Every year, cold and flu season ploughs through you and your kid's sinuses like a wrecking ball, leaving people feverish, home from work, and school and feeling pretty miserable. However, even the worst colds do eventually pass, hopefully a little faster with excellent treatments like elderberries, steam, and a lot of naps. Unfortunately, as we start to close the door on cold and flu season (which seems to be still running rampant), seasonal allergies are around the corner. This post will talk about ways to identify an environmental allergy vs. infection, the impact of allergies on kids, and different natural treatments.
Alright, alright. I know this elderberry blog is like, 1 million days overdue. I’m sorry. See, what happens is that my oldest kid keeps getting sick. So I make the elderberry syrup, and I think about filming it, and the stovetop inevitably should have been cleaned or the counter top needs wiped off or the pretty pan is in the sink or…Anyway, I’m sure all of my co-parents out there can commiserate. Please excuse the mess you’ll see in the pictures because I, just like you, am trying the best I can.
Without further ado, Elderberry Syrup!
This is a time tested recipe that’s been around for centuries. About the only consistent thing I use every time I make it is elderberries. The recipe is very flexible with whatever you’ve got in your cupboard and pretty easy to give to kids- the perfect example of kitchen herbalism.
Start out with a pot. Ideally a clean one. Size needs to correlate to at least twice the amount of elderberry syrup you want to end up with.
Step 2: Add in the elderberries.
I usually do about a ¼ cup of dried berries per pint I’m making, though at this point I throw it all in and just hope for the best. For fresh or frozen berries, use a bit more. Elderberries are proven to both prevent infection and to shorten the duration of the cold and influenza. They also kill strep, and a bunch of other bacteria that cause coughs and skin infections and tummy problems.
Step 3: You can add in more herbs too, depending on what you need.
At this point I’m using astragalus root in mine consistently, because my oldest is showing some signs of immune compromise. Astragalus has been studied to reduce infections in chronically ill children when taken daily as a preventative. As a bonus, astragalus is pretty innocuous so you can throw it in soup or tea without adding too much of a strong flavor. I didn’t measure this, I threw in a handful.
Aaand because the kids have been giving me a firsthand tour of every respiratory condition that’s floating through the community, I added in a bunch of dried rosemary. Proven to reduce symptoms like sore throat, cough, and pain and particularly excellent at smooth muscle relaxation in the trachea- that part of the throat that gives kids that super barky cough.
I always add cinnamon too- mostly because it makes elderberries taste better and the house smell fantastic, but also because cinnamon is a studied antimicrobial that kills a ton of different kinds of bacteria, and it reduces inflammation significantly. I put some in- maybe like a tablespoon?
You may have come here for a more specific recipe, and for that you have my apologies. That’s not how I work. I can practically hear engineers screaming from here.
Step 4: Add some water
Once everything you want in it is in (you might add cloves for a sore throat, or nutmeg if the kids are having trouble sleeping, or chamomile if their illness hits them in the stomach first, or marshmallow root if the coughing is so harsh that it hurts their throat…you get where I’m going here), cover it with twice as much water as you want the final volume to be. Set it to boil.
Step 5: Leave it alone
Let it boil down to half of the initial water. Stir it if you want, but I often forget.
Step 6: Strain
This is the most important part of the whole recipe: You need to strain it through a very fine strainer- I use cotton napkins, but you could use cheesecloth, linen, etc. Pour everything through the strainer, let it sit until it’s not so hot you’ll burn your hands.
Then squeeze it out so all your liquid is in the bowl, and all of the elderberry stems & seeds which will give you a terrible case of diarrhea are in your strainer.
After this, mix your extract with an equal amount of local honey or simple syrup if your kiddo is less than 1 year.
For an everyday preventative dose, kids 2 and up can have a tablespoon daily. 6 months and up, about a teaspoon. When they’re actively sick you are going to want to do that dose every hour, as often as you can get it into them all day. The good news is both the preventative and the acute dosing are going to reduce your risk of illness, make any colds they get less severe, and have those illnesses be several days shorter than someone not using elderberry syrup.
P.S. Sometimes I trick my kids into eating elderberry syrup popsicles mixed with apple juice. There’s all sorts of tricks for adequate dosing. If you need more help, come in! We’d be happy to give you more support here. You can schedule an appointment online.
As always, references below.
Adrienne Koznek, IBCLC As a mother to a young child who is also working outside the home, self-care is of the utmost importance - and often one of the first…