Every year at about the time of our anniversary, Josh and I scope out where the delicate lacey blooms of the elderberry tree are plentiful. They often grow along the road or beside vacant houses. You’ll basically find them anywhere a bird might find a snack and poop out some elderberry seeds.
You have to be careful that you can recognize elderberries, as some of their cousins, such as dogwood or virginia creeper, get berries that could look the same to the untrained eye, and are poisonous.
Elderflowers bloom in Michigan around the third week of June.
Elderberries on the bush. They grow in clusters a little larger than a cup saucer.
Alternately, you can buy dried elderberries from most herb or health food sites. If you’re not sure what is or isn’t an elderberry, definitely go this route.
Benefits of Elderberry Syrup
You might not be sure why you should about elderberries. These dark purple little berries have been used for centuries to protect from colds and the flu. Modern science is now proving what folk lore touted, too! Science has proven that elderberries have anti-viral properties, and that their high anti-oxidant and polyphenol content help boost the immune system. One study showed that patients taking elderberry syrup had flu symptoms shortened by 4 days compared to the placebo group. Another Australian study showed that travelers who took elderberry syrup before travelling were less likely to catch a cold on the flight, and if they did, it was less severe and shorter duration than those who didn’t take elderberry syrup. Elderberry syrup may be an easy way to decrease the odds of someone coming down with a cold on your winter vacation to Disney World.
Precautions to be aware of when making elderberry syrup
So, now that you know why you care about elderberries and you’re gung ho to make some yourself, there are some precautions that you MUST be aware of before starting.
1. As I mentioned before, many poisonous wild berries could be confused for elderberry. Make sure that you can properly identify elderberry if you’re going to pick your own.
2. The sticks and stems of elderberry contain a type of cyanide. This means that you need to properly remove all the stems from your berries before making syrup. The berries grow in a large cluster with tiny little stems, sort of like a grape stem. It takes quite a while to destem even a small amount of elderberries. It’s the most labor intensive part of the whole process.
3. The berries also contain cyanide, so they should be cooked before being eaten to deactivate the hydrocyanic acid. Also, pick out all the unripe berries. (If you’ve ever tried a raw elderberry, it’s not a problem waiting until their cooked. They have a very bitter, almost metallic taste. It’s hard to believe that a berry so unappetizing can make such a delicious syrup or wine.)
Alright, the fine print is out of the way, and it’s pretty benign compared to some of the side effects listed on some drug commercials, so don’t let it scare you!
Benefits of Rosehips
Rosehips are another key ingredient in this syrup. Hey, if elderberries are good for you, they can only get better when they’re combined with other immune boosting compounds, right? Rosehips are an excellent source of vitamin C, and have been used as an immune booster to help the body fight foreign invaders. They also have some anti-inflammatory properites, as well, which is why they’re used as in treatment of rheumatoid and osteoarthritis. (Some studies have shown that rosehips decrease blood levels of CReactive Protein – a culprit contributing to many autoimmune and metabolic diseases.)
If you’re into wild crafting, you can find wild rose hips easy enough. Watch around mid-june for wild roses. You can let your nose lead the way! They usually grow in groups on wild land, and they make the air heavy with their rich aroma. Mark where you found the bush, because you’ll have to come back in the fall to get the rosehips.
Wild Rose Flower
Wild Rosehip (Fall after the blooms fall off)
The rose hip is the seed pod that is left in the fall after all the flower petals are gone. We have a few wild rose bushes in our yard, and we try to gather them after the first frost. The frost makes them a bit sweeter, I’ve read. If you’re not into traipsing through the brambles in search of rosehips, they’re readily available at health food stores and amazon.
Juicing the elderberries
After carefully destemming the elderberries into a tub of coldwater, we skimmed the unripe berries and any other unwanted things off the top of the water. The ripe berries generally sank, while the unripe berries, little pieces of twigs, or any unlucky little creatures usually floated. Most recipes call for dried berries boiled in water, but we decided to use actual elderberry juice extracted from the berries with a squeeze-o-strainer. I think this method is the best way to go to get all the goodness from the elderberries, but it’s considerably more work than using dried berries and boiling them in water (and you won’t find fresh elderberries anywhere this time of year.)
Our first attempt to juice the berries was using our old cast iron enterprise wine press and sausage stuffer. The elderberries are so small and firm that it just didn’t squish very many of them. Our second attempt was to use a food mill, which also produced lackluster results.
