Good afternoon everyone! Wherever this finds you , I hope that it finds you well and happy, safely surrounded by your loved ones!
I've written this article in response to an email that has been making the rounds concerning the possibility of elderberry products exacerbating the dangerous phenomenon that is known as the Cytokine Storm, which we are hearing about constantly right now as we are learning more and more about COVID-19. This email was sent to me last night, but this wasn’t the first I’d heard of the concern about elderberry and cytokine storm. I'm a herbalist who likes to work with the medical community, even though I’ve always been a proponent of traditional herbalism.
For me, simply getting the facts without demonizing a generally helpful herb just makes sense. What I discovered when doing the research the other day for someone else who brought this concern to me, was that much of this misunderstanding was coming from several articles posted on some of the mothers groups. There’s even one that uses an article from the Lancet to try to back up the claims. I spent all afternoon combing the Lancet articles and they had been completely taken out of context, simply to prove the point with no mention of elderberry at all.
What is going on with this new scare is not unlike the anti-vaccine conversation, where many vague hypotheses have turned into statements of “fact”, blurring the real truths usually found in the center between both sides of any argument. I mean no offense to anyone who is anti-vaccine but once that happens, hysteria breaks out in this information age and that is what appears to have happened here. This has many of us who are involved in herbal education really upset right now. It’s happening because people are so scared and I don’t blame them but they need to use the information they find correctly and without making simple assumptions out of fear.
This email was sent to me by someone whose pediatrician sent it to her. I don’t blame the Pediatrician for being upset at all and for asking their patients to discontinue using it. The liabilities would be huge if anything were to go wrong, even if elderberry had nothing really to do with it. We live in a very litigious society. I have since I received it seen this posted several different places in unrelated sources which leads me to believe that it's being grabbed and dispersed without any real research.
That being said, most of the pediatricians, functional and family physicians who work directly with herbs and herbalists believe that elderberry does not contribute to the phenomenon of the cytokine storm. That being said, they/we are also very cautious about suggesting it to anyone who is known to be immune compromised. That is just common sense. We’ve known forever in the herbal community that elderberry can ramp up the immune system and like I said last night, it should never be suggested to anyone who is known to be immune compromised or anyone for that matter who is using any medicines to help promote an immune response.
If you have rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis or lupus, you really need to discuss using elderberry with your Doctor. For instance, my brother is diabetic and also on anti- rejection drugs. There’s no way he should ever consider taking it. When my father was fighting an antibiotic resistant superbug, we did not use it because his immune system was already too compromised and because he was also fighting a host of autoimmune issues. He was on Proscar for his prostate and Plaquenil for his rheumatoid arthritis and we felt that elderberry could have stimulated his immune system too much.
Elderberry should never be used by anyone who is taking Theophylline for asthma or other respiratory conditions because it can reduce the levels of those drugs causing them to not work as well. If you are taking a diuretic it’s a no go because elderberry is already a diuretic. Diabetics need to be really careful because elderberry can reduce blood sugar too much and too quickly. It’s contraindicated for anyone on chemotherapy as well. These are very practical things though and this information is easily available from any pharmacist and most good herbalists already know it because we have to be so careful. In my own experience, these contraindications are often not as well known by many Doctors, which is why I always say to become your pharmacists best friend!
Personally, elderberry is not part of my immunity arsenal except in cases like this when I am trying to be extra cautious. For times that aren’t as urgent I personally rely on a really healthy diet, lots of sleep, meditation, movement, plenty of water and green tea, bone broth to which I’ve added lots of fresh ginger, garlic and fresh turmeric, zinc (in low amounts), vitamins C, D and B, refrigerated Probiotics, Prebiotics, astragalus, olive leaf extract and a reishi mushroom mixture.
When a nasty bug is circulating I’ll generally begin to take elderberry right after I’ve had the direct exposure and continue it for about 7 days. If I still get sick what I’ve noticed for myself is that I generally recover faster. I discontinue its use very quickly, generally about three days into my illness and move on to zinc and Umcka, an African Geranium that is thought to help with recovery from colds and flus. That’s been the standard way most of us have used elderberry for years, it’s only recently that it’s become used as a daily prophylactic, as it's benefits became more widely known by the general public.
