The Truth About Elderberries

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Elder is probably the most well-known antiviral herb on the market at present. It can assist in reducing inflammation in the sinuses to relieve congestion, eliminate metabolic waste products, stimulate sweating to remediate fevers, and reduce flu and cold symptoms. Elderberries contain shikimic acid, an antiviral compound that is used to create Tamiflu.

The Truth About Elderberries:
While the anti-inflammatory and elimination effects of tannins, vitamin A, cyanogenic glycoside, viburnic and shikimic acids, and other health giving alkaloids in elderberries can withstand heating and drying, the Vitamin C complex and flavonoids can not. Heat and drying, whether it is stove top heat, or drying with air, stove, microwave (for the love of all things holy, please never use a microwave to dry herbs or for any other reason), dehydrators, or any other heat source will degrade to destroy the flavonoids in plants. Bioflavonoids are capable of increasing bodily health by supporting strong immune function and cell formation, destroy the cancer causing free radicals in the body that corrupt cellular information, and are antiviral to name just a few of their actions in the body. The most commonly found information on the “interwebs” says to use dried elderberries, make a tea, and then make a syrup from the tea. Boom!  Drying and heating. You’ve immediately lost a very important component of elderberries’ super powers! Some websites even go as far as to advise the use plain sugar instead of honey in making the syrup. Sugar decreases immune activity for several hours upon ingestion. Honey contains its own antibacterial properties. Please be very skeptical of herbal information given out there, and read all blogs with a grain of salt. Do your research before making herbal medicine.

Harvesting Elder is a blast!

Harvesting Elder is a blast!

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Garbling Elderberries

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In order to retain the immune supporting and antiviral vitamin C complex and flavonoids, it’s best to prepare elderberries fresh. Remember that the stems, seeds, and leaves of elder contain cyanins and must be removed. In order to easily separate the elderberries from the rest of the plant material, freeze the harvest overnight. Garble the berries from the stems while they are still frozen. Once the berries thaw out, it becomes difficult, time consuming, and messy to remove the stems. Now, take your berries, put them in a bowl, and gently squish the berries to break open the skins, making sure to not break open the cyanin containing seeds. Fill a pint jar 3/4s of the way up the jar with all your fresh squished berries. Fill half the jar with either brandy or apple cider vinegar, then top off with honey. Brandy and honey make an elixir, apple cider vinegar and honey make an oxymel. Tightly cover the jar with a plastic lid, or with a piece of parchment paper between the metal lid and the vinegar if making an oxymel, and put it on a dish as there may be some leakage. Be sure to put a label on it so you know what you made! Let steep for a month and strain. A half to a whole teaspoon in a cup of warm water several times a day is all that is needed to provide relief. As it takes a month to steep, you might want to get on this right away! You, your family, and your friends will be very happy when you provide them with herbal medicine that works well!

Blue Elder Flowers

Blue Elder Flowers

For reducing inflammation and fevers, and eliminating metabolic waste, the elder *FLOWERS* of the blue (not red) elder can used. To make a great-tasting and effective elder  syrup, put 2 cups of water in a saucepan. Add 1 cup of dried blue elderflowers. Bring to a boil, turn it down to a medium simmer, and let this simmer until half of the liquid is gone. The resulting brew is called a decoction. Strain the elder from the decoction, rinse out your pan, and return the strained decoction to the pan. Add twice the amount of honey to the decoction, heat until the honey is thoroughly incorporated into the decoction, and jar it up. You now have elderflower syrup that can be taken by the teaspoon straight, added to teas, warm water, drizzled over yogurt, ice cream, oatmeal, and more. Kids over 2 years of age love this syrup, and it will keep all winter in the fridge. I know the latest info is that babes over 1 year can ingest honey, but I’m not buying the hype. Keep in mind that the flavonoids in the flowers will be destroyed.

There you have it. Keep believing in herbal medicine and be healthy!

 

Comments

  1. Rachael  September 4, 2016

    Thank you for this- we are lucky to have a tree in our yard! I’m confused on the seeds- can you clarify what to do with them I the processing? Looks like the squeezing of the berry is meant to remove the seed (?) but that the seeds are also contained in a small sac that’s not meant to be broken? Do you remove these, separate, and then keep the remaining berry? Are there many seeds per pouch? Thank you!

    reply
    • Suzanne@cedarmountainherbs.com  July 12, 2017

      Breaking open the skins of the berries allows the menstruum easy access to the medicine inside. We do not want to break the seeds, as they contain chemicals that are harmful. The seeds are strained out after the remedy is ready.

      reply
  2. A Magical Life  March 17, 2017

    I’ve been writing a book on elderberry foraging and recipes, and I’ve researched extensively on the subject of how heat will affect the medicinal properties of elderberries. I especially wanted to know about the high heat involved in canning, since so many herbal sites recommend canning the juice but I thought the heat might harm the compounds in it. This is the first time I’ve seen mention that even drying elderberries harms the compounds. Rosemary Gladstar herself recommends using dried elderberries for anti-flu syrup, and I’m pretty inclined to believe anything Ms. Gladstar says (big fan here). Are you saying that all those herbalists are wrong and elderberries can only be used raw for medicinal purposes? I would love to find some research either way, as I’ve read that some of the medicinal properties are actually increased through heating but now I’m seeing this. Do you know of any studies? Thanks!

    reply
    • Suzanne@cedarmountainherbs.com  July 12, 2017

      Thank you for your comment and questions. I’ve never been one to debate what other herbalists say or do. There are many ways to make herbal medicine. Some are valid, some not. While some of the antiviral properties of the elder, as I stated in my article, are preserved with heat and drying, the bulk of the medicine is in the antioxidants. Antioxidants are a very large group of chemicals that have a wide variety of actions including antiviral, antiallergic, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, anticancer, and more. Science shows that antioxidants are destroyed with heat and drying. Please feel free to do your research on this, and provide a book that is well written with valid info.

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