Elderberry Elixir – A Delicious Immune Boosting Gift

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Do you love elderberry as much as I do? Have you ever tried elderberry elixir or elderberry tincture? It’s quite a

Elderberry elixir - a delicious herbal gift
Elderberry Elixir

pleasant-tasting medicine, and makes a great gift for someone who can use some immune support. And, let’s face it, we ALL can use some immune support, am I right??

Elderberry is one of my favorite medicines, and my favorite thing to forage! I was so excited when we moved to our little farm, as there was a big, beautiful elderberry bush right there, on the property. Alas, my goats ate it…all…the…way….to….the….ground! Whaa, whaa, whaaaaaaa! Luckily, there is wild elderberries in the mountains just about a half hour from me. Every time we go to the mountains during elderberry season, I beg The Hubs to stop and let me pick some. He usually obliges!

 

Elderberry popularity

Elderberry syrup has become extremely popular in recent years, due to its strong anti-viral properties. Sambucol is an over-the-counter flu medicine that has black elderberry (Sambucus nigra) as its main active ingredient. But, like other typical medications, it also includes lots of other ingredients, like sugar, lactose, and microcrystalline cellulose.

Sambucol is very effective, but do we really want all of those additives in our medicine? PubMed states that Sambucol is effective in treating viruses, especially various strains of influenza, and reduces the duration of the flu to 3-4 days. It also states that elderberry is showing promise as a immunoprotective or immunostimulatory treatment for cancer and AIDS. Pretty amazing, right?

Elderberry elixir, or elderberry tincture, is a good alternative to Sambucol. It does contain alcohol (brandy), so those with complicated relationships with alcohol probably shouldn’t take it. It also contains honey, so vegans won’t take it. And babies under 1 year old shouldn’t take it, since it has honey. But, it is a more natural, chemical-free substitute for this very helpful medicine.

 

Elderberry benefits

  • Anti-viral
  • Anti-bacterial
  • Immune boosting
  • Antioxidant
  • Anti-catarrhal
  • Reduces inflammation
  • Diuretic
  • Laxative
  • Anti-allergenic
  • Anticancer

Elderberry is one of the highest natural sources of antioxidants, which makes them a very powerful weapon to boost your immune system. Elderberry is also beneficial for many other conditions, including heart health and diabetes.

If you’d like to read about more of the benefits of elderberry, I have a detailed post on elderberry, along with a video on elderberry identification so you can forage some of your own.

 

Benefits of elderberry elixir over elderberry syrup

Elderberry elixir lasts longer than elderberry syrup does. With the high-proof alcohol, elderberry elixir lasts for years and years. Elderberry syrup, on the other hand, can be water bath canned, so the shelf life can be a few years, but once it’s opened, it must be used within about a month. Maybe even less.

My favorite elderberry elixir recipe uses brandy. Brandy has actually been used for a few hundred years as a medicinal aid. Many of the ailments that you would take elderberry for, brandy also helps with. Brandy helps boost the immune system, as it is full of antioxidants. Since brandy is antibacterial and anti-inflammatory, it is helpful for sore throats. It helps with a cough, and even helps you sleep so you can feel better, faster.

Brandy is a main ingredient in many hot toddy recipes. Do you remember seeing the cartoon depicting the Saint Bernard in the Swiss Alps, with a barrel of liquid hung around his neck? Or maybe I’m just showing my age? Well, whatever, but that barrel typically contained brandy! Brandy has been used for many, many years as a stimulant, helpful in cases of hypothermia.

This elderberry elixir recipe also uses raw honey, whereas many elderberry syrup recipes just use sugar. Honey itself is very medicinal. Raw honey is antibacterial, and very soothing for coughs and sore throats. It is also full of antioxidants, which help to boost the immune system. If you have a sore throat, simply taking a spoonful of honey will help immensely. People also frequently add honey to teas when they are feeling under the weather.

These reasons combined are helpful in considering if you should make elderberry syrup or elderberry elixir. They are both wonderful medicines!

 

Making elderberry elixir

Elderberry elixir is very simple to make, but it does take some time to fully infuse. If you start this early in the fall, when the elderberries are ripe for the picking, it will be ready before winter hits and hopefully before you are stuck with a cold or the flu.

  • 1 cup dried elderberries
  • 25 ounces brandy
  • 5 ounces raw honey

Start with dried elderberries. You can buy dried elderberries online. Or, if you forage your own, you can put them in the dehydrator to fully dry them. I have a video on dehydrating elderberries for this exact purpose!

Dried elderberries are the safest to use in an elderberry elixir, as the moisture content in fresh berries can cause mold.

Dried elderberries are the safest to use in an elderberry elixir, as the moisture content in fresh berries can cause mold.

Dried elderberries in a jar
Elderberries in brandy
Pour honey in with the elderberries and brandy
Finished product, ready to infuse

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Directions

Put about a cup of elderberries into a quart glass jar. Pour in about 25 ounces of brandy. You want the quart jar to be filled about 3/4 of the way with the berries and brandy. Then pour in about 5 ounces of raw honey (local is best!). It doesn’t have to be perfect, but leave about 1 inch of headspace. Put on the lid and shake thoroughly.

Place the jar in a dark cupboard for 4-6 weeks, shaking daily (or as often as you remember to!). You will notice that the honey will settle to the bottom. Do your best at each shaking to disperse the honey into the brandy!

At the end of the infusion time, strain the elderberries out of the mixture. I suggest using doubled-up cheesecloth or butter muslin. Squeeze the elderberries lightly to release the last bit of juice into the mixture.

Store the elderberry elixir in your original quart jar, out of direct sunlight. For ease of use, pour a small amount into a tincture bottle with a dropper. I like these. This can be refilled when needed from out of the quart jar.

 

Optional herbs to boost your elderberry elixir

There are additional herbs that you can add to your elderberry elixir during the infusion process to boost its effectiveness. There are many herbs that assist with different conditions, so you can personalize your elixir to your specific needs.

  • Ginger is anti-inflammatory, and very helpful for sore throats and low fevers. It also helps to kill the rhinovirus that causes the colds in the first place!
  • Sage is very helpful for colds and sore throats. It is antiseptic, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and astringent, making it a wonderful addition for colds.
  • Echinacea is another immune-boosting powerhouse. It is said to help fight off germs and fight off infections, as it increases your white blood cell count.
  • Cloves are a wonderful additive as well. They taste great when combined with the sweetness of elderberry, and they are antibacterial, antiviral, anti-inflammatory, and analgesic.
  • Cinnamon is another tasty additive, especially if you’re not fond of cloves. Cinnamon is similar to cloves, in that it is antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, and analgesic.
  • Thyme is a wonderful addition for respiratory issues. Thyme is a great expectorant, and is antibacterial, antifungal, and anti-spasmodic, so it is very helpful for bronchitis and other spasmodic coughs.

 

How to enjoy your elderberry elixir

Many people take their elderberry elixir as a preventative during cold and flu season. For preventative measures, one dropperful in the morning and one at night should suffice. If you feel a cold coming on, you should take one dropperful several times a day.

I find the taste of this elderberry elixir quite pleasant, so I usually take it plain. If you don’t particularly like the taste, you can mix it in some water, tea, or juice, or take it with additional honey.

 

Other ideas for gifts from the homestead

This post has been inspired by Gifts From The Homestead, a special collaboration with several of my blogging friends. Please check them out, and make sure you tell them that I sent you!

Gifts From The Homestead
Gifts From The Homestead

 

 

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