How to Identify the Elderberry Bush The importance of getting out in the wild cannot be denied. For the prepper and survivalist its all just a game until you put yourself out there. Even a weekend hunting trip can familiarize you with the feelings of real survival. One of the very best feelings is when …
As always, I’m going to start this article with the standard caveat: Be very careful whenever you harvest a natural or wild fruit or berry. Only 10 percent of wild berries are safe to eat. The other 90 percent are toxic — and some like belladonna or deadly nightshade are downright poisonous.
Unfortunately, this applies to some degree with elderberries. There are two varieties. One has a red look when ripe and the other has a blue tone. The blue ones are safe to eat. The red ones can be toxic. The blue variety is referred to as Sambucus candensis. The red variety is referred to as Sambucus pubens. Don’t eat the red ones, look for the blue ones. They’ll often have a frosty, white coating as they mature.
You should know as well that the leaves, stems and roots of elderberries are toxic. It’s enough to make you think twice about harvesting this fruit, but hey, rhubarb stalks taste great and the leaves are poisonous. You just have to know what you’re doing.
We’re going to cover finding, harvesting and processing elderberries. The processing step essentially involves reducing the berries to a juice that can be made into elderberry juice, elderberry syrup and elderberry jelly. But you may want to think twice before grabbing a handful of wild elderberries and chomping them down.
For one, the berries are a bit tart. I would say they’re similar to wild grapes. The other thing you’ll find is they have very thin, almost sliver-like seeds. If you have any gaps in your teeth, you’ll be looking at about 10 minutes of flossing after chewing a handful. That’s why the first step for any elderberry recipe is juicing the fruit.
Elderberries are a bushy plant that grows from 6 to 16 feet tall. They mature throughout the summer, which makes them a great wild berry to harvest. Unlike other berries like mulberries, black-raspberries and black berries — which have a limited growing season of 2 to 3 weeks — elderberries show up from July through September in many parts of North America.
The berries are easy to harvest in bunches tossed into a basket and unlike some wild berries, there are no thorns. There are various ways for separating the berries, from using a wide-toothed comb to simply pulling them off with your hands. Pick out any stems and wash them thoroughly and you’re ready to take the first step: Creating elderberry juice. Look for them growing in fields and forests and maybe you’ll be surprised to find one in your backyard. Cast some of the berries around and you’ll have a steady harvest over the years.
We’re going to cover three basic elderberry recipes – two that can be used for medicinal purposes and a third that is simply delicious:
- Elderberry juice.
- Elderberry syrup.
- Elderberry jelly.
All three of these recipes are easy to make, but first you must extract the juice. The good news is that this is a simple and basic process using a saucepan, some water and a potato masher. It’s a very off-grid approach and you definitely don’t want to use a food processor.
Elderberry Juice Recipe
- 1 cup of elderberries
- 1 cup of water
- Sugar, honey of other sweetener to suit your taste
Place the elderberries and the water in a saucepan. You can scale this up if you have a lot of elderberries. The basic combination is one cup of water to every cup of elderberries. Bring the water/elderberry combination to a gentle boil and begin mashing the berries with a potato masher.
After a few minutes of mashing, pour the elderberry/water mix into a fine sieve over a bowl and gently mash with a spoon to extract as much juice as possible. Discard the mash. I usually toss it on the compost heap.
You now have elderberry juice, but your first taste will be quite tart. If you’re the tart type, go for it. I like to add a little sugar or honey to sweeten it up.
Elderberry Syrup Recipe
This is actually a highly effective, natural medicine. It’s been used for hundreds of years to treat coughs, colds and flu, and we’re going to take it up a notch with an infusion of willow bark. Elderberries are very high in vitamin C and by their nature help the auto-immune system. This recipe also has honey as a key component, which is also a natural remedy, and then there’s the willow bark component. The inner layer of willow bark, referred to as the xylem layer, has high concentrations of an element known as “salicin.” Salicin is the active ingredient in aspirin. In fact, it was a German chemist named Augustus Bayer who first synthesized salicin to make a product now known as Bayer Aspirin.
You can leave out the willow bark step if you’re just trying to make syrup for pancakes, but if you want a very effective cough syrup for coughs, colds sore throat and flu, the willow bark infusion might be a good idea.
- 1 cup of elderberry juice
- 1 cup of honey
- 1 cup or water
- (To make a willow bark infusion add 1 tablespoon of shaved xylem from the inner, heartwood layer of a willow tree in hot water for 30 minutes and strain.)