However, these are different times. I don’t blame anyone for using it that way right now ( I do blame them for hoarding it, that’s just silly!) and for most, it’s generally very safe provided it’s made correctly, even if you take it daily which I do not ever personally recommend. Most commercial preparations are made very well and are generally safe. Several years ago I spent months teaching so many young mothers who were trying to making the syrup themselves. Their kids were taking their syrup and vomiting because they had been using unripe berries and some stems as well as the ripe berries! Unknown to many, elderberry is totally poisonous if not produced correctly. The plant is full of cyanide so there is a proper way to harvest it and produce it and for the record, most homemade elderberry syrup if produced correctly is as safe as anything you can buy.
I have been waiting for Aviva Romm to weigh in on this before I wrote about this. Aviva is one of the only Doctors (Yale Medical School) that I know of who is also a highly trained herbalist and midwife. I’ve loved and followed her work for years. She’s always "no nonsense" which is one of the things I love about her. No bullshit. Speaking of which, I just remembered that elderberry does have some laxative qualities! She has created a COVID-19 site and you can find the link here. I am grateful to be able to share it with you; it is full of valuable information that we all need right now.
I have sent the link to an article she wrote last night, but I took this piece out of it as it directly relates to her feelings about this.
“What about Elderberry? There’s an enormous amount of information and misinformation circulating on the internet about elderberry, COVID-19, and a phenomenon called ‘cytokine storm.’ The bottom line is that most of the evidence for elderberry is for the treatment of flu when taken during the first 72 hours of symptoms, not for the prevention of either colds or flu, though one study showed a reduced duration and severity of colds (upper respiratory infection) in air travelers compared to those who didn’t use it.
Cytokine Release Syndrome (CRS), or in its extreme, cytokine storm is an immunologic phenomenon that occurs in advanced states of infection, for example, in ARDS, as mentioned above, a potentially severe advanced COVID-19 complication, sepsis, also a possible severe COVID-19 complication, or with certain specific immunologic medications (i.e., monoclonal antibodies). It was considered a major cause of death in the Spanish Flu, SARS, and H1N1 Interleukin-6 is a term often dropped in these conversations because it is an immune mediator that acts as both a pro-inflammatory cytokine but, simultaneously it also acts as an anti-inflammatory. The association with elderberry and cytokine storm is implausible; elderberry is not able to cause cytokine storm whether used for prevention or infection, or during infection. Were one to be experiencing cytokine storm, one would be far too sick for herbal therapies; this is an ICU/life support level crisis. Bottom line: elderberry is unlikely, based on what we know at this time, particularly relevant for COVID-19 prevention or even treatment of mild-to moderate symptoms and if you’re concerned about cytokine release syndrome or cytokine storm as a result of this herb, don’t use it. “
It’s always important to check in with your primary physicians, pediatricians and pharmacists before starting any herbal supplements, especially in a risky time like this. The problems usually come when people don’t. Because herbs are herbs they are assumed to be safer. They are for the most part EXCEPT that people forget that they are medicines... some of the oldest in the world. In this age of modern pharmaceuticals they can be dangerous because of how they can contraindicate with those medicines, something everyone needs to know and check out for themselves. For example, take the benign and delicious cranberry... healing for most, but not if you are taking blood thinners as it can possibly increase the risk of bleeding.
I always tell my clients, "You are responsible for your own health. Don't give your power away. In this day and age of Google, ignorance is definitely a choice. Learn everything you can and ask as many questions as you need!"
I do love Dr. Aviva Romms site and she’s always really on top of things. If you get a chance, take a look .. I think you’ll like her too and find her to be a wealth of really good and practical information!
I hope this helps! Stay well , safe and if I can be of help in any way please let me know!
Yours in beauty and magic,
Medical Disclaimer: In accordance with FDA and other government entity rules: the information and products you may learn about in regard to Herbal Wellness as a result of your association with Beth Schreibman Gehring are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. You, and you alone, are legally responsible for any and all decisions you make regarding the health of yourself, your family, children and your friends, clients and even your pets. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have learned as a result of your association with Beth Schreibman Gehring. Reliance on any information provided by me is used solely at your own risk.
" Are you going to Scarborough Fair? Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme.
Remember me to one who lives there, she once was a true love of mine.
