Knock on wood, our kids rarely get sick. Chalk it up to the fact that they’re basically hermits or good genes (Brad and I also rarely get sick) or just luck of the draw. But we still take extra precautions to help keep colds and flu at bay. This is especially true this year since Heidi is so young. Of course our main line of defense is hand washing. But we are also big fans of elderberry to give our kiddo’s immune system a boost. I have typically bought elderberry gummies made by other local mamas, but recently decided to take the plunge and make them on my own.
I decided to dive into making our own elderberry syrup, so I could make some that would be safe for Heidi. Most elderberry syrup is made with honey, which isn’t safe for babies under one. As my breastfeeding journey with her came to an early end, I was looking for alternate ways to give her little immune system a boost. The answer was to make her some elderberry syrup without the honey. I did some research and found that agave syrup or maple syrup were good substitutes. I decided to split the batch and still make the girls with local dark honey because it’s antioxidant and antibacterial properties have added immunity benefits.
To make the elderberry syrup, I used a kit from Noelle’s Naturals, which had great reviews on Amazon . The kit has dried elderberries, organic ginger, organic cloves, and a cinnamon stick. The kit has easy to follow directions (basically simmering the contents in water on the stove) and yields about 18 oz of syrup. I let the reduction sit in the fridge overnight because the packaging suggested this technique for upping the potency. I also used an old cloth napkin to squeeze out every bit of juice from the elderberries (you just want the juice from the elderberries, not the berries themselves).
I split out about 1/3 of the juice for Heidi and mixed with 1/2 a cup of agave syrup (found at most grocers). The rest I mixed with 1 cup of local dark honey. When the farmer’s market is in full swing, I buy my local honey from there. Local honey is best because it also helps with local allergens. The Noelle’s Naturals bag suggests adding 1 cup to the whole batch, but you don’t have to follow an exact science when mixing, so I always add a little more honey to make the syrup thicker and last a little bit longer. It’s important to note that honey boosts the shelf life of the elderberry syrup, while agave syrup does not. To combat this you can make the agave version in smaller batches and freeze some for later.
You can serve the elderberry syrup as is: one teaspoon a day. I left Heidi’s as syrup and syringe it to her for convenience. But the girls have come to love their elderberry gummies, so I decided to take their batch the extra step and turn into gummies. To do so, I purchased beef gelatin powder. I chose to buy this one from NOW Real Food because I was already making an Amazon order, it had fantastic reviews, and their gelatin is 100% pure beef gelatin. Side note, this stuff is an excellent source of protein. I also have enough left over to make more gummies until the girls go to college.
To turn your syrup into gummies, mix
- 1/4 of a cup of your cooled elderberry syrup
- 1/4 cup of gelatin powder
- 1/4 a cup of hot (not boiling) water.
Once the gelatin powder has dissolved, mix in an additional
- 3/4 a cup of elderberry syrup.
Immediately start portioning into molds. I got these heart-shaped silicone molds for the girls, but you could find about any shape mold you want. I suggest having at least four of these molds on hand to accommodate the yield from the directions above. I did not have enough on hand on my first go at it, so I had to quickly improvise by lining the bottom of a Tupperware container with gummy mixture and cutting them into gummy squares after the fact.
This ended up being a fun practical life activity for the girls. The molds came with droppers, which I handed over to them to fill their own molds. It was a fun challenge for them to try and add just the right amount of liquid to each cavity. Just be aware that the mixture starts solidifying fairly quickly: within 5-10 minutes. So if your kiddos aren’t very proficient at this activity (like mine), you’ll likely want to take over at some point to make sure it all gets into a mold.
Set your molds in the fridge for 2 hours and then you are all set. I popped ours out into a mason jar, which I keep in the fridge, and I let the girls have two a day.
Other Immunity Boosting Tips
Since I am on the topic of keeping sickness at bay, I wanted to go ahead and share a few other things we do around the house to help out.
1. The number one thing we do is frequent hand washing (mostly thanks to Brad’s constant nagging; he’s better at it than me!). We use homemade soap using 1 part Cove’s Castile Soap, 2 parts water and some REVIVE Essential Oils mixed in.
2. In addition to elderberry, Brad and I take extra Vitamin C during the winter months. I give the girls at least one orange a day (in addition to all the fruit they already eat) for their own boost of Vitamin C.
3. I use REVIVE Essential Oils. Specifically, I use their Immunity Boost oil blend to create a cleaner (which is basically like the Young Living Thieves cleaner, but way cheaper), which I use to wipe down and spray all the surfaces in our house. It’s the cleaner that I use for everything. I also diffuse Immunity Boost into the air. If you are curious about REVIVE Essential Oils, feel free to message me (I also have a $10 promo code and shipping is always free!). Essential oils have come a long way since MLM companies first introduced them to the masses, and there are definitely more affordable, reputable options out there now.
4. Lots of outdoor time. I know this seems counter-intuitive, but it’s not the cold weather that makes people sick. In the wintertime, many people move indoors where they share the air with tons of other humans, and that is what makes the spread of sickness more prevalent. Our time spent outside, we know that we are not worrying about breathing in a bunch of germs from other people. Plus studies have shown that your immune system is activated in colder air. And fresh air is great for you in general!
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