It is fall now. And all the kids are in school – even the little one. Don’t get me started on the mixed emotional baggage of sending the last baby off to full-day classes (less Daniel Tiger and snack requests, but so many less kiss and cuddle requests). The peace and quiet gained make for a great time to get things done – like writing and medicine making. It is also a great time to contemplate the impending doom of the cold and flu season.
Good thing mama’s an herbalist.
This is my last season with my beloved elder tree. The new property has a couple, but the canopy is way too high to consider harvesting. I will leave those elderberries for Mother Nature and the birds and start scouting new foraging spots for next year. But this year, I will be crafting medicine from every elderberry cluster within reach. More tincture and lollipops for sure, but I think I might add a tasty new medicine by way of an elderberry immunity syrup with rose hips and astragalus.
Prevention is the name of the game when seasonal viruses start their annual invasion. Good diet, adequate exercise, great personal hygiene, and proper intake of vitamins and minerals is key to overall good health and offers the immune system a fighting chance when the marauding microbes appear. But sometimes additional support is needed. Elderberries are a much-heralded immune system supporting herb, and a daily spoonful of this syrup may help one to avoid the “plague” lurking on every door handle and faucet.
Elderberry (Sambucus spp): Elderberries have a profound affinity for the immune system, boosting cytokine production and strengthening cell membranes against the viral attacks. Studies have demonstrated its elderberry extract efficacy against no less than 10 influenza strains and an average reduction in flu symptoms of 3-4 days. (Hoffman, 2003)
Elderberries are abundant in the wild and inexpensive to purchase in the dried form. Accessibility and efficacy make elderberries a key component of any immunity formula.
And they taste good too.
Rose Hips (Rosa spp): Rose hips are gram higher in vitamin C than citrus fruits, gram for gram. While scientific evidence is a bit fuzzy about whether vitamin C actually prevents or reduces the duration of illness, it is an inarguably powerful antioxidant. Rose hips are yet another plant ally to protect cell health during the cold and flu season, while also assisting in the bioavailability of certain essential minerals vital to good health.
Astragalus (Astragalus membranaeus): A powerful immunomodulator, astragalus is an excellent herb to balance and restore the immune system, elevating both specific and non-specific immunity. Studies indicate that it may help to re-establish red blood cell counts, maintain healthy white blood cell counts, and ameliorate damaged or diseased tissue. These characteristic make this herb a wonderful choice for those in with compromised immune health, while also assisting with the recovery from a contracted illness.
A few thoughts on sugar… Sometimes I combine raw honey and tinctures to create a “syrup”. In this instance, the alcohol content of the tincture prevents the effective dilution of the honey and ensuing fermentation potential. Wanting and alcohol-free syrup, I chose instead to make a heavy syrup, using two parts sugar to one part liquid. Remember that while this is a high sugar remedy, we are only consuming small amounts at any time. I would also like to add that as a “heavy syrup” this syrup is theoretically shelf stable. Officially, I will tell you that you should store your container in the refrigerator.
This elderberry immunity syrup with rose hips and astragalus root is a wonderful tonic for the cold and flu season. Taken daily, this immunity syrup may give your immune system the helping hand that it needs to forge through the microbial jungle unscathed. Due to the nature of this formula, I would advise those with autoimmune disorders to speak with their physician before using this or any other immune supportive formulas.
Note: As I invariably receive comments or messages asking why I didn’t suggest this or that herb, that there may be better herbs, and so on and so forth – I want to add that I choose elderberry, rose hips and astragalus based on safety, efficacy, availability, and affordability. This also produces a very palatable syrup even pernickety youngster won’t mind taking. Beyond that, several popular immune-enhancing herbs such as echinacea and goldenseal are perilously overharvested, so I want to steer the conversation towards conservation efforts by way of reasonable alternatives.
Elderberry Immunity Syrup with Rose Hips and Astragalus
When the cold and flu season comes around, you might find it helpful to have this elderberry immunity syrup with rose hips and astragalus in supply! This elderberry syrup is tasty enough that even picky kids won't mind taking their herbal medicine!
Adult dosage: 1-2 teaspoons, 3x daily
Children, ages 6-12: 1/2 teaspoon, 2-3X daily
Children, ages 2-4: 1/4 teaspoon, 2x daily
- 1 cup fresh elderberries or 1/2 cup dried
- 1/4 cup dried rose hips or 1/2 fresh
- 1/4 cup dried astragalus root
- juice of one small lemon
- 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar (to help prevent crystallization)
- 2 cups water
- 2 cup organic sugar
In a small saucepan, combine water, elderberries, astragalus, and rose hips. Brimmer to a simmer over medium heat, and continue to simmer uncovered for 20-30 minutes. Remove from heat and strain solids away from the liquid. The resulting volume should be about one cup; reduce further to add more water to adjust.
Return the liquid to the saucepan. Add sugar, lemon juice and cream of tartar. Over medium high heat, cook the mixture until it reads 220 degrees (F) on a candy thermometer. Remove from heat.
Cool slightly, and pour into sterilized bottles for storage. Refrigerate after opening.