Happy Friday, dear friend!
This snowy week marked the halfway point between the winter solstice + summer equinox. Can you believe that? We’re at winter’s midpoint, known to some as “Imbolc”.
Believe it or not, deep below our feet, Mother Earth is awakening from her restful slumber. I like to think of Imbolc as Springs’ “quickening’ – when the tiniest seed of spring is starting to stir! It won’t be long before we see tiny green shoots and hear new bird songs. Keep your eyes open for the first signs – returning geese overhead, little leaves underfoot.
As the days lengthen and the temperatures rise, we may feel a bit of stirring within ourselves, too! So what better way to celebrate this time of renewal than explore the world around us?
We’re excited to share of a place not far from our home that is quite dear to us, and an herbal product of ours that is likely quite dear to you. So, enjoy this second edition of our locally-inspired + herbalist-crafted sips and trips!
Sips: Elderberry Syrup
For those not yet familiar with the sensory wonder that is Elderberry Syrup, we’ll fill you in. Elderberry Syrup is a traditional herbal remedy, long made by medicine women and mamas to keep our immune systems strong and resilient. Just old folklore? Think again! Science is continually offering more evidence to substantiate the traditional use of Elderberries to support immune and respiratory health.
“The berries of the black elder plant (Sambucus nigra) have been traditionally used to address cold and flu symptoms. The berries have demonstrated antiviral activity against certain viruses which experience an increase in incidence during the winter months, including the common cold and influenza, in both in-vitro and in-vivo models. Elderberries contain many active chemicals, including anthocyanins (primarily cyanidin 3-glucoside and cyanidin 3-sambubioside), which have been shown to boost immune function and exhibit anti-viral effects. Oral ingestion of elderberry results in detectable levels of these anthocyanins in blood plasma.”
(Hawkins, Jessie et al., “Black elderberry (Sambucus nigra) supplementation effectively treats upper respiratory symptoms: A meta-analysis of randomized, controlled clinical Trials.” 2018, p. 361)
Each herbalist has their own special version of Elderberry Syrup – ours focuses on native and regional plants. We also chose to make a version that is a delightful balance of sweet and tangy, for those who aren’t so fond of the usual syrupy consistency that Elderberry Syrup is known for. Ours is a strong brew of immune-boosting Elderberries and herbs, with sweet local honey and tangy organic apple cider vinegar. The result is a flavor loved by all ages, that stands out among any you’ve tried.
Curious about all of the ingredients? They are: *Elderberries, *Rose Hips, *Ginger, *Cinnamon, *Nettles, *Elder Flower, Local Wildflower Honey, and *Apple Cider Vinegar (*organic). We aim for each of our products to offer an educational experience — when you step outside, you can easily meet Nettles along an old fence, or watch Elderflower bloom on the roadside. These wild plants contain medicine for the body and spirit – they always have and always will offer potent healing for those who choose to work with them.
One particular Elderberry Syrup ingredient is incredibly abundant here in New England. We’ll give you a hint – it’s ruby red, studs the landscape, and is actually a fruit. Got it? It’s the Rose Hip! This beautiful red berry is actually the fruit of the Rose. It comes in many sizes, from the tiny hip of the multiflora rose (which you’ll find just about everywhere!) to the snack-size hip beach rose. (Yes, we mean SNACK size! Try nibbling the outerlayer of a beach rose hip next summer – it’s a sweet and sour summer snack! Just be sure to avoid the ‘hairy’ inner core, where the seeds are found.) Rose Hips are a nutrient powerhouse, packed with antioxidants, Vit C, and fiber. A little wild super-food snack, packaged up by mama nature herself! Want to meet this special plant for yourself? Read ahead to our featured trip. Even at this time of year, you’re sure to spot them all over the place. (Though, I’d wait until late next summer to snack on them while they’re fresh!).
Now that you know all about Elderberry Syrup, there are so many ways to enjoy your daily serving! A few we suggest are:
*by the spoonful, one daily is scientifically shown to boost immunity, prevent viral infections, and speed illness recovery
*mixed into soda water for a refreshing spritzer
*drizzled into plain yogurt or ice cream for a healthy boost
*stirred into tea in place of sugar or honey
*shaken up with oil + fire cider for an irresistible dressing
However you enjoy your daily dose of Elderberry Syrup, your body will thank you for making health and immunity a delicious priority.
Trips: Gooseberry Island
Okay, got your hot tea with a BIG splash of Elderberry Syrup? And a warm hat on? Good, it’s windy and a bit nippy where we’re headed — but so worth it!
Pull out your map and locate the southernmost point in Westport, MA. That, my friends, is beautiful Gooseberry Island. This 73-acre island is a haven to migratory birds and nature-lovers alike. It also happens to be home to *THE BEST* sunsets around. Don’t trust me? Just watch that parking lot fill up at dusk all. summer. long.
Should you love meeting wild medicinals in person, then Gooseberry Island is a haven for you, too. Here you’ll meet St. John’s Wort, Plantain, Yarrow, Mullein, and as promised – TONS of wild Beach Rose (which means, come early fall, tons of Rose HIPS)! It’s a truly spectacular sight to behold every summer when the island transforms into a blanket of pink blossoms.
From Gooseberry Island you can take in a panoramic view of Buzzards Bay, the nearby beaches, the Elizabeth Islands, Martha’s Vineyard & Nantucket. You can stroll right through the island following a sandy path, or enjoy a loop along the rocky shoreline. One of the best known man-made features of Gooseberry Island, aside from the causeway that leads you onto the island, is an old tower at the island’s point. This observation tower was constructed to watch for German submarines during World War II. Now it’s quite disheveled, yet strangely magical, as it stands watch over the island. Should you get to know the island a little better, you’ll find many ruins among the wildflowers – stairs, concrete, and rebar, whose origins I do not know.
Rather than traipsing into brambles and poison ivy, who no doubt stand guard on these sacred grounds, I highly suggest you stick to the paths and coastline. Whether it’s beings of the plant, animal or human kind that you seek to meet, you’ll surely make friends along your travels!
If you’ve been, what are some of your favorite Gooseberry Island memories? And for the newbies, happy exploring!