Our third attempt with the squeeze-o-strainer worked wonderfully. Just a heads up, though. Elderberry seeds are full of some sort of REALLY, REALLY STICKY STUFF. We had a hard time getting the squeeze-o-strainer cleaned up.
And Finally…..The Elderberry and Rosehip Syrup Recipe!
3 cups elderberry juice or 1/2 cup dried elderberries + 3 cups water
Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer for about 45 minutes.
Remove from heat and let cool to room temp.
Pour contents of pot through a strainer to remove ginger, cloves, rosehips, (and dried elderberries if using)
Add honey to juice and mix well.
Keep refrigerated for up to 6 months, or freeze to use at a later time.
If you’re looking to purchase supplies for elderberry syrup, check out Starwest Botanicals or Atlantic Spice Company for dried elderberries. If you’re looking for an all in one kit, try pairing Alex’s Elderberries with some raw BLB honey!
This elderberry syrup is really tasty, and I feel like it’s helped me over the hump with a few colds now. I highly recommend it!
Have you ever wildcrafted any recipes or made elderberry syrup before? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!
N-acetyl Glucosamine, or NAG, is “skin identical”, meaning that it is a natural part of our skin, helping to keep it moisturized and maintain it’s barrier function. Studies have shown that NAG can increase collagen production, increase moisture levels in skin, and increase the elasticity of skin.
NAG- Boosts Hyaluronic Acid Production
Because NAG can boost collagen production and helps skin stay wonderfully moisturized, it decreases the appearance of lines and wrinkles. A study using niacinamide and NAG on women 35 to 60 showed an increase in the production of hyaluronic acid, which resulted in improved hydration. This reduced the appearance of fine lines, and an increased the elasticity of skin.
N-Acetyl Glucosamine reduces hyper-pigmentation
N-Acetyl Glucosamine has also been shown to reduce hyper-pigmentation, especially when used in combination with niacinamide. One study showed that a formulation of niacinamide and NAG significantly reduced the appearance of age spots and uneven hyper-pigmentation.
Studies have shown that NAG can induce changes and increase proliferation of skin’s fibroblasts, which can lead to increased healing of wounds. It can also lead to increased collagen expression and proliferation of keratinocytes.
The research is sound to prove NAG is an exceptional ingredient that can boost collagen production, improve skin elasticity, stimulate fibroblast production, and decrease the appearance of age spots or hyper-pigmentation.
Statements contained herein have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat and cure or prevent disease. Always consult with your professional skin care provider.
Everyone lets loose a little in the summer. Long weekends, picnics, days at the beach, vacations, fun drinks and bbqs under the summer sun are good for the soul, but maybe not as much for the complexion. Here are some quick and easy tips to keep your complexion glowing while you’re livin’ easy.
Summer Beauty Guide: 10 Tips for beautiful skin all summer long.
You’ll be spending more time in the beauty of the outdoors, exposing your skin to sun, wind, water, possibly chlorine, and maybe a more rigorous shaving routine than you applied this winter. All this can leave you with an irritated complexion. With just a little time and planning, you can avoid the pitfalls of sun, razor, and wind burn.
1. Stay Hydrated
With warmer weather (eventually) upon us, you need to stay on top of proper hydration. You can become dehydrated from even simple tasks while working and playing in the hot summer sun. Proper hydration keeps your skin and body functioning at optimum levels, so load up on water based drinks and watery fruits and veggies such as melons and cucumbers to stay hydrated.
2. Wear SPF
It’s important to remember to apply sunscreen. Choose a broad spectrum sunscreen that has at least an SPF of 30. Apply a generous layer (about a shot glass for your entire body) to all exposed skin about 15 minutes before going out into the sun. Remember to reapply after sweating or swimming, or about every 2 hours. Always look for a sunscreen that has the active ingredients listed, and please don’t make your own. (Zinc is a charged particle, and it’s difficult to make a formulation that doesn’t end up having microscopic holes in the coverage because the zinc microscopically clumped together over time.)
