Just the tonic for winter and spring

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Elderberries provide amazing amounts of vitamin C, have quantities of anti-oxidants and are anti-inflammatory, and have been proved to help the body fight off some flu viruses. PHOTO: Rita-und-mit/Pixabay
Elderberries provide amazing amounts of vitamin C, have quantities of anti-oxidants and are anti-inflammatory, and have been proved to help the body fight off some flu viruses. PHOTO: Rita-und-mit/Pixabay

I don’t know if it is going to be a very cold winter, but in the spring, I noticed the trees, particularly oak, laden with flowers and there is now an abundance of acorns. Likewise, the blackberries are phenomenal at the moment and I regularly have a breakfast of them as I am walking my dogs.

It is the time to be harvesting and there are a huge variety of herbs which can be picked or dug up and dried or processed for the long winter days.

This year, as there is no college for me to think about, I am going to try and make some really good tonics to get my family through the winter. I also have an eye on the spring and the hay-fever season, so if I can make something that will provide protection from colds during the winter and give my body some resistance to pollen for the spring, it would be ideal.

The elderberries are, as I write, almost ripe for picking. The berries should be removed from the stalk, and they need cooking, as raw, they contain quite a bit of cyanide which is not something we want to consume. Cooked, they provide the most amazing amounts of vitamin C, have quantities of anti-oxidants and are anti-inflammatory, and have been proved to help the body fight off some flu viruses.

Rose hips, particularly those from dog roses, are the most potent. Again, they are packed with vitamins, particularly C and anti-oxidants. Depending on your harvest, but it should always be responsible and never take too much, I cook these berries in the juice of two organic apples and filtered water to cover the fruit. Cook until they are soft. I add dried elderflowers – harvested in spring – and fresh nettle into the cooked berries right at the end and leave it to all steep together.

The elderflowers are particularly good for upper respiratory infections and with the nettle prepare the body for the hay-fever season by acclimatising it to pollen. The nettles are also full of minerals the body needs. I use the young, fresh nettles which have a second flush in the autumn.

Once steeped, it can be overnight, the whole lot should then be put through a muslin cloth to get rid of pips and hairs and fibre. I find this quite sweet enough, but you can add some untreated organic honey – again excellent for hay-fever – to taste which will also help to preserve it. It should be kept in the fridge – or freezer if I make a surplus – and can be added to fizzy water as a lovely, light refreshing pack-a-punch drink!
– Fiona Chapman is a naturopathic herbalist (Pellyfiona@gmail.com)

by Fiona Chapman

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