Elderberry syrup is a time-tested remedy for flus and colds. The elderberry has been used for centuries, offering deep support for the immune system.
When used at the onset of illness, elderberry can prove active at the cellular level with anti-viral activity and has even been shown to be active against the influenza virus. It’s anti-oxidant properties help maintain balance, and the constituents in the berry promote the health of the upper respiratory system. They support a healthy inflammatory response and help to maintain the health of the mucus membranes.
It can also help reduce inflammation and pain in the joints and muscles, making it an excellent choice when you feel the beginning of a cold or flu coming on. The best thing about elderberry syrup? It actually tastes good!
3 cups water
½ cup dried elderberries
¼ cup dried echinacea root
3 Tbsp minced ginger root
¼ cup dried lemon balm
¼ cup dried yarrow
zest of ½ lemon
½ cup local honey
½ cup brandy
- Combine the elderberries, ginger, and echinacea root with the water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer 30 minutes.
- Remove from heat. Add the lemon balm and yarrow and allow to sit for 20 minutes.
- Strain the mixture through cheesecloth. Squeeze the bag to get as much of the juice as you can.
- Stir in the brandy.
- Add the equal amount of honey.
- Warm over very low heat until honey is fully incorporated.
- Pour into bottles. Label and date.
- Store in fridge – 6 months.
Dose: 1 – 2 Tablespoons, 3x day.
What is a liniment?
A liniment is an herbal remedy that is used topically to help alleviate pain in sore muscles and soft tissues. It’s usually made with either rubbing alcohol or witch hazel, so the herbs can be easily and quickly absorbed into the skin. Oils can also be used, but they don’t have the immediate effect of an alcohol-based liniment, and I prefer to reserve oils for massage oils or creams.
There are several herbs that can be included in a pain-relieving liniment, but I like to include pain relieving herbs, anti-inflammatories, and herbs that help speed healing.
Menthol is naturally cooling and soothing and is often used in salves, balms, mouthwashes, liniments, lozenges, and other remedies
St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum) is my favorite herb for topical pain. It is useful in both nerve pain and muscle pain, and moves quickly to soothe overused, tired muscles or injured soft tissue. St. Johns’ Wort is best used fresh in medicine making, so in my liniment I include pre-made St. John’s Wort Tincture (unless I remember to make the liniment during the brief window of time that St. John’s Wort is ready for harvest).
Meadowsweet (Filipedula ulmaria) is uses as an analgesic and anti-inflammatory. It reduces inflammation, clears heat, and promotes the healing of tissue. It contains salicylic acid, the precursor to aspirin.
Willow bark (Salix alba) is a pain relieving herb with anti-inflammatory properties. Rich in salicin, it alleviates pain and reduces fever and inflammation. It was one of the original ingredients in aspirin and can be used topically to relieve pains of arthritis or other musculo-skeletal issues.
Comfrey (Symphytum officinale) has been used historically to reduce pain and inflammation, heal wounds, and protect damaged tissues. It helps to alleviate pain, especially in the bones.
Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) reduces pain and is used as an analgesic and anti-inflammatory, both externally and internally. Yarrow helps to move chi and improve circulation by relaxing the peripheral blood vessels. Topically, it helps to repair tissue, and stop bleeding.
Chamomile (Matricaria recutita) is one of natures greatest gifts as it helps to soothe pain, reduce inflammation, and heal wounds.
Arnica (Arnica montana) has been used traditionally as a remedy for bruising, soft tissue injury, and to increase blood flow to the area of injury. Not to be taken internally, or on broken skin.
Cayenne (Capsicum frutescens), when used in diluted form it helps to relieve pain by blocking the transmission of pain messages to the brain. It is historically used in creams, lotions, and liniments for arthritis, joint pain, and sore, achy muscles.
