It’s January and the cold and flu season have hit us. Although we all succumb to the flu now and then, there is so much we can do to help keep these bad guys at bay. First, eat a nutrient dense diet. Make a commitment to yourself that you and your family are worth the time and effort it takes to eat nutritious food. I like my food to look beautiful and what could be a better way to make this happen than to use lots of colorful fruits and vegetables. Let these beauties dominate your plate. Second, set aside time to sleep at least eight hours each night. Third, manage stress. Make time to be in the moment and reflect on the good things you enjoy in life and leave the stressful thoughts for another time. A great way to reflect on the moment is to take a brisk walk outdoors (and you might even get a dose of vitamin D as an extra bonus). Lastly, I use herbs to help evade or combat the viruses that winter lashes our way. Elderberry is one I wanted to share with you this month. I used my dried elderberries this fall and made a batch of elderberry syrup to help my family stay well this winter. One tablespoon a day to prevent sickness and when the first signs of the winter colds came our way we upped the dose to 1 tablespoon every few hours for 2-3 days after the symptoms disappeared. Elder (Sambucus Nigra and Canadensis) has long been prized for its many herbal applications. Both the berries and the flowers are wonderful herbal remedies to keep in your kitchen cupboard for winter flus and viruses. The beauty of the elderberry is that it not only stimulates immune activity but it also inhibits the influenza virus by disabling the virus’ ability to invade healthy cells and replicate itself. If the virus can’t replicate itself inside our cells, we get well faster. The berries can be made into jams, jellies and wine, and of course a nice elderberry syrup for the winter. The flowers of the elder are also a great herb to have in your arsenal. The dried flowers have long been prized as a reliable diaphoretic for treating colds, flus, and fevers. This means it encourages perspiration and the release of heat to the periphery of the body. It has a mild action in helping to release phlegm from the lungs and thus is appropriate to use when one has lung congestion and/or sinus congestion along with a fever. Elder flowers are also a bit sedating which helps us if we get a little cranky when we are sick.
1 quart of dried elderberries (you may find these online) 2 quarts of water 2 tsp freshly grated ginger ½ teaspoon cloves or cinnamon Honey
Combine the elderberries with 2 quarts of water of water in a large pot. Simmer these until the berries are soft and mushy. Strain out the pulp and reserve the liquid and return the liquid to the pot. Add the ginger and cloves or cinnamon if desired. Simmer until the liquid reduces to half its volume. Pour the juice into a measuring cup and note its volume and then return it to the pot. Add the same amount of honey as the measured elderberry liquid amounted to and add it to the elderberry liquid and stir until thoroughly combined. Let cool. Put in glass jars or containers. Store in the refrigerator for up to 12 weeks. (Please do not eat fresh elderberries. They may cause some digestive discomfort. Use them only cooked or dried.) Elderberry syrup tastes good on pancakes. I love to use it as a salad dressing over bitter greens like arugula. Enjoy and Best of Health, Darcy Nick