Sunday, December 28, 2008

Elderberry Syrup for Colds/Flu

Since I am spending today sick with a cold I thought I'd share with you my recipe for Elderberry syrup; a must for cold and flu relief.

1 cup elderberries (I made this at summer's end so used fresh elderberries, but you could use dried elderberries if you add a bit more water)
1 1/2 cup water
1/2 cup sugar (or substitute honey)
Simmer for about an hour with a lid on to prevent evaporation.
Strain the mixture to remove seeds. This can be done a number of ways, I used a food mill, like the kind you would use for applesauce. This has a blade that circles around forcing small particles through pores in the bottom while keeping seeds and skins above.
Pour juice into a pint jar, add 1 tablespoon lemon juice and one ounce of vodka. Put the lid on the syrup and refrigerate until needed.

This syrup is a very delicious way to enjoy the benefits of elderberries. It can be used as a cough syrup or throat soother. Elderberry has been used by many people for some time to treat colds and flu. Medical research has documented that elderberry (Sambucus) will decrease the duration and severity of the flu (J Int Med Res. 2004 Mar-Apr;32(2):132-40). Elderberry will both stimulate the human immune system and inhibit neuraminidase, an enzyme used by the influenza virus to enter and infect human cells. These actions combined put it high on my list of herbs to have on hand for winter health.

Another thing I do when I feel a cold coming on is use my product "Thyma-flu". This is a combination of elderberries, thyme, echinacea, peppermint and horehound. I make this as a dried preparation so that you can add your own alcohol to it; vodka, brandy or rum. After setting for 2 weeks so that the herbs infuse into the alcohol I take 1-2 teaspoons of the alcohol 2-3 times a day at the first sign of a cold or flu. If taken soon enough, this will often stop a cold or flu before it gets a hold. You can purchase this mixture on my website at: It is great to have on hand before you need it.

A food mill is a must have tool for an herbalist and one wanting to learn to be self sufficient.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Frankincense Review

I was surprised today to find a medical review of the esteemed Christmas herb, frankincense, in the British Medical Journal (December 17). Not only is it famed for having been one of the gifts of the Magi, but it is an important medicinal herb, incense and perfume ingredient.

As incense it has been used in religious ceremonies by Jews, Greeks, Romans, Arabs and other ancient religions and is still used today in the Catholic Mass. Frankincense, also called olibanum is the gum resin tapped from Boswellia (Boswellia serrata mainly) trees found in Arabia, Africa and India.

Forty seven studies met the criteria for inclusion in this systematic review done by E. Ernst at the Universities of Exeter and Plymouth in the UK. Inclusional studies had applications to asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease, osteoarthritis and collagenous colitis. What all these diseases have in common is that they are all related to inflammation. All studies showed clinically positive results leading the authors to conclude that collectively these results are ‘encouraging but not compelling’. They note that not enough of these studies were large, randomized controlled trials.

Frankincense has traditionally been used to treat diseases of inflammation as well as to promote digestion and used as a skin restorative. Active ingredients in frankincense such as alpha and beta boswellic acid have been shown to affect the pro-inflammatory enzymes lipoxygenase and cyclo-oxygenase as well as the compliment pathway. The lipoxygenase enzyme will convert essential fatty acids into leukotrienes which are can contribute to the inflammatory response in a number of ways. Cyclooxygenase (COX) promotes the formation of prostaglandin H2, another inflammation mediator, from arachadonic acid.

So although frankinsence is probably not the fountain of youth as many websites might have you believe, extracts from this resin certainly may play an important role in preventing inflammatory or treating inflammatory diseases.

Ernst, E., Frankincense: systemic review. BMJ 2008;337.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Cold in the Greenhouse

When I got home from a trip Monday night the temperatures were in the negative! The next day I noticed some of my rose geraniums in the greenhouse had gotten nipped by the cold. Mind you, this is not really a greenhouse; it has no temperature controls. It is basically a shed with a brick floor, south facing windows and a large water container inside and my workshop on the other side. I was told by the previous owners that it never froze inside, but temps below zero may have pushed things. One of my rose geraniums is severely drooping right now but I am hopeful that it can recover. You can see another rose geranium looks pretty good as does the rosemary and lemon verbena. The common geranium is also blooming red which is great for the Holidays. I use this greenhouse for overwintering some of my plants and am trying my hand at starting some new plants as well; mint and lavender. I also have a try of mixed lettuces going which I will harvest from soon. Its nice to have fresh greens in the middle of winter for a salad. I am also housing some tender plants from the Herb Society garden. Some of these are not doing too well as I think not enough roots came with them upon transplant. They include stevia, lemon grass, bay, marjoram and a few others. If I remember correctly, the garden cleanup day was a cold and wet one and these were probably dug in haste! But, its always hard to predict Mother Nature and even they may come back.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

What are we doing today?

I have been spending alot of time recently fixing up my workspace and hadn't gotten around to distilling the fennel I had put aside. So, today is fennel distillation. The shop smells wonderfully of anise/fennel. I use fennel distillate/hydrosol in my anti-aging cream that is becoming so popular. Fennel is a perfect herb for dry aging skin and has been long used for that. It is also good for tummy troubles and will freshen any breath. Next on the still will be blue spruce which I use in my hand/body lotion.
Saturday I participated in the Colorado Cupboard's Open House. This Tuesday I will participate in a Holiday open house at Advanced Family Chiropractic owned by Dr. Jessica Thompson. Stop by if you are in Longmont and say hi. The open house starts at 4:00pm.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Crafts and Christmas Presents

Crafts make wonderful presents and show a person that they are worth your time and energy. If you garden there are many gift ideas that come from the garden if you plan ahead. Here are some ideas:

Pressed Flowers - if during the summer you had the foresight to press flowers in a phone book you can now decorate candles or votives with them. Use Modge-Podge to do it as it is very forgiving with using excess. You can also buy small paper boxes at the craft store to decorate and put a treasure inside.

Sachets - you can buy organza sachets inexpensively at craft stores. Use them to fill with dried lavender buds, homemade potpourri or vanilla beans. In fact, anything in an organza bag is beautiful.

Bath Salts - basic bath salts make a very easy and nice gift. To one cup of salt (sea salt, epsom salt or table salt) add 2 tablespoons of baking powder. Now add about 10-20 drops of essential oil to 1 tablespoon of glycerine and mix that into the salt. Put it in a nice jar. This can be used by placing 1-2 tablespoons into the bath or it can be rubbed on the hands to clean them when they are very dirty. Good essential oils to use would be lavender, sweet orange, or peppermint.

If you don't make your own gifts this year, consider buying them from Colorado Aromatics.


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