Elderberry tea, elixir, and jiggly jellies

Boost your immune system with elderberries. (c) 2016 Dawn Viola | This Honest Food

The best defense against cold and flu season is a healthy diet, especially leading up to the germiest time of year — the winter months immediately following the holiday season.

Your diet determines your gut microbes, and your gut microbes are the defenders of your universe. Feed them well with vegetables, fruits, and fermented foods, and they’ll stick up for you when the bad guys invade.

Right after the holidays, after overindulging in candy canes and pies and rolls and casseroles, and muddling through holiday stress coupled with lack of sleep, our immune system may not be in the best shape for fighting off the germs or bacteria passed on to us through kisses on the cheek, doorknobs, or anything that has gone airborne by way of neighborly coughs and sneezes. A poor diet is no match for these germs, and once they settle in, there’s little that can be done to stop the onset of the sniffles.

It’s not impossible, however, to reduce and lessen symptoms if you suddenly notice a tingle in the throat or a tickle in the nose, indicating the beginning of a cold or flu. One effective way to reduce the duration and severity is with elderberries.

Food as medicine

This longtime, homeopathic remedy for strengthening the immune system and warding off illness received such high accolades, the scientific community took notice and started running tests on the native European berry. Results revealed the berry’s ability to reduce the duration of, and lessen the severity of cold and flu symptoms were comparable to the likes of the popular flu medication, Tamiflu. Imagine, a natural, no additive, no preservative, unprocessed, honest berry as powerful as a synthetic medication.

But wait, there’s more

The berries deliver even more super power than its comparable synthetic counterpart. Elderberries naturally provide high doses of flavonoids, vitamins A, C, B6, iron, and potassium; contain anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties; and the fiber in fresh berries is considered to be one of the most effective ways to reduce cholesterol.

But how do they taste?

Fresh berries have a tart flavor, similar to cranberries or unripe blackberries, but can be difficult to find, so I rely on the organic dried variety. When dried, elderberries develop dark, brooding coffee and chocolate notes, almost currant-like and slightly sweet.

How do I use them?

Elderberry syrups can be purchased in health food stores in the cough syrup section or online, but they can be expensive and often contain additional unnecessary ingredients. Syrups are also boiled and reduced, which can destroy much of the immune-boosting properties of the berry in the process, even if you make them at home.

Gentle extraction through steeping however, is simple, quick, and retains all of the berry’s super food qualities. A single batch can be served as a tea, mixed with raw honey and kept in the refrigerator as an elixir, or combined with grass-fed gelatin and turned into jellies.

Elderberry tea, elixir, and jiggly jellies
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Recipe type: Homeopathy
Serves: 2.5 cups
For tea:
  • 1 cup dried elderberries
  • 3 cups filtered water

For elixir:
  • ingredients for tea +
  • 2 tablespoons raw honey

For jellies:
  • ingredients for tea +
  • 2 tablespoons grass-fed gelatin
  • 1/4 cup cold water
For tea:
  1. In a medium saucepan stir together berries and water. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally until liquid begins to steam. Do not simmer, do not boil.
  2. Remove from heat. Let stand 20 minutes.
  3. Using a potato masher or back of a large spoon, crush berries into a pulp
  4. Strain, gently pressing berries to extract all of the liquid; reserve liquid.
  5. Serve warm.

For elixir:
  1. Follow instructions for tea
  2. Stir honey into warm liquid until dissolved
  3. Refrigerate, covered up to five days
  4. Drink 1/4 cup daily, or every few hours as needed during a cold or flu

For jellies:
  1. Follow instructions for tea
  2. In a small glass or ceramic bowl stir together gelatin and cold water to bloom gelatin; set aside 5 minutes
  3. Return strained berry liquid to pan. Place pan over medium-low heat, stir in gelatin until melted. Do not boil.
  4. Remove pan from heat. Pour liquid into a shallow, rectangular glass or ceramic baking dish, or into molds
  5. Refrigerate 30 to 40 minutes or until set. Remove from refrigerator, cut into shapes or remove from molds.
  6. Refrigerate, covered up to 5 days
  7. Eat 2 or 3 jellies per day, or every few hours as needed during a cold or flu
After straining, berries can be frozen and used in smoothies or added to compost.



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