Some of My Favorite Ways to Utilize Elderberry for Winter Wellness: By, Amelia Moody

During this time of year when colds and flus are circulating amongst the human population I like to make some homemade remedies to support my immune system during the Winter months.

Elderberry, Sambucus nigra, is a plant that I utilize to create Winter wellness formulas.

Elderberries are high in antioxidants and phytochemicals that have been shown to provide flu fighting components. When using elderberry it is advised that you cook the berries or strain out the seeds. The seeds, leaves, and roots are poisonous to humans. Cooking the berries destroys the glychosides present in the seeds, making the cooked berries with their seeds safe to eat. The flower of the elderberry bush has been historically used for swollen sinuses, colds, influenza, and to increase sweating as a diaphoretic.

There are many ways to use this medicinal plant so I will just share a few of my favorite ways.

One way is I make a tea blend of dry elderberries, dry elder flowers, and cinnamon sticks broken up. This is a simple yet delightful tea that I reach for if I have a fever or feeling the signs of a cold coming on.  Adding raw honey to your cup of tea adds even more wonderful medicinal qualities.

I also really enjoy making elderberry syrup. I am a fan of using what you have around your kitchen, spice rack, home apothecary. The last batch I made I added fresh ginger root, turmeric root, dry rose hips, cardamom pods, cinnamon sticks to a cooking vessel with elderberries and water. The aromatic spices add wonderful flavor and warming qualities. Once you have cooked the decoction on the stove strain it and allow it cool a bit before adding raw honey. You do not want to add the raw honey to a boiling liquid as you lose all the wonderful enzymes. This “syrup” should be refrigerated and will last 3 months when stored in the refrigerator. If I make a really large batch I freeze some for later use.  There are ways that I enhance the different batches I create. I use herbal infused honey that I have made adding even more medicinal components. The last batch of syrup I made I added wild cherry bark infused honey. In the past I have used Yerba mansa root infused honey. I also sometimes add herbal tinctures I have made. Last batch I added Monarda (beebalm) extract.  This is a wonderful way to add some propolis tincture to this delicious tasting immune syrup.

Another immune “treat” I love to make came from a suggestion from a friend in the Midwest. She made these treats for her young children when they had hand, foot, and mouth disease: You take your elderberry syrup and make a very strong herbal tea of lemon balm (Melissa officinalis), mix the two and pour into ice cube trays and freeze. This makes a delicious frozen herbal ice cube treat. It is wonderful for sucking on to soothe a sore throat or any viral lesions in the mouth. Kids love the taste and they do not even know it is medicinal, just tastes great and provides relief.

Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis)

Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis)

I am an advocate of cultivating your own medicinal plants and using what grows locally in your bioregion when possible. My personal example of this is that I have two elderberry bushes in my backyard medicine garden. I harvest some flowers when in bloom and dry for use and then harvest the elderberries when ripe.  I grow lemon balm in my garden and harvest and dry for tea.  I use raw honey and propolis harvested from my beehives. For me there is no way to get any more local than growing and cultivating my herbal allies. For me cultivating this relationship is an integral piece of the synergy for healing. Of course there is absolutely no issue when needed to purchase quality products and ingredients for home medicine making. The very act of creating your home remedies is a process of connection and self care. Have fun, get creative, and enjoy the simple ways to cultivate your health.

Here’s to a happy and healthy New Year!

Amelia (Board Member – American Apitherapy Society Inc.,)