Boost Your Immune System with Elderberry Syrup

These berries have been used medicinally since Ancient Egypt!

With COVID-19 cases rising again many of us are asking how we can stay healthy and protect our immune systems.


Elderberry syrup is a great addition to a healthy lifestyle! Elderberries are packed with antioxidants, contain immune-boosting vitamins, reduce inflammation and in studies the syrup has been shown to shorten the duration of the flu. While it may feel like the next COVID trend, elderberries have been used medicinally since Ancient Egypt.


How many of you use elderberry syrup? Have you started in the last year? At Painter's we are proud to sell elderberry syrup made by Brew Naturals, a local small business. We also sell elderberry bushes if you prefer to make your own! (and yes, they will be available during our fall season).


We've gathered some tips from friends and the web and will walk to you through every step of the process:


Planting

According to NC State University Extension, when planting elderberry bushes it is important to keep in mind that these plants prefer to stay cool and moist vs. hot and dry so look for a location where the bushes will be shielded from the hot afternoon sun. It is also recommended that you plant in pairs 6-10ft apart for cross-pollination . You can plant these bushes in the spring or fall (6-8 weeks before first frost). Be sure they get sufficient water until fully established - it is hard to overwater them. Once their roots take hold these plants are pretty low maintenance! Annual pruning is recommended to maintain berry production.


Harvesting

Berries will typically appear in the second year. Harvest the berries in August and September when they are dark purple to black (almost as dark as you can imagine) and they are soft and juicy. Beware they can often be targets for birds so you want to find the right balance between letting them ripen sufficiently and getting them before the birds do (using protective netting is also helpful). You'll want to cut off the clusters at the base of the fruit. Gardenerspath.com has a great tips for removing berries from the stem.


Making Elderberry Syrup

Here is a great recipe from best-selling author and herbalist Rosemary Gladstar (via https://homesteadandchill.com/homemade-elderberry-syrup-recipe/)


Ingredients:

  • 8 cups fresh elderberries

  • ¼ ounce freshly grated ginger root

  • ½ teaspoon ground cloves

  • Honey


Directions:

  • Combine dried berries with 8 cups of water.

  • Cook over low heat with the lid slightly ajar so that steam can escape, until the water is reduced by half.

  • Strain

  • Add the ginger and clove, and simmer, uncovered, until the liquid reduces to about half its original volume.

  • Pour the juice into a measuring cup and note its volume, then return to the pot.

  • Add the same amount of honey and stir until thoroughly combined.

  • Let cool, then bottle.

  • Store in the refrigerator, and use within 12 weeks.


Note: Be sure to cook elderberries thoroughly. Raw elderberry fruit, flowers and leaves contain a chemical that produces cyanide, which can cause nausea and vomiting at high doses.


You can put your own spin on this recipe by adding cinnamon sticks, orange peels, or cardamom seeds. Our friend and one-time Painters volunteer Timo Day likes to add thyme and other respiratory helpers for his asthma so get creative and tailor your syrup to fit your needs!


Painters friend Valerie Holbert learned the value of this syrup after making it at home for the first time this year and says she "now understands why elderberry syrup is so expensive!". Have you made your own elderberry syrup? Do you have a favorite recipe? Do you find its worth it to make your own or is it easier to buy it? We would love to know your experience!