elderberry syrup

Elderberry Syrup: Why My Family Takes it in Lieu of a Flu Shot Every Year (and How to Make your Own).

Elderberry syrup is one of the most important tools in my home apothecary for keeping my family healthy when there are colds and flus flying around. We take it almost daily during the sickness season and completely forgo the flu shot. Let me outline a comparison between elderberry syrup and the flu shot to illustrate why we do this. At the bottom of this post is a printable recipe so that you can make your own Elderberry syrup.

Elderberry syrup:

  • is proven against 10 strains of the flu.
  • shortens the duration of both colds and flus. 
  • works with your body’s immune system to boost your natural immune response. 
  • contains vitamins A, B, and C.
  • has NO risks associated with it. 

If you are curious and would like to read the studies on elderberry where this information comes from, go here, here, and here

The flu shot:

  • is only effective against 3 or 4 flu strains. 
  • ranges from 19%-48% effectiveness depending on the year. 
  • is less effective in the people who need the protection the most, the elderly and children. 
  • carries risks, such as seizure, facial palsy, encephalomyelitis, convulsions. There are even 115 reported cases of death. 
  • contains aluminum, ethlymercury, and antibiotics. Read about these and the other undesirable ingredients in flu shots here.



If you are curious and would like to read the studies where this information about the flu comes from, go here, and here

I’m sold on Elderberry Syrup! Now what?

Okay, so you want to avoid the flu shot and take elderberry syrup instead, right? Well, you can buy it online, in your favorite health store, or even many drug stores and grocery stores. I recommend getting an organic version, of course. Natures’s Way and Gaia have good ones that can be found on Amazon. They come in 8 or 4 ounce bottles. It is also easy to make your own elderberry syrup. When you make your own elderberry syrup, you can customize the flavor a bit. Depending on what you like, you can add other immune enhancing ingredients such as ginger, clove, cinnamon, fennel, and/or cardamom. You can buy a pound of dried organic elderberries for about $20. This will last you ages, because you only use 3/4 of a cup per batch. Plus, your house will smell amazing while you area making it! 

How to make Elderberry Syrup for cold and flu prevention:

elderberry syrup

Directions:

  • Put the elderberries, water, and spices (except fennel) in a pot.
  • Bring it to a boil.
  • Turn the heat down to simmer (usually medium-low).
  • Once the mixture is reduced by half, remove from heat and let cool. Strain out the berries/spices. Be sure to squish out the berries to get all the goodness out of them. You can do this with a wooden spoon and a sieve or pour the mixture through cheesecloth so that you can use your hands to squeeze it out.
  • Once the mixture is about room temperature (or just above), you can mix in the honey. Honey has beneficial enzymes and microbes that can be killed by heat, so just be patient.
  • Transfer to a glass container that is easy to pour from. I use pretty flip-top bottle like these and put a waterproof label on it. Keep it refrigerated. This recipe makes about 2 and half cups.  

Should I add other spices? What do the other spices do?

  • Ginger: anti-inflammatory. Also good for settling upset tummies and helps the body sweat our toxins. I always add a knob of ginger, thinly sliced, to the berries before bringing to a boil. 
  • Cinnamon: antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and contains antioxidants. (Also balances blood sugar.) I usually add one cinnamon stick to the berries before bringing to a boil. 
  • Clove: antimicrobial and antiviral. Clove is a strong flavor, so I usually just add 2 or 3 cloves to the berries before boiling.
  • Fennel: boosts white blood cells, is antibacterial and anti-fungal. My kids are super sensitive to the licorice-y taste of fennel, so I do not add it to our elderberry (syrup at this time). I add fennel to my morning tea blend, so at least I get it that way. My recommendations for adding it to elderberry syrup are to put 1/2-1 teaspoon into the berry mixture just in the last few minutes of simmering.
  • Cardamom: helps clear congestion from colds, settles digestion and is antispasmodic (this is good for coughs and stomach cramps.) I love cardamom! I add cardamom seeds to my morning tea blend as well. For elderberry syrup, I add a few cardamom pods to the berries before bringing to a boil. 

