Under the Weather=Perfect Day to Talk About Elderberry

Hi everyone! I’ve got the ‘crud’ that’s going around. My sinuses are all plugged up and I can’t talk very well. Luckily, it’s a perfect rainy day to stay cozy inside, and I’ve got a couple of good ‘cozy paranormal mysteries’ to read. (Did you even know that was a genre?! I just discovered it and I love them, as long as they’re well written which the ones I’ve found are. Check out this list on Goodreads for some good book recommendations if you’re interested in this genre.)

I’m going to cheat a bit today and use some information that I’ve already published on a blog–my Herbalist Lisa Zahn blog from years back. The cold weather months, when we tend to be stuck indoors more and the viruses and flu get passed around, are the perfect time to use the herb Elderberry. You can take it in several forms–as a tincture, a syrup, a cordial or wine, or a juice, or you can even add some of the dried or frozen berries into your granola or oatmeal.

A bowl of elderberries.
A bowl of elderberries.


The easiest form, in my opinion, is to take Elderberry as a tincture. You can make a simple alcohol-based elderberry tincture by steeping the berries in alcohol for 6 weeks, then straining the fruit and putting the elderberry-steeped alcohol (I prefer brandy) into a bottle with a dropper. Take 5 drops a day all fall, winter and spring and you are more likely to stay well all winter. Numerous studies have been done on the anti-viral effects of Elderberry and I won’t cite any here, but you can google them. Elderberry has been shown to stop a virus in its tracks, and/or to lessen its hold once it enters your system.

The best thing is, Elderberry tastes good and even my kids like it. You can buy Elderberry cough syrups and lozenges and most can be taken by children (read the label). They are often called something more resembling Elderberry’s latin name, Sambucus. Most health food stores and pharmacies now carry some elderberry syrups, or you can make your own.

My husband prefers Elderberry cordial. Here is my recipe:

4 c. fresh elderberries
2 c. sugar
1 t. lemon zest
2 T. fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 c. water
3 c. 100 proof vodka (I think I used 80 proof)

Crush elderberries and sugar together in a bowl. Let stand for about an hour. Add lemon zest and lemon juice. Transfer to clean 2-quart container and add water and vodka. Cover and let stand in a cool dark place for one month, shaking occasionally.

Use a fine-mesh strainer to strain out the solids. Discard into your compost (and please do compost any herbal “waste”; find a way to return it to the earth and the plant will be happier to help you out). Transfer liqueur to a clean container. Cover and age for at least one month before serving. Yields about 1½ quarts.

This recipe came from my teacher, Lise Wolff, RH AHG, who got it from Cordials From Your Kitchen by P. Vargas and R. Gulling.

If you’re interested in learning more about Mother Elder and her virtues as medicine, check out my Herbalist Lisa Zahn blog. Here’s a link to the page that covers all my posts about Elder. In those posts, I talk more about the stories about Elder, give you some more resources, and also share a post about a common Elderberry look-a-like that I found once near my in-laws in Virginia. Even trained herbalists can sometimes mistake plants, so please be very careful and verify your wild sources before using them. I can’t stress that enough!

The elderberry always has an umbral (like umbrella) shape.
The elderberry always has an umbral (like umbrella) shape.

At this time of year in Minnesota, Elderberry season is past but you can order the dried berries from Mountain Rose Herbs and still make a lovely Elderberry syrup or tincture. (Here’s the link to their elderberries sales page. I see they are out of stock at the moment, but you can ask them to notify you when they have some in stock again.)

Today’s moon phase is: Waning gibbous in Gemini, 72% full.