Scarborough Fair/Canticle - Simon and Garfunkel
Today I’ve decided to take a fragrant and flavorful journey with the genus Salvia....more commonly known to us as Sage. Sage is the herb that I love the most passionately and if I ever (God, perish the thought!) had to choose just one culinary herb, besides my beloved roses to spend the rest of my days with, it would be the Salvia Officinalis or the Common or Culinary Sage.
Immortalized in songs and sonnets , sage is still planted in romantic cloisters and medieval knot gardens that have been hidden for centuries behind castle walls. Sage with its lovely leaves and flowers are embroidered into some of the most famous tapestries ever created, tapestries that set passionate fire to the imagination. Indeed , the lovely little sage plant is no stranger to the secret languages of passion and romance.
It comes in so many different varieties and I try to plant as many as I can, adoring them for their flowers which my hummingbirds love and the velvety scented leaves that flavor my soups and stews all throughout the year.
There are sacred Sages, culinary Sages and even a psychoactive Sage, the gorgeous yet very dangerous Salvia Divinorum. I have found Sages growing wild in Colorado and Arizona and have picked big bouquets of long stemmed Sacred White Sage in Wyoming where it grows abundantly along the Snake River, taking it home and turning it into smudge sticks.
Indigenous Americans have always considered sage one of the most sacred of herbs and burned smudge sticks made of the leaves to banish any feelings of negativity or the lingering feelings of fear and sorrow left in a space once a being has passed on or suffered through a long sickness or trauma. They also used the wet leaves in their sweat lodges to produce copious amounts of smoke that would help open the nasal passages and the lungs.
Sage is an ancient herb, beloved for centuries in Europe and on this continent for its medicinal and antibacterial qualities and of course for the musky, earthy flavor that blends so beautifully with so many things. Indeed the associations that we have in America with the aroma of sage are of hearth and home. Indeed, the scent of a turkey roasting with a sage, sausage, apple and chestnut dressing takes me back into my mothers kitchen faster than almost any other thing else that I can cook.
Sage Derby, that remarkable English cheese has its origins in the 17th century when sage leaves were added to fresh derby curds to produce a delicious cheese enjoyed at harvest and holiday feasts that was almost minty in flavor and absolutely wonderful for the digestion.
These days, fresh sage is still added at the beginning of the process and chlorophyll too, so that the cheese has a beautiful marbling of green throughout. Sage Derby is my favorite cheese to melt over sprouted grain bread for a wonderful grilled cheese sandwich and one of the most beautiful cheeses to use on a cheese board. Make sure that you have a wonderful ale to go with that and some sweet fresh apples too!
I’ve also made my own farmers cheese flavored with sage using a gallon of organic milk (cream on top!), a pinch of salt and the juice of one lemon. It's a very simple recipe, just bring the milk to a boil, stir for a minute and add the salt . Turn off the heat and add the lemon juice and the curds will begin to form.
Take a yard of cheese cloth and line a strainer with it, (I've found that a pasta pot with a strainer works very well for this) and pour in the milk and curds. Let it drain for a bit, scoop out the cheese and put it into a bowl. Add some salt, pepper and chopped fresh sage. Refrigerate and serve with whole grain crackers for a light treat that’s absolutely delicious and has the added bonus of being easily digestible.
I love to drink sage tea when I've got a touch of the flu as I find that it relaxes me and cools me down if I'm feverish. Just steep a handful of fresh sage (or a tablespoon or two of dried) in a cup of hot water, add a bit of raw honey and enjoy. This same tonic makes an exceptional gargle for a sore throat and really soothes the parched dry tissues of aching tonsils.
One tablespoon of powdered sage, mixed into a paste with 2 tablespoons of baking soda, ½ a teaspoon of water and one drop of peppermint essential oil is one of the best remedies that I know of to help sooth inflamed gums naturally.
Women who experience a heavier flow during their monthly periods have historically drunk sage tea to help bring a bit of balance to their cycle and lighten up heavier bleeding. An important note for women who are breastfeeding - avoid sage as it will dry up your milk production very quickly.
I love to take 2 cups of fresh sage and 1 cup of Crystallized ginger and simmer them with a cup of brown sugar and 3 cups of water until they boil down into a delightful syrup that makes a very relaxing and restorative digestive when stirred into a glass of white wine. Try infusing the same syrup into a pitcher of iced green tea! You'll love it!
