Making Elderberry Tincture

Finding Elderberries in the Mountains

Around this time last year, the girls and I were on a stroll and happened upon an elderberry bush. I was shocked. I never expected to find elderberries in the mountains of Colorado! I picked a ripe cluster of the berries and brought them home and did a bunch of research to make sure that I was right in my herb identification. I was! We went out later that week and harvested as many berries as we could find and made 2 large bottles of tincture from that one bush. We felt like such pioneers. Well, imagine my surprise when we found over 10 elderberry bushes this year on our foraging adventures! Thanks to Mark’s keen elderberry spotting.  We decided to make as much tincture as we could. Little did we know what that was going to entail. Before detailing our little venture into herbal remedies though, here are some important rules of elderberry use.

Safety Rules of Elderberry Harvesting and Use

  1. You can ingest the flowers of the elderberry bush- some people put them in champagne for a light springy flavor. Here is what the elder flowers look like

    Elderflowers

  2. Do not ingest unripe berries. They contain a mild cyanide which can cause nausea and vomiting etc.

    Unripe elderberries

  3. When using ripe elderberries, use them when they are purple and the stem has turned reddish/pink.

    Ripe elderberries

The Health Benefits of Elderberry

When I was a kid, my aunt used to make elderberry tincture and send it to us so I was somewhat familiar with it. I knew it was good for fighting off the flu or common cold because the second I complained of a stuffy nose or headache, out came the elderberry tincture. What I didn’t realize is that it can also improve heart health, lower cholesterol, lessen asthma, help with diabetes, and improve vision. It is also helpful in reducing inflammation in the bladder and urinary tract. Elderberry juice was used as a treatment in Panama during a flu epidemic in 1995 and in Israel, at Hadassah’s Oncology Lab, it was determined that the anthocyanins in elderberry enhance immune function greatly. In fact, it does such a great job that they are now treating AIDS and Cancer patients with elderberry!!! So that’s the scientific side of things. On to the making of the tincture. Be prepared to get dirty and have some fun!

My awesome hubby getting the berries at the top of the bush and his mum holding on to his ankles, “just in case”

Making Elderberry Tincture and Syrup

1.) Harvesting We spent about 30 minutes picking the ripe berries, and filled an entire reusable grocery bag. Hooray! You can also buy dry berries from herb stores like this one.
2.) Separating Guess how long it took us to separate those berries? Oh….about 5 hours.
Yep, talk about labor intensive! Oh well, its a labor of love, right? Anyway, to take the berries off of the umbrels, you simply have to use your finger tips and lightly pluck the berries off making sure to not take any stem along. If the berries are super ripe you can use a fork or wide tooth comb and run it downward along the stem. Some people freeze the berries while still on the umbrel and separate afterwards, but I havent tried that method yet.

Berries: separated and rinsed

3.) Recipe and Process There are a few different ideas on how to properly make tincture. Some people use only berries and alcohol. We decided to add a few extra ingredients. One thing is certain though- you have to use alcohol that is 80 proof or higher in order to extract the medicinal properties and preserve the berries. We used 90 proof rum for some of the jars and 90 proof whiskey for others. Some people say that vodka is the only proper alcohol to use when making tincture. But, I like to live on the edge so we didn’t use vodka. Anyway, here are the steps we took.

  • Separate and wash the berries
  • Mash them lightly
  • We added raw honey to the berries (about 1/4 cup of honey per 1 cup of elderberries) just because we wanted to make it a bit more palatable.

    Filling the Jars

  • Fill each jar about halfway with the berry/honey mixture
  • Add alcohol to the berries until the jar is nearly full (ends up being about a 50-50 mix).
  •  (Optional) Add a couple of cinnamon sticks, 3 or 4 cloves, 1 tablespoon dried echinacea, and 2 teaspoons dried lavender to each jar. We added these things because we had them on hand, and because they all have specific medicinal qualities that are also helpful in fighting illness and boosting the immune system.

    The finished product.

  • Seal the jar and shake the mixture until well combined.
  • Store in a dark dry place
  • Shake lightly every couple of days
  • The tincture will be ready after 2-3 weeks.

Suggested Use: You will want to strain the tincture before consuming it. You can do so 1 serving at a time or strain the entire content into a new jar and discard of the berries entirely. A daily serving (1 tablespoon) of tincture is great for keeping your immune system up and running. You can take it 3 times per day when you feel the first signs of flu or cold coming on. For kids, I would suggest making elderberry syrup since its more palatable and  kids love it!

