Benjamin Zappin, L.Ac, co-founder of Oakland’s Five Flavors Herbs, is an expert in the treatment of seasonal ills using East Asian medicine. He shares his recipe for Spiced Elderberry Syrup, a favorite for supporting the health of his family, patients, and customers this time of year. Benjamin is a licensed acupuncturist and herbalist with a clinical practice out of the shop, which includes an herbal pharmacy, retail store, and manufacturing facility.

A variety of potent formulas and practices in East Asian medicine and culture use medicinal herbs and spices to prevent and treat the seasonal illnesses that become prevalent as the temperature cools in autumn and winter. Formulas such as Jade Windscreen Powder (Yu Ping Feng San) and Cinnamon Twig Decoction (Gui Zhi Tang) are used to either inhibit the penetration of external pathogens into the body or to counter them at the earliest stages. 

These formulas can help to lessen sensitivity to cold, easy sweating, tightness of the nape of the neck, stuffy or runny nose, mild fever and chills, fatigue, mild sore throat, and other symptoms. Variations of these formulas are used in the West, as well as the East, in soups, powders, teas, tinctures, and syrups.

Photo courtesy of Five Flavors Herbs

Photo courtesy of Five Flavors Herbs

Spiced Elderberry Syrup 

1 ounce elderberries, fresh or dry
1 ounce ginger, fresh or dry
.5 ounce cinnamon twig
.5 ounce orange peel, fresh or dry
.5 ounce fennel seed
.5 ounce licorice twig
Maple syrup or honey to taste

In a ceramic, glass, or stainless steel pot, cover the herbs with water by a couple of inches and simmer for 25 minutes. Let steep for a while, then strain and make sure to press out the herbs to extract some of the most concentrated medicinal virtues. Mix with equal volume of maple syrup or honey and refrigerate to use for several weeks. To further stabilize, replace half of the sweetener with brandy. 

This is a versatile recipe and can be modified to simmer meats. I find variations of this flavor profile combine particularly well with pork loin or rabbit. If preparing these dishes, I would not add the same volume of sweetener. 

Consume a few tablespoons per day of the mixture during the holiday season or at the earliest sign of a holiday affliction.