So this year I hope that you’ve planted a few different types of sage to enjoy! Don't forget the beautifully fragrant clary sage and in my book you can never have too much pineapple sage! That's the one that the hummingbirds really adore and you'll spend many a summer afternoon watching them dart from bud to bud while sipping a cool glass of that delicious iced tea.
One last thing! The compound found in sage called thujone can be dangerous to anyone with high blood pressure or high blood sugar that is already taking medications for these conditions.
Always talk to your Doctor or pharmacist before using sage or any other herb for wellness to make sure that it doesn’t contraindicate in any way with any medical conditions that you may have.
Today I'm making the elderflower cordial that was taught to me by my dear friend Jane Toth, our dedicated Western Reserve Herb Society Garden Chair. Beautiful snowy Elderflowers have been traditionally used for centuries in German medicine. They are thought to have antioxidant properties as well as anti inflammatory and antiviral effects, which is why they're probably still used in this century as a popular remedy to help fight off colds and flu. Elderflowers can be brewed as an herbal tea as well, but Jane’s recipe is one of the best I’ve ever tried, and it produces a delicious sweet cordial that she freezes and uses all year long simply to enjoy or when she feels just a wee bit under the weather!
I've added ginger root and turmeric to mine for extra anti -inflammatory and immune support and simply because it gives it a lovely spicy taste! Just boil 7 cups of spring water and melt in 2 pounds of sugar and a cup of honey. Add the sliced lemon( about 4 of them), 2 ounces of citric acid and a sliced ginger root and turmeric root. Then stir in about thirty elderflower heads that you’ve shaken the bugs off of and clipped all but the teensiest stems from the stems from.
Don’t forget this important step. Many don’t realize that the elderberry plant contains a cyanide-inducing glycoside. Eating a enough of these can cause a buildup of cyanide in the body and make you quite ill, so only use the tiniest stems! I take a flower, pinch the stems up to the top and clip it there. This insures that I get only the smallest amount of stem.
Once you’ve stirred the elderflowers in , let the mixture sit covered with a clean linen towel for the next 48 hours, stirring occasionally. Then bottle it and freeze or put it into mason jars and can it in a nice hot water bath. Serve this cordial stirred into sparkling water , over lemon sorbet or mixed into a classic vodka and soda! If you prefer, do as my friend Jane does and pour it into a cordial glass to simply sip! However you choose to enjoy it, having a few bottles of this cordial around will insure that you have the experience of summer all year round!
I'm a Midwestern witch through and through and there is nothing that captures those memories of an Ohio spring like the extraordinary scent of a glorious French lilac in bloom! Alas, it's also one of the hardest of scents to capture because unless you are working with a natural perfumer, most of the lilac perfume that you will encounter is synthetic.
I've discovered though that one of the best carriers for this elusive scent is good old fashioned cane sugar, so when the lilacs are blooming I beg , borrow and steal enough of the fragrant blooms from all of my friends and neighbors to create a sweetly perfumed lilac treat. The end result is a beautifully tinted and infused lilac sugar that I can use to make jellies, syrups, love spells and tea sugars.
The process is simple. Take as many lilacs as you can find and pick the blossoms off of the stems. Put them into a bowl and add a bag of white sugar. Toss and cover and allow the blooms to infuse the sugar. The next morning take the cover off of the bowl . The sugar will smell amazing, but it will be damp. Place all of the sugar and lilacs evenly on dehydrator trays (or cookie sheets if you are using a low oven) and allow it to dry for about 2 hours and then put all of it back again into a covered bowl. Pick another large bunch of lilac blossoms and put them into the dehydrator for about 3 hours (no sugar this time). When they have begun to really dry but not yet lost their scent, take them out and stir them into the already infused sugar.
Let it air dry (or you can use a very low oven~ careful, you don't want caramel!) for about 6 more hours and put it all up in an air tight jar. The scent is astonishing and the sugar is delightful when you use it in tea or sprinkled on cookies or other confections. It makes a gorgeous gift packaged in a pretty cut or porcelain glass sugar bowl. I wouldn't use metal because you don't want any sort of bitter chemical reaction , a common chemistry problem between metal and flowers.
One warning...really make sure that you dry it properly..keep checking the flowers. It takes lilacs a while to dry properly. You want the color and scent to still be there but not too much of the moisture otherwise your sugar will end up with a brownish tint!
