i have used elderberry syrup for years (in conjunction with plenty of vitamin d in the form of cod liver oil for optimal immune function) for my entire family to stave off the bugs during the darker, colder months. recently i discovered that my favorite brand has more additives and ingredients than i think are beneficial or health-promoting. therefore, i've decided to throw my hat into the ring with all the mamas who make their own.
i chose to add echinacea for extra immune-boosting support, ginger for sensitive tummies and cinnamon to help regulate all the sugar from the honey (which is necessary as a preservative). having multiple food and seasonal allergy children, i only use raw local honey for the added allergy benefits. i divide it with manuka honey for the amazing anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties - i'm convinced we've already avoided the strep throat that is rampant in the public schools all 5 of our kids attend right now.
if comparing our rate of illness to classmates isn't convincing enough, in our house the only one who avoids taking elderberry syrup preventively during the entire school year is my husband. and guess who is the only one that gets sick every winter? he's got a nasty cough and sore throat right now, in fact -while the rest of us have successfully fought it off for a couple of weeks by taking elderberry preventively AND at every symptom! hubby is taking it multiple times daily now and still able to go to work and eat regular meals, so i know it helps lessen the severity and duration of illnesses when taken after the onset of a bug, but our goal is complete avoidance!
here's how we do it:
starting on the first night of school, we begin taking 2 TBLspn before bedtime, along with the appropriate dose per child of cod liver oil and probiotics. once we lose the summer sun, we need all the vitamin d, good gut health and immune support we can get here in the dark-dayed middle west. if anyone complains of tickly ears, stuffy or runny nose, sore throat, headache or queasy belly, they get 2 TBLsp every 3-4 hours, sometimes more if the symptoms come back more often. i've done this even with my toddlers and never had anyone feel sick or suffer any side effects from "too much elderberry". we also make popsicles, fruit smoothies and even coconut milk ice cream out of it for sore throats and turn it into a natural soda with sparkling mineral water if anyone is vomiting. for our family of 7, we double the recipe below and it usually lasts us a couple of weeks, with enough extra to share a bottle or two with friends.
we also reuse tiny extract or essential oil bottles and send small amounts to school with the kids for any extra immune boosting needed during the school day when illness is trying to invade us at home or is present in the classroom. whether they feel symptoms or not, i encourage them to drink the tiny bottle with their lunches at school.
COMBINE AND BRING TO BOIL:
4 C distilled/spring water
2 C dried elderberries**
1 1/2 organic broken cinnamon sticks
2 TBLsp pure dried cranberries *
2 TBLsp pure or blended dried/powdered echinacea*
2 Tblsp dried/grated ginger root
( *these ingredients can be found in a pure form in better quality (single ingredient) herbal teas, as well - and you can use the contents of the tea bag in this recipe.)
(** families local to the royal oak, michigan area can order 'frontier' brand elderberries through Nutri-Foods health store on main street in royal oak and save yourself the cost of shipping incurred when ordering online).
SIMMER APPROX 45 MINS OR TO 1/2 REDUCTION
STRAIN W/ FINE MESH STRAINER REPEATEDLY, MASHING BERRIES INTO A PASTE W/ A FLAT/WIDE SPOON.
ALLOW TO COOL 10 MINS
10 oz - 1.5 C manuka or local raw honey, adjusted to taste.
WHISK SLOWLY UNTIL BLENDED THOROUGHLY.
(taste clarifies and "brightens" after refrigeration overnight. enjoy in good health!)