Homemade Elderberry Syrup

I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday filled with family, friends, delicious food, and laughter.  We actually ended up staying home from our celebration, as my son was sick AGAIN!  He is all better today, but we’ve been in the house a lot with little ills more often than I would like to admit. I’ve been cooking up chicken broth, and we’ve been taking probiotics and elderberry daily too.  I know it’s helping, but little kids just seem to be susceptible to every little germ out there!!

Do you know about the wonderful Elderberry?  So first of all it is a berry, so of course contains antioxidants, which are great for warding off cancer and various other diseases. It has long been used to treat respiratory diseases such as cold and flu, and some evidence suggests that elder may help reduce sinus swelling and nasal congestion.

Studies have also suggested that the little elderberry has some amazing powers, such as possibly reducing the duration of flu by 3 days as well as reducing flu symptoms.  One study even showed elderberry extract actually killing the H1N1 flu virus in a test tube!!?

elderberry-bsp

So I’ve been buying a prepared Elderberry Syrup for years that I think has been effective in helping us fight the flu. But this year I decided to get crafty and try making some myself.  The original recipe I used was too sweet for our liking, so I reduced the honey a bit and it came out just great.  We have been using it once a day for prevention and more frequently when sick or trying to fight something off.  We have been taking 1 tablespoon a day for adults and 1 teaspoon a day for children (skipping a day at least once a week) and up to 4 tablespoons a day for adults and 3 teaspoons a day for children when sick or fighting something. This syrup has several other immune boosting and anti-bacterial herbs and spices, and is also really delicious.  I usually put some in the freezer too; the honey keeps it from freezing too hard and it is so yummy to take frozen. And do use raw honey if you are able, it is full of live enzymes and good stuff that gets killed in the pasteurization/heating process of typical honey.

It should be noted that raw elderberries have a chemical in them similar to cyanide, so need to be cooked to make them safe for ingestion.  Anyone on medications or with special issues should speak to their doctor before using elderberry.  And please remember not to give this syrup to any child under 1 as it contains honey, which can be toxic for little ones.

If you are sensitive to honey, or want to give this remedy to your littlest ones, stay tuned for an updated post soon.  My next batch will be made with maple syrup, as I have embarked on a new diet to help with my IBS, a low FODMAP foods diet, but more on this later!

And here it is, I know you’ve been waiting for it, another use for the nut milk bag! When the syrup is done it needs to be strained, which can be done through a fine mesh strainer, cheesecloth, or, you guessed it, nut milk bag! I used my nut milk bag last time and was really pleased because I was really able to squeeze all the elder-goodness out at the end.

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Homemade Elderberry Syrup

Makes about 2 cups

Ingredients

1 cup dried elderberries

4 cups filtered water

2 inch chunk fresh ginger, peeled and sliced thin

1 cinnamon stick

4 whole cloves

3/4 cup raw honey

Add all ingredients except honey to a small saucepan and bring to a boil.  Turn the heat down to a simmer and let the mixture reduce by half, about 30-40 minutes. Remove the mixture from the heat and strain through a fine mesh strainer, cheesecloth, or nut milk bag. When the mixture has cooled but is still warm (118 degrees F or less) whisk in the honey and store in a glass jar in the fridge, or in the freezer.  The mixture should keep in the fridge for a few weeks.

I’d love to hear what you use to keep your family healthy during cold and flu season!

Spice it up!!

Do you use herbs and spices in your cooking?  Not only are they a great way to add tons of flavor to a dish, but they also provide many health benefits.  Using herbs and spices in cooking also may eliminate the need for extra salt, fat, or sugar in a dish, without sacrificing taste. From heart health to cancer prevention, here are a few of the most beneficial herbs and spices around:

  1. Turmeric is a bright orange root that comes from the same family as ginger.  It is great for reducing inflammation and may reduce incidence of some cancers.  It can be found fresh or dried as a powder.  Try it in soups, stews, curries, or mixed with yogurt as a dip.  If you find the flavor too bitter, you can take turmeric as a supplement, but look for one that includes piperine or black pepper extract, which enhances absorption.

Turmeric (Curcuma longa)

  1. Cinnamon is not only warming, delicious and versatile, but is also loaded with antioxidants. It has been shown to decrease inflammation, as well as decrease blood sugar, cholesterol, and triglycerides in some diabetics.  Most of us are familiar with how to use cinnamon; sprinkle on oatmeal or yogurt, in baking, or on top of just about anything.  My little secret-adding a dash to ground turkey or lamb really covers the natural gamey-ness of the meat.
Cinnamon verum2-spice

Cinnamon verum2-spice (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  1. Ginger can be found as a fresh root or powdered and dried.  I love the natural spiciness of fresh ginger root in a stir-fry or soup, or as a tea.  Ginger is wonderful for combating nausea and stomach upset, and also has anti-inflammatory properties.
English: Adrak

English: Adrak (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  1. Oregano, a wonderful Italian herb, is certainly delicious sprinkled on pizza, but also contains some very strong anti-bacterial agents that help fight infection. Oregano contains lots of antioxidants and is high in vitamin K.  You can find oregano fresh or dried and it can be used in dishes from salad dressing to pasta sauce.
  1. Thyme, another herb with strong antibacterial and antimicrobial properties, is delicious in soups, stews, or roasts.  It comes fresh or dried and can also be used for common skin problems such as acne and eczema.

Herbs: Thyme, oregano and rosemary

  1. Chili peppers come in many varieties; fresh, dried, or ground, from the pretty spicy jalapeno to the super spicy habanero.  The spicier the pepper, the higher the concentration of capsaicin, the compound that provides health benefits such as increasing circulation and providing high levels of antioxidants.  As a topical cream, capsaicin has also been shown to relieve nerve pain.  Use chili peppers in any dish you want to add spice too.  And keep in mind that the seeds contain the highest amount of capsaicin, so to mellow out the spiciness of any chili pepper remove some or all of the seeds, while wearing gloves of course.
Fresh red chile de árbol chili peppers

Fresh red chile de árbol chili peppers (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My recipe for this week was a simple looking soup with surprising delicious flavor.  Cayenne pepper adds a nice kick of heat to warm you while filling you up with a plethora of fall vegetable goodness.  Get the recipe for Autumn Vegetable Soup.