I use this sugar to make several bottles of a luscious love philtre every year. I only make three bottles and they go very quickly! It is quite an effective heart opener & aphrodisiac when used appropriately. I won't be making them until early May , but please email me at email@example.com if you are interested in purchasing one of them.
" I should have warned you before that we'd likely end up sleeping in haystacks, wi' naught but healther ale and drammch for food. " "I don't mind" , I said. He nodded toward an opening in the trees, not taking his eyes off of me. "I havena got a haystack about me, but there's a fair patch of fresh bracken yonder. If ye'd care to practice just to get the way of it...?"
Diana Gabaldon - Outlander
I want you to meet one of my favorite allies; the lovely Linden tree or you may know it by it's other names, Lime tree or American Basswood. It's an easily identifiable tree with lovely boxy leaves, long pod shaped leaves and pretty seed pods. It's also the easiest tree in the world to identify when it's in bloom. All that you need are your ears and your nose! A Linden tree is also called a "bee tree" and for awfully good reason. Walk underneath one and look up. If it's covered with flowers it will undoubtably be covered with honeybees. I have been obsessed with it's fragrance for many years. It's gorgeous, clean yet floral, a Linden in full crown is the scent of warmed raw floral honey and freshly mown hay. If you'd like to smell that heady smell but don't have a Linden tree nearby , let me introduce you to one of my favorite perfumes, the lovely Jo Malone French Lime Blossom which quite frankly is heaven in a bottle combining French Linden blossoms with a touch a tarragon and bergomot...
The leaves and flowers of the lovely Linden make a truly relaxing tea that can be enjoyed at anytime and is one of the best natural nervines that I know of. A few handfuls of the fresh or dried leaves and flowers steeped or infused into a quart of water and then sweetened with raw honey is truly ambrosia. Enjoyed with a nougat cookie or a fine piece of shortbread elevates it to a truly remarkable experience. Apologies to Marcel Proust, but most of the time I'm not crazy about Madeleines:)
For me the real strength of the Linden was found when I began struggling with the moody sweaty symptoms of perimenopause. If you're anything like me, at age 54 it can be a little bit tricky to get a good nights sleep. My husband puts his head on the pillow and sleeps like a baby but oh no...not me. Menopause by itself can have me sweating , tossing and turning and if you add a bit of stress to the mix, I'm bound to be up for most of the night. Removing caffeine and alcohol before bed is very helpful, but I also have found that 2 dropperfuls of my favorite Linden tonic in a cup of warm water with some honey about an hour before bed works wonders! Then just slide under the covers, enjoy a book for a bit and doze off. You should wake up refreshed and ready to start your day!
This tonic is an infusion of some of my favorite green allies. I'm a bad candidate for any sort of sleeping pill and I'm naturally very intense, so I made friends with all of these plants quite some time ago out of absolute necessity. Everyone of them is cooling, soothing and promote a lovely restfulness without drowsiness. Hops and valerian are well known relaxants but you won't wake up feeling as if you've taken a sleeping pill. Linden is one of the loveliest nervines that I know and is used all over the world to promote rest and relaxation. Oatstraw helps to keep all of your lady parts content, cool and juicy while the chamomile and lavender are natural sleep enhancers, slowing the activity of the nervous system while promoting lovely dreams. Anise Hyssop is a delightfully licorice tasting anti-anxiety herb and the catnip speaks for itself. All you need to see is your favorite kitty rolling around on a catnip pillow to know why I included it in the mix and then there's the Rose Absolute. Rose Absolute is just such a beautifully evocative scent and is in my opinion the ultimate aphrodisiac, nervine and antidepressant. Its magical presence in this elixir provides the alchemy that ties it all together and makes it work so well.
I make this tonic in large mason jars so my measurements are for one of those!
In each mason jar layer:
2 tablespoons of raw honey
1 and a half cups of tart cherry juice
1 and a half cups of frozen (more antioxidents!) blueberries, raspberries and blackberries
3 tablespoons each of:
10 drops of organic, culinary rose absolute ( My favorite culinary essential oils are the Chef's Essences by Mandy Aftel)
Vodka (or blackberry brandy)
Layer all of the ingredients into the mason jar and top with vodka. Close the top of the jar and shake until blended. In about three weeks, strain and funnel into dropper bottles. To use, add two dropperfuls of this tincture to a cup of warm water or herbal tea. Add honey if you'd like and sip, preferably in a warm bath or wrapped in a soft robe.