Add all ingredients to a sauce pan and heat to a gentle boil for 10 minutes, stirring regularly. Pour into glass, canning jars and process in boiling water for 25 minutes. Store in a refrigerator or fruit cellar for up to one year. Once opened, keep refrigerated and it should last for up to a month.
Elderberry Jelly Recipe
- 3 cups of elderberry juice
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 1 box fruit pectin
- 4 1/2 cups sugar
Boil the ingredients for one minute and pour into canning jars. Process in a hot, boiling water bath with jars totally immersed for 25 minutes. Remove jar or jars and let cool. Store in a root cellar or fridge.
Have you ever cooked with elderberry? What advice would you add? Share it in the section below:
There are several varieties of elderberry grown throughout the world, but the medicinal herb we want for its powerful cold- and flu-fighting powers is European black elderberry, or Sambucus nigra L.
Elder is a shrub that originates in Europe, Asia and Africa, and it has dark black berries and small white flowers. Medicinal uses of the elder plant go back centuries. Remnants of the plant have been found in stone age sites, and the plant was referenced in writings by Pliny the Elder and Hippocrates.
Almost all parts of the elder plant were used in ancient times. The wood was used for making instruments. The flowers and berries were used for medicine.
Of course, elderberry can be grown and harvested in your own yard. If you choose to do this, make sure the elderberry plant you grow is the correct type. The varieties native to the United States are not the same as black elderberries that are used in herbal remedies. If you do not have your own elderberry plant, you can buy the dried elderberries and use them to make your own herbal medicines.
Elderberries are high in vitamins A, B and C and have antioxidant, antiviral and other healthy properties.
A Word of Caution
Elderberries contain seeds that contain a toxic chemical, but cooking the berries removes the toxicity. Elderberries can be prepared in many ways, including in teas, syrups and tinctures. One of the great benefits of most elderberry preparations is that they are safe for children as well as for adults.
This winter, why not make your own elderberry medicine? Following are two recipes that can help keep your family healthy.
Elderberry Syrup Recipe
Elderberry is easily made into a syrup that can be used not only as a medicine but also on pancakes and ice cream. This syrup can last several months when stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. In addition to water, it contains only four ingredients.
- 4 cups cold water
- 2 cups dried elderberries
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger root or dried ginger root
- Raw local honey
- Put the berries, herbs and cold water in a pot and boil.
- Reduce heat and simmer the mixture for about 45 minutes.
- Remove from heat and mash the berries.
- Allow mixture to cool and strain the liquid with cheesecloth, making sure to squeeze out all of the juice.
- Measure the liquid and add an equal amount of honey.
- Gently heat the mixture until the honey and juice are combined. Do not let it boil.
For children, take ½ teaspoon to 1 teaspoon per day. For adults, take ½ tablespoon to 1 tablespoon per day. If you have a cold or the flu, take the normal dosage every three hours for the duration of your illness.
These gummies are fantastic and are great for children who don’t want to take medicine when they are sick. The little gummies are sweet and tart and are like eating a fruit snack or fun candy. They also can be taken daily to boost your immune system.
- 1 cup elderberry syrup
- ½ cup hot water
- ¼ cup gelatin
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil for greasing your pan
- Glass pan or silicone molds
- Grease molds or pan with coconut oil.
- Put ¼ cup elderberry syrup and gelatin in a 2 cup measuring cup and whisk together.
- Add ½ cup hot, but not boiling, water, and whisk until smooth.
- Add the remaining elderberry syrup and stir until completely smooth.
- Pour gelatin mixture into your molds.
- Refrigerate at least 2 hours or until they are completely set.
- Remove them from the molds and store in an airtight container.
Eat one gummy daily to boost your immune system. If you have a cold or the flu, eat one every 4-5 hours throughout the day.
If you have chronic health problems or are taking any medications, please consult with your doctor before using herbal medicines.
Have you ever used elderberry? What advice would you add? Share it in the section below:
*This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose or cure any particular health condition. Please consult with a qualified health professional first about this method.
Bond, Carol. History of Elder. Retrieved from http://www.herballegacy.com/Bond_History.html. Retrieved on Nov. 21, 2016.
De la Forêt, Rosalee. “Elderberry Gummy Bear Recipe.” Retrieved from http://learningherbs.com/remedies-recipes/gummy-bear-recipe/. Retrieved on Nov. 21, 2016.
