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I don’t know what this winter season was like for most of you, but for my family it was brutal.  It started with a head cold – headaches and a super stuffy nose. Then the stomach flu hit as soon as I started feeling better.  Although the actual symptoms only lasted 48 hours it was one of the worst two days in my recent memory. I haven’t had the stomach flu since I was a kid and I’m not much of a drinker so I had forgotten how awful vomiting continuously was like. Yuck is really the only way to describe it.  When my husband started showing stomach flu symptoms I began to worry about my son, who was 15 months at the time.  My little guy is lean and small for his age.  I knew if he started vomiting or had diarrhea we would be in trouble.

I began mentally kicking myself.  What kind of herbalist doesn’t have elderberry syrup at the ready ALL the time?!  Then came the mama guilt. A herbalist AND a mother and I didn’t have anything in the house to keep my son healthy!

Before I could order supplies to make elderberry syrup my husband and I got sick again.  We had heard the rumours of a terrible flu going around.  Congestion, headaches, fever, total body ache and a dry hacking cough that lasted for weeks.  It didn’t take long before we realized this was exactly what we had.

And then what I feared happened. My son got sick.  Really sick.  A fever that got scary high at night, stuffy congested nose and low energy/lethargy were the main symptoms.  While he wasn’t vomiting he was still pretty miserable and was not eating or drinking much.  Nursing was hard because the poor guy couldn’t breathe through his nose and I was coughing uncontrollably.  I pulled out everything I had on hand.  Melissa officinalis (lemon balm) tincture to help reduce his fever, garlic rubbed on the soles of his feet to act as an antimicrobial (I was taking it too so he was getting some of the constituents via breast milk), steams with essential oils and a homeopathic cold/flu cough medicine to help with the other symptoms.  While what I did have helped a little, my little guy was sick a little too long for my liking.  We all were.

Sick Ash

(Mama and baby bear both sick)


Garlic has always been my go-to herb when it came to nasty bugs and illnesses.  It’s never let me down.  While it did help this winter, it certainly did work as well as it used to.

When the nasty germs finally left my home at the end of January I vowed never to be without more herbal remedies ever again.  I ordered my local honey and elderberries and waited patiently for all the ingredients to arrive on my doorstep.  The syrup I made was a lovely combination of elderberry fruit, flowers, cinnamon, clove and ginger with local raw buckwheat honey. It was divine!

Elderberry Syrup

(Beautiful jars of elderberry syrup)

It was almost like he waited for me to make the syrup because after a few play dates with some snotty little infants my son had his second cold of the winter season.  This bug was different from his first.  A low grade fever that only lasted a few hours and a runny nose that left him looking like Rudolf.  He also had this really deep cough. Although it was loose and productive it still had me worried.  I’m convinced paranoia is standard for first time moms.  I kept thinking, “oh no, he has whooping cough”.

Sick Ash 2

(Thank goodness for babywearing because he was MISERABLE!)


As soon as he started showing symptoms he was getting acute doses (1 tsp) of elderberry syrup 5-6 times a day.  These doses were easy to administer because he loved the taste of the syrup.  Within 48 hours the cough started to sound much better, the mucus coming out of his nose was running clear (instead of a scary green colour) and he was sleeping far more soundly.  By day 4 he was on the mend, faring MUCH better than my husband and I who were sick for weeks!

During this time my husband and I took 1 tbsp of syrup a day just a precaution.  Of course I can’t say for certain, but neither of us got sick and this seemed like a miracle considering we seemed to catch every little bug we encountered this winter!

So long story short, elderberry syrup is awesome. It made my son feel better quickly and it kept the rest of my family healthy.  I will NEVER be without it during a cold/flu season ever again.

Next I will post I will talk about the healing properties of elderberry fruit/flower.