Elderberry Elixir

Elderberry Elixir
Elderberry Elixir

Elderberries are so powerful when it comes to preventing or relieving a cold or flu.  And why not?!?   Elderberries are a natural anti-viral.  When you add other power-foods to this simple syrup (cinnamon as an anti-microbial, licorice root to soothe the throat, etc), you end up with a delicious morning ritual served up in a thimble (if you’re a faerie) or a shot glass for the rest of us.  Just once a day to ward off the winter gremlins or twice a day (or more) if you find yourself mid-battle with a cold.

Here’s is a recipe adapted from LearningHerbs.com (attributed to Rosalee de la Foret).  InJoy!  Marmalene

50 grams dried elderberries

30 grams dried rose hips

3 cinnamon sticks (crushed or at least broken)

7 grams licorice root

1 tsp finely ground black pepper (yes, you read that correctly)

3 cups apple cider (you can use apple juice but apple cider is more likely to have one ingredient: APPLES)

Put all ingredients in a pot and simmer uncovered for 20 minutes.  Let cool then strain and decant into your bottle of choice.  I keep mine in the fridge so the shape of the bottle shown in the picture is perfect.

Warning, once you share this with others, you may find yourselves making lots of it for friends and neighbors 🙂



The Mysteries of “Chicken” Noodle Soup


Most people realize by now that what you eat makes a big difference in how you feel.  Food can indeed cure many ills.  Chicken noodle soup is one of those recipes that have been in our collective “medicine cabinet” for years.  But why is that?  Let’s take a look at some of the ingredients.


The mere act of sipping on hot broth can break up a stuffy nose.  The heat alone can make you feel better.

Bone broth (aka soup stock) is a recent craze that has to do with making your own broth (stock) by boiling animal bones low and slow with optional aromatic veggies (think carrots, onions, garlic, celery and herbs) until they release all their goodness in a gelatinous drinkable potion.  Truth be told, your grandmother probably did this as a way of maximizing resources, of stretching Sunday’s roast chicken into another meal.  At least my grandmother did (see Ode to Gma Marie).  Little did she know that today’s broth would boast benefits which include drinking it as a source of Collagen!

Vegetarian-no-chicken-baseAs for me (trying to follow a more plant-based diet), I find a good veggie broth works just fine for those stuffy noses or a delicious pot of noodle soup.  There is a fabulous “vegetarian chicken broth” concentrate called Better than Bouillon, No Chicken Base that goes a long way toward recreating the flavor of a simmering stock pot.  Since I prefer to cook my noodles right in the soup, I sometimes wish I had more broth.  When using a soup base concentrate, if you need more broth just add more boiling water and No Chicken Base.  No Problem!  Besides, this comes together much faster than home-made soup stock and has surprisingly few unpronounceable ingredients :).

But wait!  Want collagen in your diet?  Try eating more of these (See Edible Collagen Food List).

Next ingredient!


Regular consumption of garlic has been recommended by health experts for years.  More recently it has come to light that there are properties in this heart-healthy bulb that are further enhanced by mincing.  Whenever you cook with garlic simply make it a habit to mince it and let it rest while you prepare your remaining ingredients.

Carrots, Onions and Peas – oh my!

Another way to eat your veggies!

Besides, putting more veggies in your soup helps off-set any possible inflammatory effect of our next ingredient.


I know, I know.  Many of us are on a mission to reduce our intake of processed foods and/or carbs but when you are sick I feel you can cut yourself a little slack.  Noodles give your stomach something to hold on to.  If you have the time, try making your own (Gma Marie’s recipe coming soon!).  Because I never know when I might need them, I usually keep a stash of Reames noodles in the freezer. If you are trying to follow an anti-inflammatory or low-carb diet, try using flat rice noodles or swirl in some well-beaten eggs (think egg-drop soup).

Spicy Mojo Topping

Another thing I like to do with my noodle soup is add this optional topping to each bowl as it is served.  For those that like spice it can be stirred (to taste) right into the soup pan.  This compound is just loaded with Vitamin C, ginger to reduce nausea and warming capsicum from the cayenne.

Click here for the recipe.