Tips for adding Elderberry syrup to your home apothecary:

  • Elderberry is great for hiding things in! We put our virgin cod liver oil in ours. My kids drink it up and look forward to it!
  • The standard dose for a child is 1/2 teaspoon daily and 1/2 tablespoon for adults.
  • If you or a family member is coming down with something, bump up the dose to 3 or 4 times a day. 
  • I add echinacea tincture (go here to find out how to make your own tinctures) to the elderberry if one of us seems to be coming down with something. 
  • Don’t freak out if you miss a day or two here and there. That is actually a good thing. I subscribe to the sentiment that you really shouldn’t take anything every day. I like to take weekends off from most supplements. 

I have to take the flu shot for work. Is there anything I can do to help my body detox those dangerous ingredients?

If you are required to get a flu shot because of your line of work, you can help speed your body’s recovery and detox by eating “clean” and taking one or more of the following:

Milk Thistle: Your liver has a huge job on any given day with the onslaught of modern toxins, but after a flu shot, it can’t hurt to give it a little extra help. Milk thistle is a great liver protective that also boost the liver’s detoxifying capabilities. It can be found in capsules, tea, and tinctures

Dandelion Root: This is another great detoxifier. Read more here. It can be found in capsules, tea, and tinctures.  There is a fun coffee substitute with dandelion root called Dandy Blend

Chlorella: This amazing algae binds to metals in your body and helps escort them out. This is particularly helpful for shots with mercury or aluminum added to them. Be sure to get “broken cell wall” chlorella so that your body can actually use it. 

 

 

Elderberry Syrup
Tasty elderberry syrup for cold and flu prevention and treatment.
Print
Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
45 min
Total Time
50 min
Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
45 min
Total Time
50 min
Ingredients
  1. 3/4 cup dried organic elderberries
  2. filtered water
  3. optional spices: ginger, cinnamon, fennel, cloves, and/or cardamom pods or seeds
  4. one cup raw honey, organic
Instructions
  1. Put the elderberries, water, and spices (except fennel) in a pot. Bring it to a boil.
  2. Turn the heat down to medium- low to simmer.
  3. Once the mixture is reduced by half, remove from heat, let cool, and then strain out the berries/spices. Be sure to squish out the berries to get all the goodness out of them. You can do this with a wooden spoon and a sieve or pour the mixture through cheesecloth so that you can use your hands to squeeze it out.
  4. Be sure to let the liquid cool down before you touch it and before you add the honey. Honey has beneficial enzymes and microbes that can be killed by heat, so just be patient.
  5. Once the mixture is about room temperature (or just above), you can mix in the honey.
  6. Transfer to a glass container that is easy to pour from. I use pretty flip-top bottle like these and put a waterproof label on it. Keep it refrigerated. This recipe makes a bit more than 2 cups.
Notes
  1. Kids take 1/2 teaspoon a day for prevention and 1/2 teaspoon 3 times a day during a cold or flu for treatment. Adults take 1/2 tablespoon a day for prevention and 1/2 tablespoon 3 times a day during a cold or flu for treatment.
Reclaiming Vitality http://reclaimingvitality.com/
 Have you ever used elderberry syrup? Have you tried making your own?

 

Non-toxic room scents

Non-toxic Ways to Make Your Home Smell Amazing (and Two DIYs)

Picture this. You come home from work and the house smells funky. Hopefully you find the source of the offending odor, but even if you do, it might still be lingering. Why not light a scented candle? Why not spray a shot of air freshener? Why not use a plug-in room freshener? I thought you’d never ask. Let me tell you why.

Most air fresheners (sprays or not) that are sold at the drug store, grocery store, and even that cute little boutique, contain phthalates (thal-ates). Phthalates can wreak havoc with your hormones, especially testosterone (which we all need, although in varying levels). These lovely chemicals are known to cause reproductive problems and birth defects as well. I love a good smell as much as the next gal, but that is not a risk I am willing to take, especially with two growing children in the home.