NOW JUST FOR FUN!
A lavender and hops filled sleeping pillow is the perfect sidekick to this tonic and so easy to make. Just get two pieces of rectangular shaped soft flannel ( How about Tartan!) and sew them together , leaving one side open. Fill the pillow with arborio rice or buckwheat hulls, lavender and hops flowers and then add about 20 drops of lavender essential oil. Sew up the open side and roll the pillow back and forth to distribute the lavender oil. Either take it to bed as it is or heat it in a preheated 350 degree oven for about 3 minutes. You'll be dreaming sweet dreams in no time flat!
“Well, it’s no usually the first thing in my mind when I take ye to bed, Sassenach. Far from it. But then…” His hands cupped my breasts softly, and his lips closed on one nipple. “I’d no just say she was completely wrong either. Sometimes…aye, sometimes it would be good, to be inside again, safe and…one. Knowing we cannot, I suppose, is what makes us want to beget. If we cannot go back ourselves, the best we can do is to give that precious gift to our sons, at least for a little while…” He shook himself suddenly, like a dog flinging water from its coat.
“Pay me no mind, Sassenach,” he murmured. “I get verra maudlin, drinking elderberry wine.”
Excerpt From: Diana Gabaldon. “Outlander.”
When I was a little girl my mother made me become a Brownie in the hopes that I would follow in my sisters footsteps and become a Girl Scout. My mother was a beloved troop leader and was just thrilled that she had one more chance to do it again! She spent my Brownie year choosing amazing things for us to do and wonderful places to go. I don’t remember most of it because it was all overshadowed by the one place she chose that was perfect.
One of her best friends when she moved into the Orange School District was a woman named Dolly Temple. My mom was the youngest PTA member and Dolly was the oldest, but the two looked at each other and became instant friends. It was because of the huge Navajo Squash Blossom necklaces that each was wearing around their necks in a community that was a hotbed of diamonds and Mikkimoto pearls. As my mother told it, she walked into this thoroughly stuffy group of very fine 50’s housewives and then there was Dolly. She and mom gravitated to each other immediately because of those necklaces which at that time absolutely no one understood or valued. My mother looked amazing when she wore her Indian Jewelry and so did Dolly. Both were incredibly strong women, with striking features and even stronger personalities. The Indian jewelry that neither of then were ever without simply mirrored the strident boldness that each of them carried within. Both wore black during the day way before it was acceptable to do so!
They were just fabulous , the last of a generation of the “they just don’t make broads like that any more”. (Sort of like Claire!)
Dolly was a transplanted southern girl who owned 36 of the most incredibly beautiful acres in Moreland Hills Ohio, complete with a gorgeous Georgian mansion, horse barns, orchards and pastures. She raised the most beautiful Arabian horses and had several lovely little Welsh ponies that she drove as teams.
Dolly Temple was my first mentor, the very first women who ever put me on a horse. My mother in an attempt to keep her youngest daughter interested in the “Silly Brownie Stuff” as I called it took us out to Dolly’s farm. She should have known ...I took one look and was smitten. The day came to cross the Brownie Bridge and approximately 5 minutes before it was to be my turn I looked at my mom and said, “I don’t EVER want to be a Girl Scout…I want to go back to that place with the horses and learn to ride. “ My mother simply smiled and called Dolly. If she was disappointed she never let it show. Her generosity that day completely changed my life. I don't live well without horses. My mother knew that and let it be.
From that day on I practically lived at the Temples and at least 4 times I week I would go there after school, catch and brush the horses, saddle up the ponies, have my lesson and then go riding around her woods. I’d come into her house afterwards for homemade hot chocolate and huge slabs of crusty warm homemade bread with her home churned butter. Sometimes I’d walk in and she’d be plucking a duck or a chicken that she’d just killed herself and the end result that day would be the most incredible homemade chicken and dumplings which she served on lavish Royal Worcester plates with her mothers gorgeous sterling.