3. Boost Your Topical Anti-oxidants
Free radicals are not your friends, and unfortunately, sunlight, chlorine, alcohol, some of the best parts of summer are full of them. The best defense is to avoid them, but that’s not always possible. Using a cream that contains green tea extract, niacinamide, vitamins C and E, or CoEnzyme Q10 will help minimize the damage to your skin from free radicals. (Keep an eye out for our newest product, Repair and Restore After Sun Cooling Gel)
4. Protect Your Eyes from Sun Damage
The skin around your eyes is delicate and all the sunlight and swimming can be especially harsh on it. Wear a hat and/or sunglasses with UV protection and wear goggles while swimming. A soothing anti-oxidant rich cream, like our Bright Eyes Vitamins + Minerals Eye Cream can soothe delicate skin and provide a bevy of topical vitamins and minerals.
The best way to recharge your skin and keep it looking bright and beautiful is to exfoliate your skin once a week. Apply a natural body scrub once a week to slough off dead skin cells and reveal younger, glowing skin.
Sweating, swimming, salt, chlorine, sunshine and air conditioning all take a toll on skin. The need for moisturizing might not be as obvious during the warm summer months, but you still need to moisturize. Using a gentle all natural body butter can keep skin plump and rejuvenated.
7. Eat your SPF
Eating a healthy diet full of anti-oxidants, healthy saturated fats, omega 3 fatty acids, and leafy greens can boost your body’s ability to handle the free radicals from UV light. Drinking iced green tea can help keep you hydrated, as well as provide your body with a powerful poly-phenol called EGCG. You could also try supplements like astaxanthin, vitamin D3, and resveratrol to boost your anti-oxidant protection. You should avoid sugary and processed foods, as well as too much alcohol, as these promote inflammation and hinder the body’s ability to handle free radicals.
8. Get a Faux Glow
We all know that too much sun isn’t good for us, but who doesn’t love a healthy, sun-kissed complexion. You can opt for a sunless tanner to get your glow on. Sunless tanners do still cause some oxidation on the outer layers of skin, so it’s not ideal for every day, but it’s a safe way to glow for special occasions. Make sure to shave and exfoliate before applying sunless tanner, and take your time making sure there are no streaks.
9. Keep Bug Bites at Bay
It’s only a matter of time before a biting insect finds you too delectable to pass up. Itchy bug bites can lead to infection and scarring. Ward them off with a natural insect repellent like our Happy Camper Lotion. You’ll keep mosquitoes away while moisturizing skin with organic oils and probiotics. You can also lather up with a gentle soap scented with insect repellent essential oils, such as our Happy Camper Bar. (Keep the bar in your dresser drawer until you’re ready to use it to impart the scent of essential oils onto your clothes.)
10. Wear Breathable Fabrics
Loose, billowy clothes made out of natural fabrics, such as cotton or linen, allow air flow on your skin and help wick moisture away. This protects skin from staying damp and chapping and chafing.
Don’t neglect your skin the summer!
Summer is full of fun and busyness, and it’s easy to neglect your skincare routine, but the effects of dehydration and too much sun can last long after summer is gone. It’s important to take time to take care of yourself. You only get one body, and it’s got to last your entire life!
We named our business Bee Lovely Botanicals because you can’t get better natural skincare than when you combine the power of botanicals with the awesomeness of bees! In our new Bright Eyes Vitamins + Minerals Eye Cream, we’ve added ingredients to focus on diminishing the appearance of dark circles and fine lines.
Just like when we formulated our Royal Jelly, Green Tea, and Vitamin B3 Face Cream, we researched many ingredients for safety and effectiveness. We chose the ingredients that were first and foremost safe, and second, proven to give your eye area a renewed youthful appearance.
We have chosen to use Blue Chamomile and Blue Tansy, along with Geranium and Frankincense essential oils. These oils will calm the delicate, stressed skin around your eyes, and promote a healthy, youthful appearance. Coupled with natural compounds like caffeine, plant peptides, haloxyl, raw beeswax, Vitamin K, and minerals like copper and magnesium, these ingredients markedly decrease the appearance of dark circles, puffiness and fine lines.
I have suffered from dark circles pretty much all of my life. I would carefully cake on light colored concealer, yellow concealer, I tried “baking” it in, just to try to hide those dark circles.
When I would run into someone in the store without my concealer I would hear, “Aww, are you sick? You don’t look well.”
“Yes [fake cough] I think I’m coming down with something,” I would say to save us both the embarrassment of “Ah, no. This is just what I look like.”