Okay, so air fresheners are out. How about lighting a scented candle? The ingredients in the typical candle can also wreak havoc with your body. Most candles are made from petroleum-based paraffin wax. When paraffin is burned it can emit benzene and toluene, both of which are highly toxic and known carcinogens. Even if you buy a soy candle (make sure it is 100% soy, most are not), you still have some toxins emitted when it is burned because they have to be processed with paraffin. If all this wasn’t enough, you have fragrances to worry about as well. While some fragrances may smell amazing, most synthetic fragrances are also petroleum based and contain a whole battery of toxins that are linked to cancer, birth defects, allergies, and more.  (This likely goes for your favorite perfume and other beauty products as well. Sorry.)

What’s a girl to do? We have a house that is soon to turn 100 years old and no matter how clean it is (not that it is always sparkling clean, mind you), it sometimes smells musty. We also have a dog who can get a bit smelly in between baths. Since living with stinky is not an option, let me tell you what we do.

Non-Toxic alternatives to Air Fresheners, Sprays, and Scented Candles:

  • Beeswax candles: These do not emit toxins, and you can get them scented with essential oils so that you avoid the toxins in synthetic fragrances. There is a local (Seattle) company called Big Dipper Wax Works that has beeswax candles made with essential oil blends that smell heavenly. You can buy them on Amazon if you’re not local. They are long lasting and clean burning.
  • Essential oil diffusers: We love these! I have one in the living room, the kids’ room, and our bedroom. These are great for not only scenting a room, but also for using targeted health blends like Immune Boom or Germ Destroyer when there are sicknesses going around. Or you can use a blend like Worry-free with relaxing scents like Lavender, Ylang-ylang, Sandalwood, and Vanilla to create a calm environment.
  • Homemade oil diffusers: These are great for small areas like bathrooms and are super simple to make. See below for instructions.
  • Homemade Room/Linen spray: Homemade room spray/linen spray is a non-toxic way to make your house, car and linens smell lovely. It is another super simple project. You just need two ingredients and a glass bottle to store it in. See below for instructions.

How make your own room Spray (or linen spray):

Homemade Room/Linen Spray

  • Distilled water
  • Essential oil(s): I like combinations like Lavender and Geranium, but you could use a synergy blend such as Relax Synergy, Worry-Free, or a any combination of your choosing.
  • Glass spray bottle (It is important not to store essential oils in plastic as they break down the plastic and get plastic particles in your products.)

I use 4 ounce spray bottles for this. I first add 1/2 teaspoon (50 drops) of essential oils and then fill it up the rest of the way with distilled water. Give a little shake, and spray!

Homemade Oil Diffusers

Homemade Oil Diffuser

Combine 70% carrier oil with 30% essential oil(s). Example: 7 teaspoons of carrier oil with 3 teaspoons of essential oils. Put reeds in, allow them to soak up the oil for a few hours and then flip them. Repeat this a few times for the first week or so. After that, flip them any time you want to refresh the scent.

 

Have you ever made homemade room spray? Oil diffusers? Are you going to try it out?

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completed food wrap

Homemade Reusable Food Wrap

food bowl with reusable food wrap

Making this non-plastic reusable food wrap seems like a fabulous idea to me on so many levels. First, there is the benefit to the environment. Second, you cut down on the amount of plastic that comes into contact with your food. Third, you can cut down on the amount of plastic wrap you buy. Fourth and probably most important, you get to pick out pretty fabric to make it out of. What’s to lose?

Should I just buy Reusable food wrap?

If you don’t have the time or desire to make your own reusable food wrap, there is one the market called Bees Wrap. It is made with organic cotton, organic beeswax, pine rosin gum and Jojoba oil and uses the heat of your hands to mold to your container. It is awesome, but it is a bit pricey. You get just three pieces for about $19. When you think of how much food wrap you could make for that, and what cute fabric you could choose, why not?

Once I decided that I wanted to make my own reusable food wrap, I scoured the internet looking for a good tutorial on making my own reusable food wrap. There are MANY tutorials! Most only use beeswax, however. The problem with this method is that the wrap doesn’t cling to your container and must be fastened with a rubber band or string. I want my wrap to be easy to use and to be pretty to look at. No rubber bands! The best tutorial I found online was from one of my favorite bloggers, Mommypotamus. She uses the same ingredients as Bees Wrap uses in her tutorial, so that fact combined with the fact that everything she posts on her site is awesome, I tried hers out.  My needs were a bit different then hers, however, so I tweaked her method to suit my needs. I was very happy with the results, and I think you will be too.