Once or twice I accidentally walked in on her in the middle of the butchering process, but I actually didn’t mind because she walked her talk. Nothing was wasted. Dolly was very wealthy, but she did everything herself. She used everything that she raised from fruits and vegetables to the animals that she kept. She taught me to forage on her property for food and was the first woman to teach me about the value of eating wild plants. I adored her. She had blueberries everywhere and raspberries and plum tree surrounding the riding ring. There were French chestnuts that lined one of the lanes and the pastures were filled with apples tree. Everything had a purpose and was in just the right place. She let me explore all of it as if I were her own child.
One day in the spring when I was riding I noticed one of the most beautiful bushes that I’d ever seen. It was growing down along the driveway and it was the filled with the heaviest clusters of creamy flowers that I’d ever seen , draping on beautiful purple stems with thick green leaves. It was also emitting a very strange musky sweet aroma that reminded me a bit of my grandmother not in a bad way, but more like a bottle of vintage violet perfume that’s turned a little bit dark and dirty. I later learned that the beautiful blossoms were Elderberry flowers and that the plant although most parts are filled with more than a little bit of cyanide was one of the most beneficial of the wild tonics. Dolly made wines , cordials and syrups out her Elderberries and she also took some of those flowers and made wonderful fritters, covered in a very light batter and dusted with a bit of confectioners sugar. They were amazing, the heavy flowers were delicious prepared that way although definitely not for anyone who suffers from a battle with seasonal allergies!
If you’ve access to some elderberries of your own you should try to make the fritters and at the very least the syrup! You can buy elderberry syrup in any health food store and it’s absolutely indispensible during cold season for helping to beef up your immunity. One of the best tonics that I know of is a simple tea made from the syrup and a bit of chopped up crystallized ginger. I use this when anyone in my house is recovering from a nasty upper respiratory infection and it was my staple drink when I was stricken with a bout of pneumonia 15 years ago. Elderflower has been documented by herbalists for centuries as possessing the ability to be able to inhibit a virus and truly shorten the duration of a very nasty flu by several days. I always keep some form of it in my stillroom.
The very same syrup makes a wonderful iced tea in the summer laced with cinnamon and a bit of fresh mint. You can also use it to make a marvelous martini and a bit of elderberry syrup drizzled over berries and homemade vanilla bean ice cream is a wonderful treat. One of my favorite finds of the last several years is a golden liqueur from France made of Elderflowers named St. Germain. Although not nearly as heady and wild tasting as the homemade syrup it’s a delightfully fragrant addition to a glass of champagne.
If you’d like to try to make your own syrup you should definitely do so but remember that all parts except for the flowers and berries (including the seeds) are potentially toxic. Start with a lot of the ripe berries (about 2 lbs of them) and cook them gently in about 4 cups of water until they are soft. Some people put them through a food mill but I prefer to GENTLY mash the berries and let the weight of them strain the juice through a chinoise or a fine mesh strainer. Put the juice back into a saucepan , add a cinnamon stick, some crystallized ginger and a cup or two of maple syrup. You can also use honey if you’d like or plain old sugar. Gently reduce the syrup until it’s as thin or thick as you like, taste and bottle. That’s it. Make this once and you’ll never reach for another bottle of Robitussin again!
Elderberry Photograph courtesy of ThriftyLiving.net
St. Germain Poster courtesy of St. Germain
Lavinia Platter Courtesy of Replacements
“What are you doing?” he asked. His hands rested gently on my shoulders.
“Looking for that plant,” I answered, sticking a finger between the pages to mind my place. “The one I saw in the stone circle. See…” I flipped the book open. “It could be in the Campanulaceae, or the Gentianaceae, the Polemoniaceae, the Boraginaceae—that’s most likely, I think, forget-me-nots—but it could even be a variant of this one, the Anemone patens.” I pointed out a full color illustration of a pasqueflower. “I don’t think it was a gentian of any kind; the petals weren’t really rounded, but—”
Excerpt From: Gabaldon, Diana. “Outlander.” Bantam Dell, 1991. iBooks.
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Everyone who knows me , knows of my passion for all thing Outlander and especially the character of Claire Beauchamp Randall Fraser...wife, lover , mother, herbalist, Nurse and Doctor. So I've decided to create a page in her honor and once a week address a different medicinal, fragrant or nutritional herb from the vantage point of my favorite question - " What would Claire do with it ?" Stay tuned!
