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Elderberry Syrup--no H1N1 for this family!

I wanted to let you know about my recent experience making my own anti-flu medicine because I am just so thrilled to be able to make a proven antiviral flu remedy for a mere fraction of the cost of the commercially prepared variety.
Elderberries grow on tall, spindly bushes and the tiny dark blue-black berries develop in clusters after the feathery flower fade. Elderberry bushes are apparently quite easy to grow so I will be looking to add one to my garden soon as elderberries are extremely nutritious, rich in antioxidants, an known to stimulate the immune system in response to flu viruses. As the H1N1 hysteria grows (along with the pressure to subject our children to a virtually untested vaccine) you can bet I want something safe and free of side effects to give my family when we head into crowded synagogues and classrooms later this month.

Elderberry syrup, as it turns out, is super easy to make. The only hard part is finding your berries. Here in the Portland metro area Morning Shade Farm has a row of u-pick elderberry bushes. It took about 10 minutes to fill our buckets with snipped berry clusters. The only fiddly bit is coaxing the berries off the stems. After that, a quick rinse, a bit of a simmer, some straining, adding honey, and bottling. That's it! Seriously. Instead of paying $9-12 for a 4 ounce bottle of Sambucol, I have nearly a quart of the stuff which cost about $2, plus another 4 batches worth of berries in the freezer. How cool is that?

The recipe I used came from Rosemary Gladstar's Family Herbal which is the source of The Dreaded Tonic, our standard homemade cold remedy. I made a double batch of the elderberry syrup by gently simmering 2 cups of washed elderberries in 4 C water for 45 minutes. I let things cool a bit and then strained the juice through a fine mesh strainer, mashing all the solids to extract as much liquid as possible. I then mixed in about a cup and a half of honey and poured into a 1 liter ez cap bottle (I buy mine here). I will keep this refrigerated. The great part is that, unlike the tonic, this stuff is good. Really good. Like pour it on your pancakes or drink straight from the bottle good. I only used about half the suggested quantity of honey and it's still sweet and fruity and ever so delicious. I won't have any trouble getting my kids to take their daily dose. That would 2T/day for big kids and adults and 1 T/day for younger ones as a preventative measure and twice that amount to reduce severity if someone falls ill with the flu. Because of the honey I wouldn't give this to babies.

One thing I learned as I did a little research: under no circumstances should you substitute red elderberries which are quite toxic. And don't eat your black elderberries raw--they can cause stomach upset.

I understand that the hard part here is finding the elderberries. But they are out there--ask around. And if you can't find fresh, you could make this with dried elderberries purchased online though I don't know how the cost would compare to commercially made. I figure that using my u-pick berries I can make close to 5 quarts of this stuff for under $10 which might be an incentive to plant a bush in your garden. I hope you are able to try this and that we all stay healthy this fall.

PS--the original post has links which seemed to disappear when I copied this into Homegrown.org. If you want to follow them, the original post is here:http://magpieeats.blogspot.com/2009/09/elderberry-syrup.html

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Comment by Carrie Seal-Stahl on September 4, 2009 at 2:57pm
You can purchase your own Elderberry shrubs at www.starkbros.com. They are $10.99 each. I was thinking about getting some when we move myself, now that I hear this remedy, I'm even more swayed!
Comment by Magpie Ima on September 4, 2009 at 3:10pm
My son just did the math. He figures that for the price of a bottle and a half of Sambucol, we now have enough berries for about 30 bottles worth. Yeah, I kind of think it might be worth putting in a bush or two.
Comment by Joanie Landry on September 9, 2009 at 2:05pm
I order dried elderberries from The Herbalist (theherbalist.com) in Seattle ($2.33/oz) when fresh are unavailable. Since it takes only 1/2 cup berries per 3 cups of water and 1 cup of honey, the cost of making this wonderful remedy is so much less than store-bought and available to everyone...plus you get to put all your love and good intentions into the brew! I have been making this for family, friends and co-workers for a few years now and the results are astounding and gratifying.

Magpie Ima....is your "Dreaded Tonic" Rosemary's Fire Cider recipe? That is so much fun to make, bloody awful to take, but there is nothing better to clear up a cold !!! Good stuff, herbs !
Comment by Magpie Ima on September 9, 2009 at 2:19pm

She calls it Hair Raising Cider in my book. Nasty, nasty stuff. I know it's good for me but I seriously can not choke it down anymore!
Comment by Linda L Gregorian on October 3, 2009 at 3:56pm
Comment by Cornelia on October 9, 2009 at 4:35pm
You know, we were all in St. Louis last week and a few folks had already been struck down with the plague. I went to a local health food store and they recommended an elderberry/zinc/echinachea tonic. Didn't taste too bad and we never caught the nasty bug. I'm SO seeking out elderberries for my own potion - a bottle of this stuff was $18!! Works, though...thanks!
Comment by Cassandra on October 13, 2009 at 1:47pm
I'm looking forward to hunting some of these berries down myself! Two years ago my granddaughter got the flu shot after I told my daughter not to get it for her. It was in March and the entire house was sick after not having any problems before. I agree with you about the H1N1 virus. There is no way on earth any of us are getting that. Thanks for the great idea for the garden. Too bad I can't start it yet!
Comment by aaba on October 16, 2009 at 12:14pm
BE CAREFUL! H1N1 is NOT like seasonal flu and elderberry extract will actually worsen the illness. The short story is: H1N1 strain of flu stimulates high levels of inflammatory cytokines and creates what is known as a 'cytokine storm' in the body; vast majority of individuals who have died from H1N1 have died as a result of this overproduction of cytokine by the immune system which results in severe pneumonia. Guess what elderberry extract does? Yup, stimulates production of cytokines; this is great in response to seasonal flu, in response to H1N1, you are basically adding gasoline to a fire. Elderberry extract MAY be a good preventative against H1N1 but should NOT be used as treatment. Even the manufacturer of Sambucus has posted a warning on this.

Not trying to be a jerk, but using marginal info to make medical decisions with regard to use of herbals is as irresponsible and dangerous as popping pharmaceuticals without understanding what you're taking. Find yourself a good, reputable, certified holistic/naturopathic physician who also has a good working understanding of western medicine.


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