About Stephanie

Stephanie Langford has a passion for encouraging homemakers who want to make healthy changes, and carefully steward all that they've been given. She has written three books geared to helping families live more naturally and eat real, whole foods, without being overwhelmed, without going broke, and (her newest!) through successful meal planning. Together she runs a music school teaching piano lessons in Surrey with her handsome husband, is mama to 4 little ones, and she is the editor and author of Keeper of the Home.

3 ways to use elderberries to beat the flu this winter

Written by contributor Stephanie Langford of Keeper of the Home

As the snow flurries swirl outside the window, and I recover from my first flu of the year, I’m reminded how important it is to keep our immune system shored up and functioning well this time of year.

One of my passions over the past two years has been to discover how herbs can be used in so many simple ways, but with astounding effectiveness. Today I want to share with you an herb that anyone can use easily and safely for the whole family, to fight winter colds and flus.

Elderberry has burst onto the scene in recent years for its flu-fighting abilities. Though it has long been a part of folk medicine, modern medicine is beginning to take notice of this amazing herb. What makes it so powerful?

It contains Sambucus nigra agglutinin, which may prevent some strands of influenza from reproducing, helping to stop the flu virus dead in its tracks.

It is also high in flavanoids, reduces swelling, fights inflammation, and boosts the immune system. We all know that vitamin C is a potent weapon for immune function, and elderberry contains large amounts of it.

Another benefit to elderberry is that it provides soothing relief for many flu and cold symptoms, like headaches, fever, fatigue, coughing and sore throat. Recent clinical studies have even begun to sing its praises:

  • A preliminary study found that elderberry extract (ViraBLOC) helped reduce flu symptoms when taken within 24 hours of symptoms starting. One study suggested that elderberry could kill the H1N1 virus in test tubes, but researchers don’t know whether it would be effective against H1N1 in people. (source)
  • A small study published five years ago showed that 93% of flu patients given Sambucol were completely symptom-free within two days; those taking a placebo recovered in about six days. (source)
  • Researcher Erling Thom, with the University of Oslo in Norway, studied 60 patients infected with two strains of the flu virus. In the half of the group that took Sambucol, 90% had complete cure within 2-3 days, while the placebo group didn’t recover until day 6 and required more over-the-counter medications for their symptoms. (source)
  • In an Israeli study, 20% of those patients taking Sambucol had dramatic improvements in flu-symptoms within 24 hours. By the second day, 73% were improved and by day three, 90%. In the untreated group, only 16% felt better after two days. The majority of that group took almost a week to begin feeling better. (source)

I love it when science begins to confirm what herbalists have known for a long time!

When and how to use elderberries?

This wonder berry can be used both preventatively and as a remedy once you are already sick. From my understanding, though, it’s most effective once you’re already fighting a cold or flu virus, as opposed to something like echinacea which is more of a general immune system booster.

Of course, there are plenty of other natural remedies to try for colds or flus. But the more I learn about elderberry and try it myself, the more that I believe it’s a good one to reach for right away.

3 ways that you can use elderberries to beat the flu

What I love about elderberries is that they’re easy to use, no matter which option you choose!

I know some of you are newer to using herbs, so let’s go in order from the simplest and quickest, to the slightly more involved ways to use elderberries.

Tea

Tea is a great place to start. Anyone can make herbal tea to boost their health!

The absolute easiest way is to buy a high-quality tea bag like Traditional Medicinals Echinacea Elder. I took this recently while I was sick, because my shipment of bulk elderberries hadn’t arrived yet. The key is to steep for a long time (15-20 minutes) with something on top of the mug while the tea steeps. A small plate, a tupperware lid, etc. This keeps the medicinal qualities of the herbs in the tea.

Another brand that I would recommend is Yogi Green Tea Triple Echinacea, which also includes elderberries.

Want to make it yourself with dried berries? Here’s the simplest way to do it, or here’s a slightly more complex cold and flu fighting herbal tea recipe.

Syrup

If you want to get the goodness of elderberries into your kids, syrup is the way to do it!

I was looking at the Sambucol eldeberrry extract (a popular brand) at the store last weekend, and it reminded me why I make my own remedies. It included plenty of elderberries, of course, but also glucose syrup, purified water, citric acid, and potassium sorbate. It’s not terrible. There are certainly medicines and supplements with even worse ingredients, but it’s also not necessary.

This week, I made some more of my own elderberry syrup with just dried elderberries, raw honey, water and a bit of lemon juice.

My favorite tutorial for making the syrup is from Donielle of Naturally Knocked Up. Here’s another option for using fresh berries to make your syrup.

This is quick and simple to make, and it tastes very pleasant. It was a winner with my kids, who asked for seconds even though they aren’t sick.

Tincture

Tinctures used to seem so daunting to me, but once I began making my own this year, I realized that there’s really very little to it. The beauty of a tincture is that you get a very concentrated amount of the herb in a small dose, plus it will last for a very long time (without refrigeration), whereas something like a syrup is only good for a few weeks.

