Elderberry Season!

At our little shop, Herbs & Sympathy

Elderberries have a long tradition and also empirical evidence to support their use for keeping our immune systems primed for the upcoming cold and flu season.   We are fast approaching the time when we will be sharing confined air with co-workers, family, and snotty nosed children – bless them. So, we need to get our bodies ready for the onslaught. One way to do so is to keep a bottle of elderberry syrup in the frig and swig about a teaspoon a day during the next several months.

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What they look like – Elderberries are the fruit of the flowering plant known as Sambucus, more commonly referred to as elder or elderflower. The scientific name of the most common variety, from which we get the majority of our elderberries, is Sambucus nigra. You generally find elderberries in the Northern hemisphere, particularly in Europe and North America. You can wildcraft the berries with permission of the landowner, cultivate them yourself or purchase them dried from a health food store or your friendly neighborhood herbalist. The berries are black or very dark blue and have a tart flavor which makes them ideal for desserts, syrups, jams, jellies, spreads, and as the base for various adult beverages.

Herbal actions: Elderberries have quite a few medicinal benefits for our bodies for this time of year in particular. Recent research suggests that elderberries boost our immune system by increasing cytokine production, offering antioxidants, and inhibit viral infections. Let’s break this down a little.  Cytokines are small chemical agents in our body that monitor potential infections and alert our immune system to respond. Elderberries are also a great source for antioxidants. Antioxidants are important for scooping up radical molecules in the body which will attach themselves to other molecules and create havoc. Finally, elderberries show potential in suppressing or inhibiting viral infection.  Some early laboratory testing has shown that elderberries have seem to coat the virus and render them useless. Please note these early studies have not reached human trials. So in sum and Faithspeak, elderberries are super great at keeping us healthy over the coming cold and flus season by bolstering our immune system, keeping infections at bay and if we do happen to get sick, shortening the length of the sickness.

Making Elderberry Syrup:   Making the syrup is relatively easy and there are a plethora of recipes online.  When I made elderberry syrup yesterday, I used a ratio of 1 dried cup of elderberries to 3 cups of filtered water.  So here are some basic instructions:

Pour 3 cups of water into a medium saucepan and 1 cup) of dried elderberries along with herbs of your choice – echinacea, ginger, cinnamon, cloves. Bring to a boil and then cover and reduce to simmer for about 45 minutes to an hour until the liquid has reduced by almost half. Remove from heat and cool enough to handle. Pour the mixture through a mesh strainer. Mash the berries with a flat spoon.  Discard the elderberries and let the liquid cool. Add sweetener of your choice to taste. Store in the refrigerator and take one teaspoon a day to increase immunity. 





Drying Rose Petals

Drying Rose Petals – June 2019

A lovely rose bush grows outside where the corner of the porch and steps leading up to the porch meet. The bush, laden with heavy pink flowers, smells heavenly when you walk by it.  My sister tells me the rose bush is the double sweetheart variety. Each bloom has an abundance of soft petals. I felt compelled to take some of the flowers for drying to use for teas and other medicines.  The following week, a lovely soul came into our booth and ask me if I could craft a self-love tea for her.  She had a list of ingredients. As an herbalist, I could extrapolate a general formula and create a tea close to what she had had before while she continued to shop the stalls at the market. This blend had rose petals.  Later that week, she sent me pictures of the brewed tea. It had a rich pink red color. 

Roses have long been a traditional symbol of not only love but fertility. This makes sense when we think about Valentine’s Day – chocolate and roses – aphrodisiacs, for sure. However, rose leaves, petals and hips also have other herbal actions in the body.  Containing Vitamins C,B,E & K, tannins, pectin, carotene and other constituents, parts of the rose bush can also act as a relaxant, diuretic, astringent, febrifuge, detoxifier, decongestant and nervine.   So, having dried rose petals on hand can prove to be very beneficial. 

Here’s how I dried the flowers which I harvested from our bush. I generally dry all my herbs this way. On occasion, I will dry them on the proofing setting in the oven but I have to remain fairly vigilant when doing so. I do not dry by hanging for several reasons. I have pets, live in the country where dust and insects abound, and use my dried herbs for medicines so I limit what can contaminate my end products.

Step 1: Gather freshly opened blooms. I use a sharp pair of scissors or snips. I also like to leave a little gift for the plant when I harvest and I do not harvest everything from the plant – just what I need. For this lovely bush,  I cleared all the potentially choking vines which had wound around her and spoke sweetly, thanking her for her flowers. Whether you believe in this kind of exchange or not, I find that having an attitude of gratefulness is at least helpful to my outlook. 🙂

Step 2: Lay out the fresh flowers stems up for a time. I like to think it gives an opportunity for all the little bugs to crawl out.  I also will rinse them in cool water to help the creatures along as well and remove dirt from the blooms. (But for these because I would not be selling them, I simply let them rest.) After a time, I will snip the base of the bloom to release the petals.

Step 3: While waiting on the petals, prepare the dehydrator. I try and clean it after every use, running the trays through the dishwasher.  But it always helps to double check before using again to avoid cross contamination of different herbs. 

Step 4: Arrange the petals on each tray. I don’t worry too much about touching because as they dry they will shrink a good bit.They tend to separate or can be gently pulled apart. Plants can be up to 90% water so taking out the moisture decreases their size a good bit. 


Step 5: Stack trays, cover the top one and turn on the dehydrator. I do keep a watch, checking on them every half hour or so, depending if I get caught up in another project or chore. I have dried herbs to a crisp before which is what you do not want. The more delicate the lower the heat if you can adjust the temperature on your dehydrator. 

Step 6: Let the dried petals cool and then place them in a glass container.  A dark one would be better if you have it. They may fade as they cool and if they are exposed to sunlight.  

Rose Petal Tea:   

1-2 teaspoons dried rose petals*

6-8 ounces of water

Honey and lemon to taste, if desired. Place petals in an infuser or directly into a cup. Heat water to almost a boil. Pour water over petals and cover the cup. Let steep for 5-10 minutes. Remove infuser or strain out petals. Sit with your feet up and enjoy. 

*please make sure that these petals are pesticide free. I would not use the bouquet of roses that you received on Valentine’s Day unless you absolutely know from where they were harvested. 

Thanks for stopping in and for reading about how to dry your own roses. You can purchased already dried rose petals at our booth at The Markets of Hanover or here through this website.  I hope you found this helpful and please remember that this information is for educational purposes only. This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.