If you can relate to my tale of woe, you should try our Bright Eyes Vitamins + Minerals Eye Cream. It’s full of skin loving ingredients to diminish the appearance of dark circles and fine lines. For a limited time, we’re running a contest and one lucky winner will receive a Bright Eyes Vitamins + Minerals Eye Cream free! In addition to the chance of winning a free eye cream, when you share our posts and giveaways, you’re helping our business succeed! Recommendations of our business are such a blessing! Thank you so much for sharing!!
If you’re still on the fence about our Bright Eyes Vitamins + Minerals Eye Cream, here’s what our testers had to say about it:
“The Bright Eyes Cream is amazing! I’ve been using this product every night and whether I get a good sleep or not with a newborn no one can tell. I highly recommend it!” Wendy
“Bright Eyes Eye Cream is superb to any eye cream I have used! Not oily, very rich and smooth. I use it in the morning and at night I love it so much! The best part it’s toxin free. I can’t get enough of this eye cream! I know I have less wrinkles since using it!” Joanne
“So this product is amazing! My eyes have way fewer crinkles and as a positive side effect I have longer thicker eyelashes!!!!” Christine
“After Jodie gave me a sample of the Bright Eyes Vitamins & Minerals eye cream, I couldn’t wait until they were able to get it packaged to purchase! The cream worked so good on taking the puffiness and darkness away under my eyes! This is an awesome product!!” Anne
If you’d like a Bright Eyes Vitamins + Minerals Eye Cream of your very own, click here for a special one time offer after checkout!
This is a take on Master Tonic or Fire Cider, a popular folk remedy. It is believed to have anti-inflammatory and immune boosting properties.
You can drink 1-2 ounces a day, or mix with water or seltzer water. You can also use in place of vinegar in recipes, such as a vinaigrette.
Add different herbs or turmeric for additional health benefits, or use our lemon ginger infused honey to simplify the recipe.
We’ve tried this, and one way or another, I think it will put you out of your misery. CHEERS!
1/2 cup thinly sliced ginger
1/2 cup diced horse radish
1 head garlic, smashed and peeled
3 sprigs rosemary or thyme
2 jalapeño peppers
1 teaspoon black pepper corns
1/2 small onion chopped
1 lemon cut in 1.5” chunks
1/2 orange cut in 1.5” chunks
2 cups + apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup BLB raw honey
Yields approx. 2 cups.
Pack first 9 ingredients in jar and cover with apple cider vinegar. (You might need a little more than 2 cups.) Cover with cheesecloth or parchment paper between jar and lid to prevent corrosion. Store in a cool dark place, shaking every other day for 21 days. Strain through cheesecloth. Discard solids and add raw honey. For additional health benefits, mix 1 tablespoon of ground turmeric with the raw honey before you add it to the vinegar.
[This blog post contains affiliate links. We may receive a small compensation when you click a link and purchase these products. This compensation does not influence my reviews or recommendations, and does not increase your costs. I only share links for products that I believe in and use for my own family. To see the full disclaimer click here. This website is not intended for the purpose of providing medical advice. The information provided is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice and should not be used to diagnose or treat health problems.]
Magnesium is a water soluble mineral that is found in dark green leafy vegetables, unrefined grains, nuts, and beans. It is involved in over 600 different processes in the body. It is integral to metabolism, or energy production, calcium absorption, nerve conductivity, and muscle contraction just to name a few functions of magnesium. It is so useful to the body because it is part of many enzymes that keep body functions going.
What does a deficiency look like?
A magnesium deficiency can range from
to more long term effects such as
metabolic syndrome (a constellation of symptoms including high cholesterol, insulin resistance, too much belly fat)
high blood pressure
It really is something to consider!
The magnesium content of traditionally grown foods has been declining in the US, so even if you’re eating a diet that is high in magnesium rich foods, you could have a deficiency. Studies (you can see more information and the studies here ) have shown that the magnesium content of foods has declined an average of 21% from 1963 to 1992. This ranges from 10% decline of magnesium in spinach to a whopping 84% decline in the magnesium of collard greens.
Another study showed the following decline from 1940 – 1991:
Vegetables – 24% decline
Fruit – 17% decline
Meat – 15%
Cheese – 26% decline
There are several factors contributing to the decline in the magnesium content of our food.
