You may wish to avoid the alcohol and administer elderberry syrup or oxymel instead, or provide elderberries’ benefits with elderberry apple juice instead, gummies, popsicles or other alcohol-free remedies.  Another workaround is to dissolve the extract in very hot water and allow it to cool.  The small amount of alcohol will burn off.




Thank you for your very complete and useful post!

I wanted to add that I prefer to use brandy for my elderberry tincture. The brandy is more palitable to me and the warming effect of it can be good for colds and the flu.
 
Alicia Bayer
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Jackie Frobese wrote:
Thank you for your very complete and useful post!

I wanted to add that I prefer to use brandy for my elderberry tincture. The brandy is more palitable to me and the warming effect of it can be good for colds and the flu.



I keep telling my husband that I want to use brandy!  He is old school and says it's supposed to be vodka, but I agree and had told him that next time it's brandy for the next batch of tinctures and liqueurs.  :)
 
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