Healthy Treats for Kids

My girls think these are pretty fantastic

I’m always looking for healthy summer treats for my girls. I am one of those health conscious moms. You know, the kind who doesn’t let her kids have the lollipop that is so kindly offered to them by the teller at the bank or the old lady at the coffee shop. I try not to go overboard, but since becoming a mom and knowing that I was given the responsibility of caring for the health and growth of my girls I feel its vital to start them off on the right foot.

That being said- here is one of my go to recipes when it comes to healthy treats for kids.  Its easy. Its healthy. Its a winner.

In a blender pour in:

  • 6-8oz Coconut Yogurt (any flavor works)
  • 1 Cup fresh fruit- we love berries.
  • 1/4 Cup Coconut Milk

Blend until smooth and creamy
Pour into popsicle molds
Freeze
Eat

These treats are so easy and delicious. They are full of vitamins, healthy fats, and probiotics.

My girls think they are pretty good and so do I.

The Health Benefits of Aloe Vera

It’s summertime and the livin’ is easy!

BBQs, watermelon, lemonade and ….sunburn. We’ve all been there. Spent just a tad too much time at the pool or hanging out with friends at the church picnic, right? It burns us precioussssss (no, I am not a LOTR geek, but I couldn’t resist). Then there’s that greenish goo. The stuff your mom always slapped on your bright red skin after giving you the “I told you so” look.

Aloe Vera is great for treating sunburn or burns in general. But did you know that there are a lot of other benefits of aloe vera? No? Well, read on!Aloe Vera was known to ancient Egyptians as the “plant of immortality”. But, since those folks did not actually live forever, I am guessing that Aloe may not truly hold immortality in its grip. I do know, however, that aloe, when taken internally, has been proven to ease constipation, lower blood pressure, and is helpful in healing the gut and intestinal tract. It also stabilizes blood sugar, halts the growth of a cancer (seriously!), boosts immune function, lowers cholesterol, relieves join pain, is also helpful in treating skin issues such as acne. Aloe vera can save animals and human from severe hemorrhagic shock (blood loss) too. It is also a cell regenerator, and it even assists in the preservation of food. Crazy right? And you just thought it was for sunburn. Pshhh

I have used aloe on many occasions to help with those burns I always seem to get while baking. Like the one below.

Don’t try this at home.

Yes. It hurt. But, I can honestly say that aloe soothes and heals better than any other topical cream I have used. Many people will tell you not to apply aloe to an open cut, but there are others who swear by actually putting aloe IN a wound to speed healing and prevent scarring. So, its really up to you since its your body.

Another wonderful idea comes from one of my favorite crunchy blogs. Check out this great idea on how to beat the heat. Sounds like a cool haven to me. Especially if you don’t have or don’t like A/C. You could also mix some aloe gel with coconut oil and lavender for a nice smooth lotion. But more on that later…

Stay cool friends.

Growing Up Wild

Ah, where to begin. Starting a blog feels the same to me as penning my first entry in a brand new journal. Remember journals? You know, before facebook and blogging took over, people used to actually use a pen to write! So, without further ado I suppose I will simply start at the beginning. Where this blog really took root.  Deep in the heart of the Colorado mountains.

Some of my earliest and fondest memories come from my adventures in the 40 acres of forest behind my childhood home. Within the fortress of those twisting paths, golden aspen groves, and secret hideouts I embraced my “earthy” side.  I would waste away the summer afternoons by acting out the adventures of Pocahontas or scripting the saga of a resourceful civil war nurse who used the leaves of the mullien plant to cover the wounds of the soldiers. There was nothing to stop me from dreaming and enjoying the earth. I spent countless hours hunting for wild onions and mashing up handfuls of currants to create a red seedy jam. My siblings would play along and together we would own that forest. I instinctively used the resources that filled my backyard and somehow believed that within that woodsy garden lay the secret to health. Both physically and spiritually. Humanity began in a garden and there is still some of that gardener in each of us. We just have to dig it out a little bit.

I am asking if you would like to join me as I explore my backyard and learn how to use the resources around me. I want to relive those days of passionate foraging and growing up wild. This blog will detail the medicinal uses and properties of all sorts of herbs and how to incorporate those herbs and natural remedies into my family’s life. Teaching kiddos, from a young age, to appreciate and enjoy the gloriousness of God’s medicine cabinet. Simple homemade ideas for healthy meals, snacks, kid friendly fun, and ways to begin your own herbal journey. So, off we go into the wild green yonder!

 

And the LORD will continually guide you, And satisfy your desire in scorched places, And give strength to your bones; And you will be like a watered garden, And like a spring of water whose waters do not fail. Isaiah 58:11