Pesticides – Pesticides save our food from being damaged by unwanted pests, but they also kill beneficial creatures, such as earth worms, and good bacteria living in the soil. Earth worms provide natural aeration and fertilizer for plants, while beneficial bacteria add vitamins to the soil through their metabolism process. Killing off the good bacteria in the soil decreases the vitamin content available for plants to uptake.
Fertilizers – Most fertilizers focus on the major nutrients, nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, not micro nutrients such as magnesium. Couple that with the fact that some common fertilizers, such as potash, actually impede magnesium uptake in plants, and it’s no surprise that our food supply is declining in magnesium content.
Modified Plants – Plants have been modified to grow bigger, faster, to increase yields. Unfortunately, this hasty growth is not paired with an increased rate of nutrient uptake, and rarely sees the mineral and vitamin uptake of the slow, steady old fashioned approach.
Food processes – Processed food has lost most of the little magnesium that it had. Refined oils lose all of their magnesium, grains lose 80-97%, and sugar loses all of it’s magnesium.
Benefits of Magnesium
Because magnesium is involved in so many processes in the human body, their are SO many benefits to taking a supplement. The most common include:
Improved mood (Magnesium might work as well as some prescription anti-depressants)
Decreased risk of diabetes
Decreased risk of heart disease
Helps maintain a healthy blood pressure
Studies are now showing promising results of slowing the progression of Alzheimer’s Disease
These are just a few of the most common benefits of magnesium. I think we will continue to see more and more benefits of magnesium being discovered.
If you feel like you’d like to try taking magnesium supplements, there are a few things you should know.
Magnesium can impede absorption of some drugs, such as some anti-biotics and osteoporosis drugs. It can also potentiate the effects of some muscle relaxers. If you’re on prescription drugs, it’s always a good idea to run it by your doctor or pharmacist before you start a magnesium supplement.
It’s unlikely, but possible to overdose on magnesium. Extreme doses could cause a slowed heart rate or even a coma, so don’t go crazy with it. Most likely if you take a little more than you need you might experience stomach or bowel pains accompanied by diarrhea until the extra if flushed out.
It is excreted through the kidneys. If your kidneys are not functioning properly, definitely run it by your doc before you start magnesium.
Magnesium can be bound to many different fatty or amino acids. Some are absorbed easier than others, and some work better for certain purposes than others. This is because magnesium is a cofactor in so many different enzymes. For our purposes, we’ll just discuss the 3 most common forms and their benefts.
Magnesium oxide – This is probably the most common type of magnesium. You can pick it up at drug or grocery store. It is not the most easily absorbed form, and it is most likely to cause GI distress.
Magnesium Citrate – This isn’t too difficult to find. It’s easier for your system to absorb, so there’s less of a chance that it will cause stomach distress. Through all of our reading and research over the years, we’ve found NOW Foods and Nature Made to be reliable supplement suppliers that are made in the USA. You can find Nature Made magnesium citrate capsules here, or NOW powdered magnesium citrate here. The capsules are a little easier to take, but the powder is more easily absorbed. To use the powder add 1-2 teaspoons to water to dissolve. It doesn’t really have any taste, but it’s hard to get it all dissolved, so it is a little gritty.
Magnesium Salts – One of the really great things about magnesium is that it can be absorbed through the skin, or transdermally. You can add magnesium sea salts (magnesium chloride) or epsom salts to a bath to increase your magnesium levels, especially if you have GI issues that impede absorption or can’t handle taking it internally. You can pick epsom salts up just about anywhere, or order online in a handy little bucket here. You can also add your favorite essential oils to your salts, or your bath, but make sure to add a little bit of soap or detergent. Oils don’t mix with water and you don’t want full strength oils sitting on top of the water coming in contact with your skin. Just a bit of castile soap (or whatever soap or shampoo you usually use) will disperse the oils through out the water.
Magnesium Oil – You can also purchase magnesium oil. I don’t know why it’s called an oil, because it’s basically magnesium dissolved in water. At any rate, you can spray this directly on your skin for the magnesium to be absorbed transdermally. You can also make your own magnesium oil by boiling water and adding magnesium chloride (1:1 water:salt ratio) and pouring into a spray bottle. You can then spritz your skin as needed. (If it feels a little too itchy or drying, you can add more water.)
So there you have it, the good, the bad, and the ugly of magnesium. Do you think you’ll give magnesium a try? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!