Elderberry and Hawthorn Syrup

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Here in California, it’s high summer (slowly turning towards autumn). The intensity of the dryness and heat can get to you and not only that, the subtle change in the seasons can often mean falling sick. Especially with the news of the Amazon burning, I thought it best to share my syrup recipe for a healthy heart and immune system. You’ll see that recipe at the bottom of this page. First, please donate to causes supporting the Amazon Rainforest such as Amazon Watch and the Rainforest Alliance if you have the means to do so πŸ™. Now it’s needed more than ever since at least 1,300 square miles of forest have been lost in the Amazon so far this year.

There are a few things you’ll need for good quality syrup. Good quality honey and herbs! πŸ™‚ I recommend getting local, organic honey (or other sugar substitute) if possible. My favorite local honey is Lover’s Lane Honey up in Northern California. Their honey tastes like liquid heaven! It’s caramel-y and just the right consistency. Back when I worked on a farm one summer, I had the pleasure of helping to harvest some honey. What an experience! I’d love to keep bees someday when I have land to do so.  β€Ž πŸ

As for herbs, I typically get them from a local herb farm, if possible. Here in the Bay Area, I love Steadfast Herbs and the Sonoma Herb Exchange. Otherwise, Harmonic Arts, Starwest Botanicals, and Mountain Rose Herbs are also great sustainably sourced options! If there are places you can ethically wildcraft some berries, give thanks to Mother Earth! If you’re unsure of what it means to ethically wildcraft, I’d recommend reading La Abeja Herbs’ Wholehearted Wildcrafting article.

Ingredients

2 cups reverse osmosis filtered water: I always use filtered water for my medicines as tap water can have contaminants and heavy metals.

1/4 cup elderberries (dried, double if fresh)*: Elderberries are a very common berry used in syrups for immune health, especially around flu season. You’ll even see elderberry syrup sold as a common OTC remedy at alternative health stores and groceries. They’re alterative, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antiviral, and highly nutritive.

1/4 cup hawthorn berries*: Hawthorn berries may be one of the most well known heart medicines. I love this plant, it has cute little red berries and it’s in the rose family, so it also looks so dainty and sweet with its little white flowers in the spring. It’s an adaptogen and also antioxidant-filled medicine. For anyone with heart ailments or irregularities, this may be a great medicine to use. ❀️

2 tablespoons fresh ginger*: Ginger is typically used to treat upset stomach, but it’s a great support for your immune health as well during cold and flu season. It’s antibacterial, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antiviral, carminative, and helps to stimulate circulation.

1 cinnamon stick*: Some of the many beneficial properties of cinnamon include: alterative, antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, anti-inflammatory. Cinnamon helps to increase circulation and digestion as well as calm menstrual cramps and also supports your recovery from colds.

1/8 cup rosehips*: Rosehips contain a very high amount of vitamin C. This is a very important winter food for many creatures. It’s a tonic and highly nutritive and antioxidant. It’s a wonderful addition to many sweet dishes to add additional vitamins and minerals.

2 tablespoons grapefruit zest (or other citrus zest)*: Similar to oranges, grapefruits are also loaded with vitamin C. They’re also a bitter tonic, nervine, and cardiovascular tonic. I love adding citrus to recipes with berries. Citrus contains pectin which is a prebiotic and will help to aid beneficial gut bacteria.

1 teaspoon vanilla extract*: Vanilla is a soothing and claming nervine. It’s also antioxidant rich and a carminative. I love the flavor of vanilla in sweet dishes, and its scent is definitely a mood-elevator for me personally.

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg*: Like many of the other ingredients, nutmeg is antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, carminative, and expectorant. It’s also not well known that nutmeg is also a nervine similar to skullcap or lemon balm. I think the flavor of nutmeg adds a nice zing to this recipe.

2 tablespoons tulsi (aka holy basil)^: Tulsi is an adaptogen that has a gentle soothing effect while still being stimulating. It’s helpful in stressful times, both mentally and physically. It’s full of antioxidants and helps to normalize blood pressure.

2-1 ratio honey to tea: We’ve all heard “a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.” While this tea is tasty alone and doesn’t necessarily taste like medicine, the honey will add sweetness as well help to preserve the tea for a much longer period of time. Honey is antibacterial and also full of nutrients and antioxidants.

*Information from Kami McBride’s book The Herbal Kitchen (affiliate link).

^Information from Richo Cech’s book Making Plant Medicine (affiliate link).

