Elderberries to the Rescue

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There’s a bit of crispness in the air these days, even when the warmth of summer is still hanging about. Plants all rush to finish their growing season, offering a multitude of food and medicine for us. Now’s the time to harvest and put away medicines for winter use.

Elderberries are ripe and dripping from the branches, enticing birds and other wildlife to eat with pleasure. While they eat them raw, we mostly save them for cooking. I love Elderberries in muffins, breads and pancakes. A syrup made from them is great for pouring on pancakes, ice cream and waffles and smart to have on hand as medicine as well. Berries can be put on cookie sheets in the freezer, then stripped from the stems and stored in glass jars or ziplock bags in the freezer to be used as needed. They can also be dried and stored on the shelf. Just be sure to dry them quickly so they don’t mold.

Look for Elderberries growing on the edges of the woods, in fence lines and near railroad tracks. It’s easiest to spot them in late spring, early summer when the white blooms are bright in an otherwise dark green landscape. The flowers look a bit like large Queen Anne’s Lace flowers — be sure not to confuse the two.

With flu season just around the corner, Elderberry is the number one herb to reach for to both prevent the flu from entering your house and treating it if you do get it. Containing high amounts of vitamins A and C, it’s good to have around in your wintertime arsenal of healing herbal remedies.

Each year, I like to make a good-sized bottle of Elderberry elixir to have on hand. Adding the alcohol increases the shelf life to help it last through the winter, if you don’t use it up before then!

1 quart jar with lid

2 cups Elderberries

3 cups brandy or vodka

1 cup honey

Chopstick or butter knife

Fill the quart jar half full with the Elderberries. Pour enough alcohol to fill the jar 3/4 full, about 3 cups worth then top off with honey. Use the chopstick or knife to stir the berries and incorporate the honey in with them. Top off with more honey until the jar is full and stir again. Seal the jar and label. Let sit for about 3 weeks, shaking daily.

To use, take 1 -3 teaspoons a day (smaller doses for children, larger for teenagers and adults) to help keep the flu at bay.

To use for treating the flu, take 1 teaspoon every hour or alternate with Echinacea tincture, taking Elderberry one hour, Echinacea the next and so on. Continue until symptoms subside then take 1 teaspoon 3 times a day.

This article was originally published in the Autumn 2011, Warmth edition at Rhythm of the Home

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