Herbal Immune Basics

These are my personal go-to remedies!

elderberry syrup

 Elder Syrup Recipe

Many elder syrup recipes call for cooking fresh berries, but this handy recipe uses dry berries (easily available online). I feel that heating the berries for a long time weakens the potency of the elderberry. It’s a 1:2 infusion of herbs preserved with honey and alcohol. I’ve adapted the original recipe by using a larger amount of 100 proof vodka to make it shelf stable (for less alcohol, use regular vodka or brandy, half the amount called for here, and store it in the fridge) and cutting it down by 1/4 to make 8 oz total. You could also substitute sugar (a better preservative) for the honey, the same proportion.

  • 1/4 cup dried elderberries
  • 2 tbs dried elderflowers
  • 2 tsp ginger chips (or grated fresh ginger)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon chips
  • 4 oz boiling water
  • 2 oz 100 proof vodka*
  • 1/4 to 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • 4 oz raw honey or sugar
  1. Mix all the dried herbs together in a jar.
  2. Pour boiling water over the herbs, add the alcohol.
  3. Cap and let infuse 8 hours or overnight.
  4. In a muslin, jelly bag, or cheesecloth strain the herbs from the liquid.  Squeeze gently to get as much fluid from the herbs as possible.
  5. Add the lemon juice.
  6. Measure out exactly how much liquid you have in a glass measuring cup.
  7. Add an equal amount of raw honey or sugar to the liquid.  Mix well until sugar dissolves.
  8. Bottle and store

*This is for a shelf-stable syrup. For a fridge-stable syrup, you can use 1 oz of 80 proof vodka or brandy instead.

Recommended Dosage: 1-3 tsp per day all season long, or 1/2 tsp hourly in acute illness. If you’re using a dropper bottle, 1 tsp = about 4-5 squirts 

Alcohol-Free Elderberry Oxymel

If you prefer an alcohol-free elderberry syrup, try this simple recipe.

Take your jar of choice and…

  • Fill 1/4 with dried elderberries
  • 1/4 with dried rosehips and/or schizandra berries
  • Cover halfway with apple cider vinegar (ie: Bragg)
  • Fill to top with raw honey

Shake thoroughly to combine, then shake it every day or so for 2-4 weeks, strain. Use at approximately the same dosage as elderberry syrup, above.

fire cider

Fire Cider

Make a large batch of this each fall and use it throughout the year in food or solo. Pungent & delicious! This recipe is adapted from Rosemary Gladstar’s classic Fire Cider recipe, meant to be shared and used freely. One company has controversially trademarked the term “fire cider” even though it has been around much longer than this company – learn more about that controversy and what you can do here. Regardless of the controversy, you can easily make your own batch of this great wintertime remedy!

  • 1-quart raw apple cider vinegar
  • 1 large onion
  • 1 head of garlic
  • 1-4 jalapeño or other hot peppers
  • 3 inches of horseradish root
  • 4 inches of ginger root
  • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
  • 2 teaspoons salt, optional
  • 3 tablespoons honey, optional/or to taste
  • Anything else you want to throw in there (turmeric, lemongrass…)

Chop/mince/grate the herbs to your liking or simply pulse it all in a food processor. Fill your jar most of the way. Cover with raw, organic apple cider vinegar, about 1 quart

Let sit for at least one month before straining.

Great in salad dressing, marinades, broths, stir-fries, or by the spoonful when you’re not feeling well. For example, see the spicy maple-mustard dressing for the apple-cranberry salad further down on this page. Yum!


Ginger Thermos Tea

Ginger makes a great base to many winter teas. It’s antimicrobial, warming, diaphoretic, anti-nausea, and it promotes good gut bacteria (which is one of our first defenses against microbes). I personally like my ginger tea very strong with lemon and lots of honey.

  • 1-inch chunk fresh ginger, thinly sliced or grated (no need to peel)
  • 16 ounces of boiling water
  • optional ingredients: honey, 2 squeezed fresh lemon wedges, and/or 3 fresh thyme sprigs; 2 cinnamon sticks, 6 whole cloves and/or 1-star anise pod

Prepare ginger, combine in a thermos with other optional ingredients, pour in boiling water, cover, and let sit 30-60 minutes before drinking.


Nourishing Bone Broth

Almost every herbalist has a pot of broth simmering in the stove this time of year. A riff on traditional broths made with simmered, leftover bones, we toss in some herbal extras that add nutrition and immune support to keep us healthy all winter long.

Start With:

  • Poultry Carcass, other bones, or vegetables
  • Cover with Water
  • Salt to taste
  • Tablespoon of Raw Apple Cider Vinegar – optional
    (improves mineral extraction but adds a slight vinegary flavor)

Add 1-2 Handfuls of Herbs/Mushrooms as desired, such as…

  • Nettle – mineral-rich
  • Oatstraw – mineral-rich
  • Shiitake mushrooms – immune tonic
  • Maitake mushrooms – immune tonic
  • 1-2 Reishi slices – energy and immune tonic
  • Astragalus – immune tonic
  • Seaweed – mineral and iodine-rich
  • Bit of Calendula – high in beta carotene and carotenoids
  • Codonopsis – energizing immune and stress tonic
  • Burdock – mineral-rich and gentle detox support

Simmer for three hours, strain. Freezes well. Use for future soups, stews, cooking grains, etc. *Opt for chemical-free, pastured birds. Beef bones are great, too.

Vegetarian? Skip the bones and start with basic vegetable stock and/or add miso paste just before serving. 


Autumn Apple-Cranberry Salad

A delicious, filling fall salad! Serves two.


  • Red lettuce or other mixed salad greens, chopped or whole baby leaves
  • 1 large tart, crisp apple (or pear), chopped
  • 2 tablespoons dried cranberries
  • 1-ounce sharp cheddar, cubed
  • For crunch: toasted pumpkin seeds/pepitas, candied walnuts or pecans, or bacon
  • Salmon (canned, grilled, dinner leftovers) as a protein topper if you have/like it

Spicy Maple-Mustard Dressing
Use 1/2 to 1 ounce per person and store extras in the fridge for 1+ years.

  • 2 ounces of fire cider
  • 1-ounce whole grain mustard
  • 1 ounce of maple syrup or to taste
  • 1 ounce of olive oil


Sage Browned Butter

  • 1 handful whole, fresh sage leaves
  • 1 stick butter

Salt to taste, if necessary or desired

1 loaf bread, cut into pieces

Melt butter in a skillet, drop-in leaves. Fry for about 30 to 60 seconds. Remove from heat, let sit for a few more minutes. Use as a dipping oil for bread. Fried leaves can be removed and used as a garnish, if desired.

Cream Sauce Variation: After frying the leaves, add 1/4 cup Brookford Farm heavy whipping cream, simmer for 5 minutes. For a thick sauce, combine a little cream with cornstarch and add at the end to the simmered sauce, continue cooking until thickened. A decadent sauce for squash ravioli, chowder, soups, or to drizzle over roasted or mashed winter squash.