1 cup Witch Hazel or Rubbing Alcohol
1 tsp menthol crystals
2 Tbsp dried meadowsweet
2 Tbsp dried willow bark
2 Tbsp dried yarrow
2 Tbsp dried comfrey
2 Tbsp dried calendula
2 Tbsp dried arnica flower
½ tsp cayenne pepper
1 oz St. John’s Wort Tincture
25 drops peppermint essential oil
- Coarsely grind all dried herbs with your mortar and pestle.
- Put all the ground herbs in a pint-sized mason jar.
- Pour witch hazel or alcohol over the top
- Steep for 4-6 weeks, shaking daily.
- Strain and compost herbs
- Add St. John’s Wort tincture and essential oil
- Bottle and label.
This liniment will be shelf stable and should last for a couple of years. I recommend bottling it in little spray bottles, so that it’s easy to apply as needed. Be sure it’s only used on unbroken skin, as this formula is not suitable for open wounds, and the label indicates that it’s for external use only.
Folks are learning more and more that the dangers of commercial sunscreen may outweigh the benefits. Many sunscreens have toxic ingredients, that can cause skin problems. In fact, skin cancer rates have risen and many reports indicate that sunscreens may actually raise the risk of skin cancer. In addition, it’s recommended that children are not exposed to the chemical found in many sunscreens, oxybenzone, which is known to disrupt hormones.
Research is also showing that the use of sunscreen is causing damage to ocean life, especially coral. It’s estimated that over 5000 metric tons of sunscreen wash off swimmers in the ocean each year.
Additionally, some exposure to the sun is imperative to health. Moderate exposure to the sun can increase your levels of Vitamin D. Vitamin D deficiency has been found to be a factor in many types of breast cancer as well as problems during pregnancy.
So what to do?
Moderate time in the sun – a little sun won’t hurt, but you should never allow your skin to burn.
Keep your face shaded by wearing a wide brim hat.
If you are very fair, do wear lightweight fabric to sheild the strongest rays.
Plan outdoor activities in the morning or afternoon and avoid the heat of the midday.
Use a natural sunscreen
There are some articles that are circulating on the internet now that warn of the dangers of homemade sunscreen, primarily because it’s impossible to tell how strong the sunscreen is and what the SPF of your final product will be. Use common sense in the sun: limit exposure, stay in the shade, wear a hat, etc. This natural sunscreen is an extra layer of protection but is not 100% effective in eliminating the suns rays.
Some ingredients that we commonly use in our herbal preparations contain small amounts of SPF.
Coconut Oil – although coconut oil alone will not protect against sun, it does offer support and protects the skin from sun damage.
Sweet Almond Oil – nourishes the skin by providing Vitamin E, and contains a small amount of SPF, about 5.
Carrot Seed Oil – has been shown to have SPF qualities from 35 – 40.
Shea Butter – has a natural SPF of 4-6 and is deeply emollient and nourishing to the skin
Zinc Oxide (non-nano) – has an SPF of 2 – 20 depending how much is used. Use non-nano type, as it is
Here’s an easy recipe for some homemade sunscreen.
1/2 cup sweet almond oil
1/4 cup coconut oil
1/4 cup beeswax
2 Tbsp zinc powder (non-nano)
1 tsp carrot seed oil
2 Tbsp Shea Butter
10 drops lavender essential oil
1 Tbsp Vitamin E
* Combine all the ingredients except the zinc and essential oils in a glass Pyrex measuring pitcher
* Place the glass pitcher in a saucepan with a couple inches of water
* Heat the water over medium heat until the ingredients in the pitcher start to melt. Stir occasionally.
* When all the ingredients are melted, remove from the water bath.
* Stir in the zinc oxide, vitamin E, and essential oils.
* Pour into small jars. Label and date.
The sunscreen is not waterproof. Reapply often and definately after swimming.
Do not inhale the zinc – wear a mask!
Store in a cool dark place, or in the fridge. It’s good for about one year.
By Kelsey Conger
As spring sweeps across the Colorado Front Range an abundance of flowers and tender green leaves begin to emerge. Longtime favorites of homesteaders and foragers alike, such as Nettles, Dandelion, and Wild Onion, find their way into the kitchen and onto our dinner plates. I love this magical time of year and the deep sense of relief that comes with it – winter is finally over!