 

A couple of things to keep in mind before you make your food wrap:

completed food wrap

1. You want organic ingredients because this will be touching your food. Even the cotton should be organic. “But, Chelsea, can’t I just wash regular cotton a bunch to get the pesticides out?” This is a valid question. I wondered the same and researched it. First, cotton is one of the most heavily sprayed crops. Second, it is not just the fabric, but also the dyes that contain harmful chemicals. So, it’s your choice, of course, but I opted for organic. I found a large variety of Mommypotomus gives specific amounts of ingredients for certain sizes of food wrap. I wanted many different shapes and sizes of fabric because I was not only making these for myself, but also friends and family. Although I have taught math in the past, it still is not one of my favorite subjects. I didn’t want to do the calculations for each separate size and shape, so I created a work around. I actually did it two different ways. Both are listed below and both worked equally well. I prefer method 2, but it uses a couple more supplies to get the job done. Choose whatever seems easiest to you.

3. Because this wrap is cared for care for with warm water and mild soap, you won’t want to wrap a hunk of raw meat in it. It is excellent for most other food uses though! 

What you will need:

  1. Organic Beeswax (I used pellets)
  2. Pine Rosin Gum
  3. Organic Jojoba Oil
  4. Organic cotton fabric
  5. Scissors (preferably pinking shears to avoid fraying)
  6. Unused paintbrush
  7. Parchment paper
  8. Somewhere to dry your food wrap
  9. It is helpful, but not necessary to have a Mister Misto Sprayer for method 2.

To begin you should wash and dry your fabric. You will want to iron and cut it as well. Once you have your fabric prepped, cover your baking sheets with parchment. Preheat your oven to 225 degrees Fahrenheit and lay out your first piece of fabric on your baking sheet.

reusable food wrap on drying rack

Method 1: In a bowl that you do not love (it might get ruined from the pine rosin), mix your bees wax pellets, (or shavings if you grated a bar) pine rosin, and Jojoba oil. For my first round, I used 1/4 cup beeswax pellets, 1/4 cup pine rosin gum, and 3 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon jojoba oil. (I ended up doing a few more rounds because I did a ton of these for Christmas gifts.)  Spread this mixture over your fabric. Be sure to get the edges! Pop your baking try into the oven. Melting everything well took about 10 minutes in my oven, but for the first few, keep checking on them from time to time to see how they are doing. Once everything has melted, take your tray out of the oven and use the paint brush to spread it all around. Again, get those edges! Pop your tray back into the oven for another minute or two. Next, pull your tray out of the oven. Use tongs to lift your wrap from the baking sheet and set on a drying rack, a clothes line, or even a towel rack to dry. It only takes a few minutes. Repeat to make as many sheets of reusable food wrap as you like!  

completed food wrap

Method 2: This method uses a spray bottle and a shaker. I used the Mister Misto, but you could reuse an old spray bottle. For the shaker, I used a kitchen shaker that I have for powdered sugar. If you don’t have one, take a jar and put foil on the lid. Then poke holes in the foil with a scewer or safely pin. This works as a great shaker!  Once you have your prepped fabric on your parchment lined baking tray, spray your fabric with the Jojoba oil. Make sure you get the corners! The Jojoba oil keeps the wrap flexible, so you don’t want to miss the edges. Next, use your fingers to sprinkle the bees wax over your fabric, being sure to get it into the corners. Then, use your shaker of pine rosin gum to shake a nice layer all over the fabric. See photo. Next, pop your baking try into the oven. Melting everything well took about 10 minutes in my oven, but for the first few, keep checking on them from time to time to see how they are doing. Once everything has melted, take your tray out of the oven and use the paint brush to spread it all around. Again, get those edges! Pop your tray back into the oven for another minute or two. Next, pull your tray out of the oven. Use tongs to lift your wrap from the baking sheet and set on a drying rack, a clothes line, or even a towel rack to dry. It only takes a few minutes. Now you are ready to make as many sheets of reusable food wrap as you like!  

 

So, what do you think? Are you going to try it? If you do, let me know how it goes!