Instructions for Herbal Syrup

  1. Decoction of hard herbs (roots, twigs, berries). Add ginger, cinnamon stick, rosehips, hawthorn berries, and elderberries to pot. Bring just below boiling and simmer for 20-30 minutes until liquid is reduced to about half. Cover pot.
  2. Once you’ve decocted the tougher herbs, turn off the heat and add in more delicate herbs (citrus zest, vanilla extract, nutmeg, and tulsi) and let them steep 10-15 minutes with lid on. 
  3. Strain liquid into measuring cup (take note of the amount), then pour into jar for storage. Add 2-1 ratio of honey to tea into the liquid in the jar and stir to dissolve. If your honey is a thicker consistency, you may want to combine in a double boiler at a gentle simmer to combine. Now, you have your syrup!
  4. Store for up to 1 year in the refrigerator.

This highly medicinal and nutritive syrup is delicious on its own or in sparkling water, tea, kombucha, salad dressing, pancakes, etc. Get creative! I’d love to hear what you add your syrup to in the comments below. If you’d prefer to purchase some, visit my Etsy shop! If you have any other favorite syrups, I’d love to hear about them in the comments. πŸ™‚

The Herbarium by the Herbal Academy

Why Moonflower? The power of Datura!

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This post is not encouraging you to consume Datura, but please do check out La Abeja Herbs’ essence (link below)!

My fascination with Datura, otherwise known as Moonflower or Jimson Weed, began in a Plants and People course I took in college. Mainly, we learned about plants that are used as ceremonial plants or pharmaceutical drugs and their active constituents. I remember hearing about Datura and the vivid and terrifying hallucinogenic visions it can give to someone who consumes it. How powerful plants can be and how we must show them the respect that they deserve. They have the power to heal, to kill, and to provide profound visions. Many modern medicines are formulated as synthetic replications of natural plant constituents.

Datura plant growing next to a building at Wild Willow Farm in San Diego

So why did I choose this plant as the name of my Etsy business and blog?

  • To me, Datura represents giving death to those things that no longer serve us. Datura gives us the power to let go and let the natural world take the wheel (used as an anesthetic).
  • Datura opens the door to your intuitive self and your creative side.
  • Every time I see the blooms, they take my breath away. They seem to have a very strong spirit or ghostly presence, I want to evoke this strength in my work.

Shortly after choosing this name, Datura popped up everywhere for me. I came across this flower essence from La Abeja Herbs and immediately purchased some to try. Not long after that, Sophia Rose, the owner of La Abeja Herbs, went on the Medicine Stories podcast and specifically spoke about the Datura essence (she sells many essences). I’d see posts all over Instagram with Datura. Then, when I went to San Diego for an herbal course with Ana Victoria and Damiana of La Tierra Buena Collective, Datura was growing around the farm. It felt right, like she was giving me permission to use her name. Mariee Sioux‘s song “Wild Eyes” opens the Medicine Stories podcast. I’ve listened to Mariee Sioux since maybe my senior year of high school, and she just recently put out a new album with Datura on the cover and began growing some herself. Datura is intoxicating, alluring, mysterious, and powerful! It’s hard not to fall in love with her blooms. I want what I put into the world to be just as mesmerizing.

Datura blossom at Wild Willow Farm in San Diego

I also think it’s important to mention that I currently live in California and many indigenous groups here have a relationship with Datura in ceremony and coming of age rituals. Chumash peoples’ rituals center around a this plant and its spirit, Momoy, a wise old grandmother. Consuming the Datura helped the youths to transition into adulthood by connecting them with a spirit guide. It’s also believed to grow in areas where there are portals to the realm of ancestors.

When I decided to study Anthropology, it was after reading many of Wade Davis’ books. One in particular called The Serpent and the Rainbow is an account of how Datura was used in Haiti to create vodoun zombies. Many historically and even still today think of third world countries and indigenous cultures as “primitive” and “underdeveloped,” however, there are profound and complex medicines and rituals found in all indigenous cultures throughout history. This knowledge is many times stolen and patented while those passing down this ancient wisdom are left without credit. Datura is a prime example of the power of these traditional medicines, and the epitome of why we should respect the earth, her people, and the rituals and cycles that unite us all.

I think Vandana Shiva says it best:

“I have called this phenomenon of stealing common knowledge and indigenous science “biopiracy” and “intellectual piracy.” According to patent systems we shouldn’t be able to patent what exists as “prior art.” But the United States patent system is somewhat perverted. First of all, it does not treat the prior art of other societies as “prior art.” Therefore anyone from the United States can travel to another country, find out about the use of a medicinal plant, or find a seed that farmers use, come back here, claim it as an invention or an innovation.”

To sum it up Datura, Moonflower, to me says: Power to the people, power to each of us as individuals, to continue in reverence for the earth and her medicines that sustain us and with respect to our ancestors and all future generations. ❀️

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