All of my life I've been drawn to helping others create lives of full self expression. I spent most of my time in high school "counseling" my friends who would seek me out because somehow they thought that I had the answers. During a time of highly charged personal challenges that I was facing as a very young woman in a very young marriage, I spent much of my time with a marvelous social worker who encouraged me to look more deeply within myself and to express the passion and gift that I had for healing work , a concept which at that time seemed a bit New Agey to me, but was absolutely spot on.
Starting in 1984, I spent the next 2 decades learning everything that I could from LaWanna Rine about traditional herbalism and essential oils. I became obsessed with the teachings of the Sacred Feminine and the Wise Woman Traditions. At the same time I was spending some weekends at the Phoenicia Pathwork Center in New York State with my mentor Robert Tobey and a group of amazing healers learning to work with the energy that flowed almost uncontrollably from my hands. It was a wonderful time for me. In Phoenicia I learned that the energy that I was experiencing wasn't "mine", but instead I was the conduit for something that to this day I don't quite understand, but acknowledge as a gift from a universal source. It was the very lesson that I needed to be able to use the abilities I'd been given. I spent my time there working with others while at the same time healing my own wounds. Facing my own demons allowed me the wisdom and compassion to truly begin to work with others in a way that was safe, expressive and powerful.
When I wasn't in Phoenicia, I was working with a group of extraordinary healers that my husband and I started, offering bodywork to anyone who needed it through the laying on of hands in the safe, loving space of our home. I'm convinced that anyone has the capacity to be a healer, mostly you just need to get out of your own way. Healing can happen anywhere at anytime.
That whole time I was living a dual life. I was the President of one of the most prominent gift stores in the city of Cleveland, yet at I'd find myself sitting on the loveseat in my store with my hands on a customer who was sobbing because they'd just confided in me about some of the things happening in their lives. Finally my husband said to me, " Do you think that you're missing something?" but I still wasn't sure that I was comfortable with the concept of "Beth , the Healer".
Around that same time I took a course called the Landmark Forum, a curriculum that really taught me so much about what it mean't to live a life of integrity. What I realized from that moment on was that I didn't have the answers, but what I was able to do for people was listen to them carefully and provide the supportive space for them needed to be fully present to themselves, their pain and their desires. I also realized very quickly the inauthenticity of living my life expressing only part of myself. I stopped ignoring the obvious, faced my fears and threw myself onto the playing field as a lifecoach!
A few years later I found myself facing the death of both my parents and wondering after being their caregiver for so many years just what was next. I watched my mother die from severe complications stemming from her type 2 diabetes, a disease which is largely environmental and in many cases easily controllable through diet and exercise. The epiphany came while siblings and I were working almost non-stop using herbs and other alternative modalities to keep my fathers immune system functioning well in the nursing home where he lived. There was illness everywhere, ranging from chronic urinary tract infections to staph, mrsa , klebsiella and cedif. It was easily traceable to the food that the residents were served, food that was cheap, poor quality , unappealingly prepared and of the lowest nutritional value. I realized that many of the problems that we were facing with my father were systemic throughout our American culture. It is a simple truth....food matters and so does quality of lifestyle. We truly are what we eat. At that moment I began to look for a school that could give me the tools that I needed to help others learn to eat and live well no matter their means.
I received my training as a Health Coach from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition's cutting-edge Health Coach Training Program.
During my training, I studied over 100 dietary theories, practical lifestyle management techniques, and innovative coaching methods with some of the world’s top health and wellness experts. My teachers included Dr. Andrew Weil, Director of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine; Dr. Deepak Chopra, leader in the field of mind-body medicine; Dr. David Katz, Director of Yale University’s Prevention Research Center; Dr. Walter Willett, Chair of Nutrition at Harvard University; Geneen Roth, bestselling author and expert on emotional eating; and many other leading researchers and nutrition authorities.
My education has equipped me with extensive knowledge in holistic nutrition, health coaching, and preventive health. Drawing on these skills and my knowledge of different dietary theories, I work with clients to help them make lifestyle changes that produce real and lasting results.
If you'd like to speak with me, please sign up for a free, absolutely no strings attached 50 minute gift session with me at http://beth-gehring.healthcoach.integrativenutrition.com/lets-connect-1
Also , please feel free to connect with me on my facebook page