Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Colds and Flu, Just Chase Them Away With Elder Berries and Flowers

Hard to avoid this fact: the cold and flu season is indeed hard upon us. I have been hearing from many colleagues and friends who have been suffering from a seemingly endless stream of illness. One bug can be replaced by another, which might be slightly different, but equally as annoying as the previous one. Busy lives are caught in a maelstrom of sneezing, coughing and energy lack.

I have a simple refrain: Elder Berries, Elder Flowers; TEA, GLORIOUS TEA!

If all you have in your herbal pharmacopeia is Elder (sambucus nigra), I tell you, you cannot go far wrong with regard to treating your colds, flus and catarrhal inflammations of the respiratory tract. Add white willow for analgesic and yarrow to help with fevers, and you are well on your way to a return of good health. We, in my family, have all fought against colds in recent weeks, and have been able to avoid serious down-time because of drinking elderberry tea.

But let me get back to the basics about Elder.

Parts that can be used are: bark, flowers, berries and leaves. All you need, really, is a sack of dried berries and or flowers. Either or both can be obtained from your local health food store.

The flowers contain flavonoids: rutin, isquercitrine and kamperol, hydrocyanic glycoside sambunigrine, tannins and essential oil. The berries contain invert sugar, fruit acids, tannins, Vitamins C and P, and traces of essential oil.

The actions of the flowers are these: diaphoretic, anticatarrhal, pectoral. The actions of the berries are: diaphoretic, diuretic, laxative.

What that means is your system will get a good flushing. Out with the yucky, in with wellness!

I use the flowers in infusion. A cup of boiling water over 2 teaspoons of flowers. Infuse for 10 minutes. Drink hot three times a day.

The berries make a great tea, also. I take 2 Tablespoons of dried berries, place them in a tied muslin teabag and boil them in a full pan of water for 5 to 7 minutes. The resulting liquid is a lovely purple color.  I let this cool and squeeze the bag of berries to get the most out of them, then fill the pan with water and do it again on the same berries. The liquid can be stored in the fridge, and you can pour a cup to warm in the microwave.

To either tea, you may add honey to taste; but they can both be drunk without sweetener. Children will not be turned off by your medicine tea, especially if it has honey (no honey for infants, though!!!!).

I have made my own Elderberry cough syrup. It is so tasty, it can be poured over ice cream, for a special treat! And kids will not gag; they'll want to have it. Not to mention, it is less expensive than the horrid concoctions you can obtain at the local pharmacy.

Elderberry Cough Syrup

•              2/3 cup dried black elderberries
•              3.5 cups of water
•              2 Tbl fresh or dried ginger root
             2 Tbl dried licorice root
•              1 tsp cinnamon powder or half a cinnamon stick
•              1/2 tsp cloves or clove powder
•              1 cup honey
•              [1 tsp each optional herbs such as thyme, coltsfoot, sage, peppermint, chamomile, rosemary, yarrow, elderflower, eucalyptus and red clover tops, all good choices to pick from. Hot pepper, garlic and onion juice can also be introduced—but you will want to experiment!]

1. Pour water into saucepan and add elderberries, ginger, cinnamon and cloves. I put the berries into a reusable muslin teabag, tied with a bow.

2. Bring the contents of the pan to a boil. Cover and reduce to a simmer for about 45 minutes to an hour until the liquid has reduced by almost half.

3. [Optional] in the last 5 to 10 minutes, you can add a teaball with additional herbs to infuse into the liquid. Thyme, coltsfoot and sage are good throat soothers; peppermint and chamomile are good calm agents. You can also use garlic and hot peppers to bring warmth to the syrup, which also can soothe the throat. Eucalyptus and red clover tops are natural decongestants. Elderflowers, rosemary and yarrow are good, as well.

4. Remove from heat and let cool enough to be handled. [Leave in the tea ball with additional herbs, if you added them; they can continue infusing the liquid.] I fish out the berry bag and put that into a soup bowl to cool off. Once the berry bag is sufficiently cooled, you need to squeeze the gooey juice out of the plumped up berries into the pan with the rest of the liquid.

5. If you need to, strain liquid into a mixing bowl, to separate out any loose contents like whole cloves and roots. [Pull out the tea ball.]

6. Add the honey and stir or lightly whisk. If the resulting consistency is not quite syrupy, add a bit more honey. (The trick to this is reducing the elderberry liquid enough in step 2.)

7. Funnel the mixture into a large glass jar or a recycled bottle with a lid. (I had saved a lovely green olive oil bottle with a screw cap.)

You can refrigerate this mixture for 2 months or so. It can be used as topping for desserts, a dash in tangy salad dressings, an additive in hot toddies and warm teas, or stirred into fruit juice.

As always, you know I am a country cook and no doctor. This is just a soothing recipe, for your enjoyment and wellbeing!

Meanwhile, if you have been among the many brought down by illness, I hope you will feel better SOON!

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