I am going to start this post by admitting that I tried to make elderberry lollipops last year and failed – miserably. Like blooper reel fail. Like catastrophic fail. Like burned candied spattered on my tablet fail.
I was not proud.
Bound and determined to right my wrong and arise successful from my previous failure, I had plans for this year’s elderberry crop. Well, the elderberry lollipops happened. And the result was far from a failure. In fact, it was a screaming success. Er, omit screaming (because I did a lot of that last year) and replace with resounding. I like that better. The elderberry lollipops were a resounding success. There you have it. The elderberry lollipops are decidedly tasty, and as my littlest would say “healthy cause mommy’s plant medicine is in it”. These elderberry lollipops are chock full of antiviral, antispasmodic and demulcent herbs to soothe and relieve painful coughs and irritated throats.
Cough Qualities and Tissue State
Coughs can be lumped into one of two categories: wet, heavy and loose OR dry, hot and hacking. Wet, heavy coughs are often associated with allergies, asthma, bronchitis, COPD, common cold or flu, pneumonia, and tuberculosis. They are frequently observed concurrent with runny nose and low grade fever in milder cases. These elderberry lollipops are not well suited for a wet, heavy cough (but these horehound lozenges are). Hot, dry coughs are often experienced with upper respiratory infections and are particularly troublesome in cases of croup or whooping cough. These coughs are often worse at night and when in a warm room. I formulated these elderberry lollipops to address the discomforts associated with this specific type of dry, hot cough.
Perhaps I should mention that this recipe is more about function than the literal form. Translation: feel to form this candy into any kind of drop or lozenge you prefer. I decided on the lollipop form (I use these silicone molds), because I am rather uncomfortable giving my little ones hard candy. Especially so when they are sickly, fussing, and given to coughing fits. The candy on a stick form gives me a tad more confidence their safety. It also allows them to leisurely suck on the lollipops, warming it to a syrup which coats their throats. Generally, I prefer a different herbal medicine delivery method than sugar. But, then, there is no disputing the almost universal partiality to sweetness. So if my “plant medicine” needs to ride to battle on the back of sugar (or honey,) so be it.
Speaking of plant medicine – here is the low down on the herbs that I have chosen for these medicinal lollipops:
Elderberry (Sambucus nigra): Eldberries are a powerful immune system stimulant. Recent studies indicated that elderberry preparations may shorten the duration of cold cold and flu. This flavorful antiviral serves as the foundation of these medicinal lollipops.
Marshmallow Root (Althaea officinalis): Demulcent and anti-inflammatory, marshmallow root boosts the throat coating action of the candy while also simultaneously reducing the perceived heat and discomfort.
Wild Cherry Bark (Prunus serotina): Undoubtedly the familiar flavor of few commercial brands of cough drops, wild cherry bark acts as a powerful antispasmodic, banishing hacking, tense, coughing fits.
Candy Making Wisdom
A few words of wisdom about candy making. This is no time to multitask. Candy making requires undivided attention – so keep kids, pets and pestering spouses out of the kitchen while you are in the process. Prepare yourself to stand at the stove for quite a while as there is no way to expedite the cooking process without courting disaster (see first paragraph). Slow and steady wins the race here. Have your molds prepared and at the ready. Wear long sleeves to protect your arms from splatter. Furthermore, damp or humid weather will greatly impact cooking time and results. A humid environment may result in particularly sticky lollipops. Once cooled and set, the lollipops should be coated in corn starch, powdered sugar, or (if you are feeling especially herbal) ground slippery elm root to prevent stickiness.
These lollipops are easily and quickly prepared with fresh, frozen, or dried (see recipe for variation) elderberries, dried wild cherry bark, and marshmallow root. Liberally dusted elderberry lollipops can be stored in a cool dry place in an airtight container, or just prepared at the first sign of the telltale cough. Elderberry lollipops are a sweet and whimsical way to deliver some potent plant medicine to the young and old.
These elderberry lollipops are delicious and the perfect thing for a dry, hot throat, and hoarse cough. Makes approximately two dozen immune stimulating, soothing lollipops.
- 2½ cups water
- 1 cup fresh or frozen blue or black elderberries or ½ cup dried
- ¼ cup marshmallow root
- ¼ cup wild cherry bark
- 2 cups organic cane sugar or honey
- ½ teaspoon cream of tartar to prevent crystalline texture
- corn starch powdered sugar or slippery elm root for dusting
Gently simmer water, elderberries, marshmallow, and wild cherry bark for approximately 20 minutes. Strain away solids and discard. The resulting liquid should measure two cups exactly; adjust accordingly.
In a 4 quart saucepan, combine warm elderberry liquid with sugar and cream of tartar.
Over medium high heat, bring mixture to a gentle boil. DO NOT LEAVE UNATTENDED. Continue boiling until hard crack stage is achieved, about 300 degrees on a candy thermometer. (Some candy makers advise not stirring during this time, however, I have not experienced any seed crystallization issues using a wood handled silicone spatula)
Pour into molds pre-prepared with lollipop sticks. You may need to press the sticks firmly into place and/or roll them slightly to ensure the stick stay in the center of the lollipop. Cool until set; about 30 minutes. Dust with preferred ingredient and store in a cool, dry place in an airtight container.
Saucepan and tools are easily cleaned of residual candy with the use of boiling water.
Cough Symptoms and Treatment. (n.d.). http://www.parents.com/health/cough/cough/
Hoffmann, D. (2003). Medical herbalism: The science and practice of herbal medicine. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press.
Wet Cough – Symptoms, Causes, Treatments – Causes. (n.d.). https://www.healthgrades.com/right-care/lungs-breathing-and-respiration/wet-cough–causes
Wood, M. (n.d.). Study Guide to the Six Tissue States [PDF].