This spring. Yikes. Usually by this time of year the illnesses of winter would be a distant memory, but Facebook is still rampant with reports of a long list of ailments. Stomach flu. Sinus infections. Double ear infections. Even influenza, which hit one of my most longstanding and dearest friends this past week. Definitely not fun. Being the borderline – but not too far over the edge – hippie that I am, I immediately committed to bringing her some elderberry syrup.
I first learned about elderberry syrup from my husband, Ned, who had a great love for vitamins and supplements when we still had two incomes and no kids. Now we have to select such purchases with a little more discretion. But elderberry syrup is definitely one that has made the cut. During cold and flu season, I always have it in the house. If you take it soon enough – either as soon as you start feeling sick or as soon as you’ve been exposed – it gives your immune system an extra boost to either avoid illness altogether or significantly shorten it. I’ve always kept colds for a solid seven to ten days, but if I start taking elderberry syrup right away I can shorten it to three or four. Pretty amazing stuff, and it works particularly well for viruses like influenza or colds.
Up until recently I just purchased the Nature’s Way version – either at our local health store or grocery store – but this past winter I finally got around to making it myself and could not believe how easy it was. I was immediately kicking myself for paying the hefty price these past few years, meaning $15-20 for an 8 oz. bottle, when I was able to make between six and eight cups for about the same price. And it stores in your fridge for between two and three months. I’ve been using the recipe from Mountain Rose Herbs and really like it. We actually just used up our first batch a couple of weeks ago, so I had all of the supplies on hand and had been meaning to make a batch anyways when I heard about Lauren’s recent case of influenza.
Long before I worked myself up to making my own elderberry syrup – though now that I know how easy it is to do, it’s embarrassing how long I put it off – I was the lucky recipient of some homemade syrup from one of my friends. When Silas, who just turned two yesterday, was born, Jonah was in the middle of some weird virus. So we had a three-day-old baby and a sick two-year-old who was on round two of fevers. In addition to being worried about Jonah and stressing out that I couldn’t take care of him like I typically would when he was sick, I was also panicked at the thought of getting Jonah’s illness and passing it onto the newborn baby who wouldn’t leave my side. And in the midst of all that, discreetly as you please, Sarah dropped off a quart of beautiful, homemade elderberry syrup. I took it religiously and both baby and I stayed healthy. It was such a kind gesture and so appreciated by this mama.
So when Lauren, who has a two-year-old of her own, found herself knocked out by this awful illness last week, it felt like a good opportunity to balance some karma and pay the gift of elderberry syrup forward. And I threw in a couple jars of homemade bone broth for good measure. I love how when you step back and look at acts of kindness, they are never enacted in isolation. One really does lead to another, so that you can never tell what far reaching consequences a single act may have. Sisterhood is very cyclical like that.
The funniest part of the entire exchange with Lauren was figuring out how I could drop stuff off without disrupting her rest. I planned the drop-off for naptime so that Silas could fall asleep in the car while we drove. I was just going to pull into her driveway and run stuff to the door, but I didn’t want her to stay awake if she could get some sleep so I offered to run in and drop it off in her fridge if she left her door unlocked. Her reply text cracked me up: “I know you hate this disclaimer, but my house is trashed.”
She’s right, I really do hate that disclaimer. Needless to say, she received a flurry of picture texts in reply, hiding nothing of the chaos that is now my home. Couch cushions all over the living room floor from where the boys were jumping on them that morning, toys strewn all over the play area, dining room table piled with mail. She got all of it. Let’s just say that she probably won’t feel like it’s necessary to ever give me that disclaimer ever again.
So, as this lingering winter-spring and all of its illnesses drag into the end of April, I encourage you to whip up an easy batch of elderberry syrup. And don’t be afraid to pass a jar along as needed. The kindness always comes back.