This flu circulating around everywhere seems to be a whopper this year. Perhaps there is some media hysteria that is fueling the flu fire, but from what we’ve seen, it is a doozer. It sounds like it lasts a good long time with persistent symptoms including headaches, chills, fevers, aches and pains, nausea and stomach aches, sneezing and coughing. While all these are typical of any flu season, this one seems more potent and lasts longer.
With a child who has a compromised immune system, and a husband who works with clients who travel from all over the globe to sit in a small snow cat, exchanging all sorts of nasty viruses, the best defence is preventative. Every year I harvest bags of elderberries that grow in abundance in our region. Sambucus canadensis are known for their immune boosting properties as well as a sinus infection aid. So we wildcraft as many as we can after the first frost in September, freezing them for later use. When a nasty virus is circulating, I simply pull out a good amount of berries and make some syrup. Typically, I make a juice or a syrup but in the past I have also tried a jelly as well as a tincture of sorts. But our favourite way to acquire all the good nutrients that elderberries imbue is in a simple jello.
To make elderberry juice, bring to a boil 4 parts water to 1 part berries. Simmer for a good long while til the liquid has decreased to almost half of what it was. At this point, the liquid will be a deep purple black, and so thick it will be hard to see through. Once I have taken it off the heat, I add honey. I use very little honey (maybe 2 tablespoons for the entire batch) on account of our aversion to sweeteners. The reason I do use honey in this case is the antibacterial qualities. The amount of carbs my little Type 1 Diabetic gets out of this are minimal and it is worth the nutrition in the juice, I think. It is the one exception for our no sugar rule ever. Because there is so little sweetener in this juice, it has a pleasant bitter taste.
To make the jello, I added 3 packets of grass-fed gelatin to simmered and strained juice, let it cool and then chill in the fridge. The kids love it!
Other immune boosters we feed on during cold and flu season include garlic, garlic, and more garlic. We really go overboard with the garlic but it makes everything taste soooo good. Garlic soup? Add 10 to 15 cloves to homemade chicken broth….yum! Puree with some baked squash and coconut milk and this is our favourite winter meal. We also eat a lot of live or fermented foods…sauerkraut and kimchi are a winter staple. We also do a lot of hot sitz baths when any sign of sickness is on the horizon. Finally, I also give my kids teas, Vitamin C and echinacea or astragalus tincture.
We love our elderberries….such a simple, easy way to ward off the flu. What are your go-to staples for maintaining wellness during the winter months?