There are two basic ways to make a tincture. One uses glycerin and heat and takes just a few days, and the other uses strong alcohol like vodka and no heat, but it has to sit for several weeks before it’s ready.

If you want to go the vodka route, here are two tutorials to try:

Using fresh berries

Using dried berries

I opted for glycerin, partly because that’s what I had on hand, and partly because the nice, sweet taste is easier for kids to take.

You can see the entire glycerin-tincture making process in this post on my own blog. Note that it’s not an elderberry tincture in the post, but more of a vitamin and mineral one that I use as a daily supplement. However, the basic process is the same.

I currently have some elderberry tincture just finishing up, and all I did was fill a jar 1/5 with a mix of dried elderberries and rosehips (I wanted a combination because the rosehips pack a huge vitamin C punch), and then added glycerin and water in a 60:40 ratio until the jar was almost full. You could make it with straight elderberries, without needing to add anything else. Leave it in your crockpot, or you can just use a pot on your stove (you’ll just have to watch the water level more carefully) for the 3 days, then let cool and strain.

I store my finished tinctures in glass jars in a cool, dark cupboard and they’ll keep for years that way. For an adult, I would use a few dropperfulls daily, and less for a child, depending on their size and weight.

Where do you get dried elderberries?

If you don’t have a source of fresh elderberries where you live, which I don’t, it’s easiest to buy them dried in bulk.

My favorite sources are Mountain Rose Herbs and Bulk Herb Store. Both sell high quality dried herbs, as well as other supplies like tincture bottles.

Have you tried using elderberry for fighting flus and colds? What was your experience with it?

Homemade foaming facial cleanser

Written by contributor Stephanie Langford of Keeper of the Home

When I clean my face, I want something that leaves it clean and soft, but I”m very leery of using conventional products that contain harsh chemicals.

I”ve been a fan of the Oil Cleansing method for a long time, but I have just one issue with it. I”m a lazy face washer. At the end of a long day, I buck at the idea of spending 4-5 minutes going through the process of getting my water really hot, steaming my face with the washcloths, and all that the method entails. I will say that it does a fabulous job, and so I wish I was more committed to it, but I”m just not.

Looking for something new, I tried a few foaming facial cleansers, made with very natural and pure ingredients. As soon as my skin adjusted, this seemed like the winning option for me.

However, I have this hang-up about paying $20-$30 for a bottle of facial cleanser, which is generally what it costs for one made with ingredients that I approve of. Since I love making homemade goodness of all kinds, my hope was that it wouldn”t be too difficult to mimic these cleansers and make my own, and guess what? It wasn”t!

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6 easy ways to boost your immune system this fall

Written by contributor Stephanie Langford of Keeper of the Home.

The green tomatoes on the vine outside my window make me want to deny the truth that summer is winding down and fall will be here in a matter of weeks. (Sniff, sniff.) With the change in seasons comes the usual struggles with various colds and flus that work their way through our homes and communities.

Like the other writers here at Simple Homemade, I prefer to handle bouts of illness with simple and effective home remedies. Even better, though? Not getting sick in the first place!

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Blueberry Maple Coconut Dairy-Free Ice Cream {or choose your favorite fruit flavor}

Written by contributor Stephanie Langford of Keeper of the Home.

This recipe came about when we were first learning to eat dairy-free for the sake of two of my children. I was sorely missing ice cream, but was worried that anything I tried to make would be dismal failure and wouldn”t come close to satisfying. I am so glad that I was wrong!

Coconut milk is our preferred choice for a non-dairy option and its smooth, creamy texture makes it a perfect ice cream base. We”ve served this to friends who eat on the less-healthy side and they still loved it. The fruit flavor comes through much more strongly than the coconut and the finished product is lovely. It does melt a little bit faster than store-bought ice cream, but that aside, this ice cream has no faults that I can find.

The recipe itself whips together in 5 minutes flat. You”ll have to wait the standard 25-30 minutes while it freezes in the ice cream maker, but I like to time it right by putting it in just after we finish dinner so we can eat it shortly after clean up is finished and our stomachs are ready for it.

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How to make paper plate gardens: an outdoor craft for kids

 Written by contributor Stephanie Langford of Keeper of the Home

There are two kinds of moms when it comes to crafts. The ones that embrace the mess and enjoy the process. And then there are the ones that avoid the mess at all cost, and say “but painting with water is going to be so. much. fun!”.

Guess which kind of mom I am?

Sure, we do playdoh occasionally, we draw and color plenty, and I do think that baking and cooking with kids is a mess worth making. Crafting, however, has not been my strong suit.

There’s a reason I’m much more of a “how to” writer on this site. When I told Nicole (who makes so many beautiful things) that I planned to write a kid’s craft tutorial, she said was so excited to see another side of me. Well. Hold on to your hats and watch how a mess-averse and only mildly-crafty mama creates a little beauty and an afternoon of fun (no washcloths or paint smocks required!).

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