As this celebratory time of year gifts us with greenery, I thought it might be fun to share a recipe for a Wild Greens Breakfast Casserole! This recipe is super easy to throw together and can even be made the night before and popped right in the oven when you wake up. It’s an excellent way to introduce wild foods to family members and friends who have never partaken in the delicious past time of foraged foods. This is a pretty big recipe and can serve up to ten people, so consider make smaller portions or freezing some for later!
- 12 oz. breakfast or chorizo sausage
- 14 eggs (pastured and local preferred)
- 1/2 c whole milk
- 1 small yellow or red onion
- 1 bell pepper
- 1-2 cups wild greens (dandelion, yellow dock, lamb’s quarters, etc.)
- handful fresh herbs such as cilantro, thyme, and rosemary
- sea salt and pepper to taste
- optional topping: fresh salsa, avocado, and radishes
1. Preheat the oven to 350 F.
2. Chop the veggies and greens to your preferred consistency, I personally like large pieces for a more chunky texture.
3. In a large, shallow cast-iron skillet melt a spoonful of ghee over medium heat.
4. Add in your sausage and stir often as it cooks through, until browned – about 10 minutes.
5. Add in your wild greens and incorporate them into the sausage until wilted.
6. Turn off the heat.
7. In a bowl mix together your eggs, milk, vegetables, herbs, and spices.
8. Pour over this mixture into the pan and bake in the oven for about 30-45 minutes, until the center is set.
9. Remove from the oven and top it with your garnishes! For a probiotic boost I sometimes add a dollop of sour cream or a little bit of sauerkraut.
I hope you all enjoy this delicious recipe! It is extremely easy to play around with and make adjustments to fit whatever produce you have on hand at the time. Feel free to substitute alternate choices that fit your needs, such as full-fat coconut milk instead of whole milk! And if you decide to cook a smaller portion, remember to leave it in the oven for less time.
Freshly harvested yellow dock, dandelion, and dwarf mallow weeded from the crop fields.
Remember, when foraging wild plants it is of utmost importance that you know how to properly ID any plants you plan to consume. Please consult local field guides to ensure safety as there are many toxic and poisonous plants that can commonly be mistaken for edible ones. Wild onions, for example, often are confused with daffodil bulbs which are toxic. Check out our workshops and events for plant walks where we will teach you how to ID plants properly!
Photos and text courtesy of Kelsey Conger. For more recipes like this one, visit her website here.
Harvest your dandelion flowers in the morning before they fully open. Be sure to harvest from an area that is as clean as possible.
To harvest, grasp the yellow petals of the flower and twist them off the green part. Don’t use the green parts in the recipe, they are bitter. You just want the yellow petals.
1 cup dandelion petals
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup sunflower oil
4 tbsp honey
1.5 cups milk
- Preheat oven to 400. Butter a bread baking dish.
- Blend all the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Mix well.
- Add the petals and stir gently, making sure the separate any clumps.
- In a second bowl, mix milk, honey, oil and egg.
- Add the liquid ingredients to the dry, and stir well to form a wet, lumpy batter.
- Pour into a buttered bread tin.
- Bake 25 – 30 minutes.
- Test with a toothpick – if it’s still too moist in the middle, lower the temperature and check every five minutes.
Serve with honey and butter.
8-10 medium sized fresh tomatoes (chopped)
½ onion (chopped)
2 garlic cloves (chopped)
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup fresh basil (chopped)
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup half/half cream
1 teaspoon Salt and pepper to taste
In a large pot, sauté onion and garlic until lightly brown.
Add the tomatoes, basil, butter, salt/pepper and chicken broth.
Mix well and let it simmer on low/medium for about 45 minutes.
Pull pot off the stove, add cream, and blend the tomato mixture with a stick blender or blender until smooth.
Sprinkle top with freshly chopped basil and parmesan, (optional)
Serve and Enjoy!