September is the month everyone starts getting ill again.
The kids go back to school taking all their germs with them and exposing others to their unfamiliar bugs.
Being exposed to so many new strains of bugs gives our immune system an awful lot to do, so the best thing to do in September is to nourish kids, teachers and parents with immune boosting nutrients.
It can be difficult finding remedies that are safe for children to use, especially after the legislation a few years ago, stating that echinacea should not be recommended for children under 12 years old.
While there are lots of gummies and multi-vits marketed towards children on the shelves, many of them are full of sugar and ultimately unnecessary, especially if your children already have a good diet.
Instead, I recommend trying some immune boosting herbs and in autumn the one fruiting at the moment is elderberry.
Elderberry is the fruit of the elder flower, so if you’ve not been busy making elderflower wine, cordial or champagne, you should see your local elder trees blooming with ripe, dark berries.
The bark of the elder tree looks ancient and gnarled, hence its name. When it’s in flower, the blossom makes a lovely tea that can be helpful for hay-fever, runny noses and watery eyes.
The flowers are astringent, meaning that they help to dry out conditions that are too wet.
I’m usually much more likely to leave the flowers on my local trees and gather the berries once the flower fruits instead.
The berries are high in vitamin C, making them rival some of the most nutritious fruit and veg.
Many people think of orange juice for a vitamin C hit when they’re feeling unwell, but by the time it’s bottled, most of the vitamin C has gone.
The most impressive thing about elderberry, is it’s antiviral properties.
Antibiotics don’t treat viruses, so when you catch a common virus, you’re stuck with it until your immune system fights it off.
Elder will not only help to fight off the virus, but it’s high content of vitamin C will also give your immunity a boost, helping your body do some fighting of its own.
Elder is usually taken as a syrup.
You can make your own if you like to get crafty in the kitchen.
Soak the berries in water for an hour or so to clean them of debris and any creepy crawlies that may have been enjoying them.
Once soaked, you simply simmer them in a pan of water for 10-20 mins, before straining.
Measure the left over liquid and add as much sugar in grams are there are mls of liquid and let the sugar dissolve before simmering again to get the desired consistency.
If making syrups, make sure you store them in sterilised jars and keep them in the fridge once opened, to stop any mould forming.
The recipe above can be tweaked to your preference and if you like to get really creative, you can add a few extra bug busting herbs to help your syrup pack an extra punch.
Add some thyme with the elderberries for a chesty cough with stubborn mucous or add some sage to soothe a sore throat.
Ginger and chilli are brilliant at releasing congestion, but if you want your medicine to be family friendly, you may want to make a non-spicy batch for the little ones.
Children tend to love elder syrup as it tastes sweet and is delicious off the spoon.
It can also be diluted to make a yummy juice drink that they can take to school or enjoy at home.
Elder is my biggest selling remedy for children’s immunity, so if you’re not one for kitchen medicine, it’s easy to buy off the shelf.
We keep a bottle in the staff area all year round, in case someone comes in looking under the weather.
It doesn’t do our reputation any good if all the herbalists and nutrition experts are sneezing, coughing and spluttering.
It’s our most effective and delicious way of keeping healthy.
For more information, contact Nicola at her Herbal Medicine clinic, Health and Herbs, in Pedder Street, Morecambe, on 01524 413733.