Nothing soothes an oncoming cold like a remedy made with love. In this post from our archives, Kathleen talks about her go-to elderberry syrup recipe and taking care of yourself throughout the cold winter months.
A note: this post is from our archives, originally posted on November 14, 2017
We've all been there. October has come and gone, and with the darker, shorter days, comes the creeping winter cold. You've been working hard, preparing for the time off you'll take in the holidays, and right in the middle of it all, wham! It starts with the sniffles, and then you feel the aches in your body, not to mention the depleted energy. But no, you're not ready to get sick! What do you do?
The number one thing, of course, is to take care of yourself. I've noticed many friends and family members running down their adrenal systems this time of year, trying to take on way more than a normal workload. If you can, take some time for yourself, say "no" as much as you can, and bring down those stress levels! Your adrenal system is closely connected to your immune system- if your body is under too much stress, it communicates a shutdown of your immune system. It makes sense too: if you're running from a predator in the wild, you don't exactly need your immune system to be functioning at 100%! Best use what energy you can to escape near death. But in this day and age, we're running less from wild predators and working, drinking, and overextending ourselves more than ever. Don't forget to take a break!
The second most important thing is to drink plenty of fluids and maintain a healthy diet to nourish your immune system. Eat those fruits and veggies, and go on that longer walk. If you're already in the thick of the flu or a bad cold, you may find your appetite waning, and that's normal. Eat lighter foods that will trigger your mucus glands less, so skip the extra cheese and ice cream. Just listen to your body's needs, first and foremost.
This elderberry ginger syrup is so effective at combating my oncoming illnesses that just the smell of it brings back the warm feeling of missing school as a child and being bundled up in blankets while my wonderful mother tended to me.
And lastly, take medicine or herbs that will support your return to good health. Unfortunately, as we all know, the common cold and mild flu aren't the easiest to cure. Elderberry, Sambucus nigra, is a locally growing plant that has been a historic flu-fighting super herb. It's packed full of vitamins and minerals that help to build up your immune system and can be more effective than the flu shot at preventing the flu. There's something about the elderberries' complex sugars that disables common viruses' ability to penetrate through, and whether you're taking elderberry before or after you've gotten sick, it still effectively wards it off. And of course, add in some local honey to get some of the power of the local fauna and flora behind you. Honey has really amazing healing powers, being antibacterial, antiseptic, and best of all, a natural cough suppressant.
Here's a video of Rosemary Gladstar, mother of our modern herbal medicine movement, talking about the elder plant's incredible healing abilities, on Mountain Rose Herbs' YouTube channel.
Classic Elderberry Syrup Recipe*
- 2 parts water
- 1 part dried elderberries
- 1 part local honey
*This recipe uses folk measurements. Instead of specific measurements like cups or ounces, parts can be translated to whatever you want or have on hand. For example, for a smaller amount, you can replace parts with "cups" as your measurement, and for a larger amount, "pints."
Directions: Combine the cold water and elderberries in a pot and bring it to a boil. Once boiling, bring it down to a simmer and let it heat for about 30-45 minutes. Mash the berries, using a potato masher is easiest, and strain through a cheesecloth or metal strainer. Once strained, stir in the honey until fully integrated. This syrup should be good for 2-3 months when kept in the fridge.
In making mine, I add a half cinnamon stick and grated fresh ginger about the size of my thumb. Lucky for me, I also work at Honey & The Hive and added in some of our incredible propolis tinctures. Feel free to be creative with your favorite healing herbs!
Kathleen's homemade elderberry syrup among the Honey & The Hive honeys.