Elderberry For Colds & Flu

Among the remedies I recommend storing up, elderberries are right up near the top. They are well known to help prevent colds and flu, especially being beneficial for flu viruses.

Where I live elderberries grow wild (and no one seems to want them or know how valuable they are). I recommend you keep your eyes open as you’re driving down country roads, especially near water during the late summer months. You will begin to see flowering trees with slightly drooping clusters of off-white blooms like these:

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The cluster on the top is already beginning to form the berries, which will turn dark purple when ripe and have a whitish film over it (like the berries below) after a frost in the fall.

The branches with the berries on them are fairly easy to break off, but you may want to take some shears with you when you’re harvesting and plenty of containers to hold them all. We take plastic grocery bags to go to the harvest site and keep a box in the back of our car.

 

Make sure to pick only the dark purple/black ones, as the red ones are said to be toxic.

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Here’s what I did with the box we gathered. I made elderberry syrup, frozen blocks, and extract/tonic.

For the syrup and frozen blocks, I first placed the berries, stems and all, in the freezer. I had read that this would make the berries easier to remove from the stems. It worked well, and I had my entourage help me pluck the berries (which they were happy to do!). After plucking them off, I then washed them thoroughly in a colander. Then I just covered with water in a saucepan, bringing them to a boil.

I cooked them until they were soft, and the whole mixture was very dark purple (almost black). Next came the very messy part! I pressed them through the strainer, but I got a lot of seeds through, since my strainer is not fine. I then used a screen-type strainer with cheese cloth layered in it to strain out the rest of the seeds. Everything that the berries came in contact with became dark purple – so beware!

I then canned 3 pints of this elderberry juice/syrup and filled 2 ice cube trays as well. After the ice cubes were frozen, I popped them out and sealed them in a freezer bag. These will be handy to add to hot tea in the winter to add flavor and immune-enhancing properties.

I also made an elderberry extract/tonic with vodka. This was more simple, as it didn’t require any cooking or straining. I simply plucked and washed the elderberries as above. Then I filled a quart jar halfway with elderberries, followed by vodka added to the top.

This mixture sat in a dark place for about a week until it was very dark in color. I then strained out the berries and added 1/3 cup sugar, shaking vigorously. I then returned it to the dark cupboard. Over the next couple days, I checked on it and shook it again as needed. It was ready for drinking after 2 weeks, but will last indefinitely without canning or refrigeration (as the vodka preserves it).

I plan to drink a small amount when feeling “under the weather.” In order to remove all or most of the vodka, it can be added to a hot drink as well.

Note: I have since found an easier way to produce the elderberry syrup without all the straining and mess, and I produced this video below to guide you through it.

If you don’t have access to elderberries or it’s the wrong time of year and you didn’t get any, you can purchase dried elderberries and make the syrup the same way. I recommend Starwest Botanicals for purchasing dried elderberries and all your herbal needs. You can also purchase already-made syrup from them as well.

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Foraging & Using Rose Hips

The lowly rose hip – highly underrated and extremely nutritious.

In fact, rose hips have an incredible amount of vitamin C, which is very beneficial for preventing colds and flu and helping the body to withstand stress.

Rose hips are the “fruit” that is produced after the rose finishes blooming. Just as a fruit tree blooms first and then produces fruit, so does the rose bush. This fruit is very beneficial and should not be ignored if you’re serious about your health and enjoy foraging natural and free sources of nutrition.

In this post, I want to tell you (with words and pictures) how I have foraged and used the abundant rose hips in my area and show you how to do the same. No one else seems to know how rich they are in nutrients, or perhaps they simply don’t want to bother to do the work involved with picking and processing their own rose hips for the vitamin C benefits.

I thoroughly enjoy the whole process. But if you don’t, or if you don’t have access to wild rose hips in your area (or hips that have not been sprayed with pesticides), you can purchase dried rose hips for processing here.

Make sure that you pick rose hips only from areas that you’re certain have not been sprayed with chemical pesticides or herbicides. I picked mine in fairly remote, wild areas from wild rose bushes.

Along with the nutritional benefits, rose hip tea has a very delicious, light flavor and can be mixed with other herbal teas easily if desired. It is also easily given to children, and my two young sons truly enjoy their frequent rose hip tea in the wintertime.

This recipe for making frozen rose hip blocks is especially useful for children, as the tea cools more quickly, but my husband and I use them in our tea frequently as well. The frozen blocks make a perfect portion size for potency and flavor and are quick for busy families.

Our yearly rose hip foraging habit began a few years ago when my family and I discovered tons of the bright orange/red jewels on a family walk in late summer by a nearby lake. It was evident that they hadn’t been sprayed due to their wild habitat, so we spent about 20 minutes picking as many as we could reach. We collected enough in a basket for a small pan full (approximately 3 cups).

First, let me show you my harvest, then I will show you how to make use of them.

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Make sure to pick the hips when they are red but not shriveled. This would be in late summer, early fall when temperatures are cooling somewhat but no hard freeze has occurred. I picked mine in late August in the Northwest US.

The next thing you want to do after harvesting is to remove the blossom ends and stems of all the rose hips. The blossom end is the leafy-looking end where the bloom once was. At home, I proceeded to pick off the blossom ends (with the help of my sons again).

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Be aware that your fingers may get a little stained during this process, so you may want to wear gloves.

Here are the hips in the strainer ready for rinsing.

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After rinsing them thoroughly with water, I placed them in a medium-sized saucepan with just enough water to cover them.

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I brought the pan to a simmer over medium heat, pressing the hips gently with a spoon.

Once the hips softened and began to break apart and the liquid was a nice rich amber color, I began to scoop out the liquid.

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Be aware that you may see some worms among the rose hips. You will also see seeds from the insides of the hips.

Here’s a picture showing you the difference:

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They are both white, but the worm is long and thin and the seed more rounded. No need to worry with either. You can scoop them out as you see them, but you will also be filtering the liquid through a strainer before use.

As you begin to scoop out the liquid, place a tea strainer over a quart-size jar and pour the liquid through to catch any particles.

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As you remove the liquid, squeeze the measuring cup or spoon down into the rose hip mixture in the pan. Then add more water and continue to simmer, stir, and gently press the mixture.

Here’s the strainer after filtering:

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Once you have a jar full, let it cool to room temperature before proceeding to freeze into blocks.

Then, I like to pour a small amount at a time into a measuring cup or other container with a spout for easier pouring into the ice cube trays.

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Once the blocks are frozen, remove them and place in a freezer bag or other freezer-proof container.

Here are the completed frozen blocks:

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Aren’t they lovely?

When ready for use, simply drop a block in a mug and pour boiling water over it. This makes the tea a perfect temperature for a child to drink fairly quickly. I like to add raw, local honey to sweeten. The flavor is mild, so it blends readily with other flavored teas as well.

Enjoy!

Rose hips can also be used to make jelly, jam, syrup, or wine.

If you don’t have access to rose hips in your area (or it’s too late or early in the year to pick them), you can purchase them dried and ready for making into tea and blocks at Starwest Botanicals, one of my trusted affiliate partners here.  (These are also great for adding to your stockpile for later use.  Purchase dried rose hips here.)

 

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