Archive for herbs

Magical Elixer: Elderberry


After we gathered the elderberries, we popped them in the freezer right on the stalks inside plastic grocery bags. Once we had enough, we began by gently pulling the berries off the stems and picking out the tiny stems that occasionally fell in anyways. Then we covered the berries with water in a heavy bottomed pan and simmered them with healthy amounts of clove and cinnamon and stirred and mashed them for about 30 minutes. It’s important to cook elderberries as they contain a not nice ingredient. “Wicked Plants” by Amy Stewart, says the raw juice and seeds contain cyanide that can only be removed by heating. According to folklore, if you sleep under a blooming elderberry bush, you would have fantastical dreams filled with fairies and elves and all things magical. Since elderberries usually grow very near streams,bogs, fens and swampy areas, I will pass on camping under one.

Once your berries are well cooked and cooled enough to handle, stir in an equal amount of raw honey. It will not taste pleasant at all without the honey. A quality, raw honey will provide enzymes and added immune boost to your syrup. Now pour the whole mess into a tea towel lined strainer over top of a big bowl and squeeze every last bit of juice out.


You now have a pile of mush to add to your compost.


The syrup should be bottled in sterilized jars and stored in the refrigerator. Take at the first sign of a cold – 1/2-1 teaspoon for children, 1/2-1 tablespoon for adults every few hours. Great for soothing coughs and especially croup. You could also pour it over vanilla ice cream or add it to sparkling water for an impressive treat. Slainte!




Everything is blooming at once, so I guess I am going with a “Flowering Herbs” theme this week! Yarrow is commonly found along roadsides. It’s flowers look vaguely similar to the elder flower in that they are creamy white and slightly umbrella shaped, but that is where the similarity ends. Elderflowers are soft and flow-y and tend to grow in ditches with damp ground. Yarrow grows in dry, rocky areas on a single, hard stem.


It is easy to see from the delicate, feathery leaves how yarrow is also called Thousand Leaf. It has many other names and uses: Soldiers Woundwort & Bloodwort refer to its ability to stop nosebleeds and staunch the flow of blood in wounds when applied directly. Lady’s Mantle might refer to its uses for excessive bleeding during menses, headaches and to produce a “sense of peace” for women in menopause. A bath made with yarrow is said to ease itchiness during chicken pox. Yes, I have been wildcrafting yarrow this week! Would anyone care for a cup of tea?



Elderflowers are so pretty! I collect handfuls of the drooping umbrellas of tiny, creamy white flowers. I lay them out on old window screens to dry. I will store them in sealed mason jars to use in tea this winter. Not only is elderflower tea delicious with honey, it has medicinal properties used for helping along a stuffy nose and sore throat. It’s perfect to offer at the first sign of a cold or flu. Don’t take all the flowers though- you will want to come back when they fully ripen into berries to make cough syrup!