“Does Black Elderberry Syrup Really Fight Cold and Flu Viruses?” Retrieved from http://www.homemadehints.com/black-elderberry-syrup-extract-benefits/. Retrieved on Nov. 21, 2016.
“Flu-Busting Gummy Bears.” Retrieved from http://wellnessmama.com/4599/flu-busting-gummy-bears/. Retrieved on Nov. 21, 2016.
“How to Make Elderberry Syrup.” Retrieved from http://mountainroseblog.com/elderberry-syrup-recipe/. Retrieved on Nov. 21, 2016.
The common cold and the flu have been around for a long time. Today, people use preventative measures as well as over-the-counter remedies to stay healthy, but what did our ancestors do before pharmacies and modern medicines were commonplace?
One of the most commonly used flu and cold remedies was elderberries. In fact, it’s still used in medicines today. You can buy elderberry-based cough syrups, which have been proven to reduce the severity of the common cold or flu, in your local pharmacy.
How Can Elderberries Help?
Elderberries (Sambucus nigra), which are native to a few parts of Europe and the US, come from a flower bush that produces small, black/purple fruits, similar to mulberries. They taste something like a strong blackberry.
Please note that the leaves of elderberry bushes can be poisonous, so don’t eat them or use them for tea. Elderberries need to be cooked prior to use or they can cause intense vomiting and diarrhea.
Numerous studies back up claims that elderberries contain anti-viral compounds, which prevent you from becoming infected in the first place – and shorten the duration and severity of the illness when you do get sick.
Grow Your Own
Order an elderberry bush from a reputable nursery and be certain you are getting Sambucus nigra.
One of the great things about elderberry bushes is that they are very easy to grow. They tolerate poor soil and very wet soil. However, one thing that elderberry bushes love is water. If you have hot, dry summers, you will need to give these little beauties water on a weekly basis.
If you want to plant more than one, put them about 3 feet apart, in rows about 12 feet apart. You should plant at least two bushes (for cross-pollination). For best results, do nothing to the plants for the first two years. Do not prune them and do not remove the berries. Just let them be their own wild selves for a short time, and then you can prune them and use the berries as you wish. Prune in the early spring and remove dead branches.
They will just give a few berries their very first year, but by the second year, you will have plenty. Berries ripen somewhere between the middle of August and the middle of September, which gives you just enough time to mix up some elderberry syrup!
How to Make Your Own Elderberry Syrup
Of course, people use elderberries for things other than cold medicine. There are recipes for elderberry wine, elderberry “marshmallows” and even elderberry pie. Today, however, we are going to look at a quick and easy way to make elderberry syrup.
There are probably as many recipes for this syrup as there are for meatloaf. This one is very basic and simple, but gets the job done. Tastes pretty good, too!
- 1 cup of dried elderberries or 1.5 cups of fresh berries
- 5 cups of water
- 2 tablespoons of ginger
- 1 teaspoon of cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon of clove powder
- 1 cup of honey
- 16-ounce glass container with lid (Mason jars are a good choice)
- In a medium-sized pot, add all ingredients except for the honey
- Bring to a boil, and then cover.
- Reduce heat to simmer
- Allow to simmer for 45 minutes or until the liquid is reduced to about half
- Remove from heat and allow to cool until lukewarm
- Mash the berries a bit, and then strain from pot into a bowl
- Add honey and mix well
- Pour into container of your choice
A standard dose is 1 teaspoon for children 12 and under every 3 to 4 hours. Adults can take 1 tablespoon every 3 to 4 hours.
Some people recommend giving children 1 teaspoon each day (and adults 1 tablespoon) during the flu season for preventative measures, but this is a matter of choice, as there are no studies showing this will prevent you from catching a cold or flu. That being said, it certainly wouldn’t hurt anything if you decided to try it!
This syrup is best when stored in the refrigerator and will last for several months. You can also freeze it in ice cube trays, and then seal them in plastic bags for later use. Elderberries also can be frozen if you want to make fresh batches during the winter months.
Have you ever consumed elderberries to boost your health? What advice would you add? Share your tips in the section below:
- Low white blood cell count
- Common Cold
- auto imune disorders
- side effects of chemotherapy
- heart problems
- kidney problems
- viral hepatitis
- high blood pressure
- 2 tablespoons of dried elderberries
- 3 tablespoons of dried rose hips
- 4 tablespoons of dried dandelion( Root preferred)
- 3 cups of filtered water or distilled water
- 1.5 cups of raw wildflower honey or a good food grade vegetable glycerine.