Obviously the ingredients for this soup are fairly flexible.  Feel free to add your own touch.


The Power of Vitamin D

I spent much of today listening to happy people walking past my office window and marveling at the degree to which the lightness of our spirit directly relates to the weight of our outerwear.

It didn’t even bother me (much) to be on the other side of the glass.

Spring is the unfailing cure for so many of my winter woes.

BrighterCamusQuoteI know, I know.  I love this this wonderful quote by Albert Camus.  Re-reading this worn scrap of paper usually gets me me through the long winter months.  But there is nothing that compares with the first couple of days of spring.

Chances are, if you’ve had your blood work done lately, you’ve been told that your vitamin D levels are low.  Everyone I talk to is taking vitamin D supplements.  This long neglected vitamin is finally getting its day in the sun (pun intended).  Of course vitamin D aids in calcium absorption for building strong bones, but it can also reduce the risk of diabetes, heart attack and a slew of other bodily dis-eases.

And (surprise?)  recent medical science studies indicate that an increase in Vitamin D consumption has been shown to lighten your mood.

I’ve done a little research of my own and while it is  possible to take too much vitamin D in the form of supplements,  it is nearly impossible to overdose on vitamin D from sunlight or from foods  (unless you consume a LOT of cod-liver oil).

Now I’m pretty competitive and very interested in home-made health so when my PCP suggested I increase my intake of vitamin D, it was ON.  Every year I increased the amount of Vitamin D I took in the form of supplements.  Every year my blood work indicated I still needed more.

I was remarking about this trend with my friend Linda who asked me what time of year I normally went in for my exam.  I told her it was in the winter – when I’ve been almost unbearably cooped up in the house for 3 months.  Well, duh!

This past winter, I made it a point to bundle up and sit outside in a sheltered spot whenever the temperature soared above 40 degrees.  Of course, I would usually start getting hot and shed layers, exposing more skin.  Even a few minutes of sun without sunscreen does wonders for my mood.  The recommended amount of time depends on the season, the angle of the sun and your personal propensity to sunburn.

I am happy to report that – related or not – my blood work finally indicates I am no longer vitamin D deficient.

No wonder our parents always told us to go outside and play.  It’s good for you in so many ways.

31215bulbsHappy Spring everyone! Now get out there and grab you some sunshine.

InJoy ~ M

Neti Pot Nasal Irrigation

Saline2According to Wikipedia some of the earliest records of neti pot nasal irrigation are found “in the ancient Hindu practice of Ayurveda”.  Traced back to the Vedic scriptures, the use of the neti pot was part of daily personal hygiene.

I honestly had no idea of the history surrounding this interesting process.  I just started practicing nasal irrigation because I often experienced sinus headaches or the annoying stuffy nose.  It also came highly recommended by a local vocal coach.  He swore by nasal irrigation as a method of surviving the winter cold season.  Swishing a warm saline solution through his nasal cavities once in the morning and again at night washed any lingering germs right down the drain.

If it’s good enough for Mr. Dickerson, it’s good enough for me!

Warning, this is not necessary a “neat” process nor is it something you should try to administer to children.  You may get saline solution all over the counter and up your sleeves.  My husband only resorts to the nasal irrigation after the dustiest day spent raking leaves.  Even then he takes it to the shower with him.

Today, you can find all manner of neti pot devices at your local drug store and the Internet has scads of nasal irrigation solution recipes.

Being the “homemade” kind of mom that I am, I prefer to re-use, recycle and re-purpose things I already have around the house.  Instead of buying a neti pot or one of the fancier contraptions I’ve seen lately, I’ve re-purposed small rubber bulb syringes.  You know, like the ones we used to gently remove mucus from the nose of a child too young to understand the word “BLOW”?  Oh the memories!

Anyway – prep by blowing your nose to remove as much mucus as you can.  Keep an extra tissue (or hanky) handy for the post-irrigation nose blow.  Fill up your bulb with solution.  If you prefer, warm it carefully and test before using; liquid should not be hot. Lean over the sink (or stand in the shower), tilt your head and forcefully squirt that saline solution up your nose.  While leaning to the left, squirt into the right nostril.  Switch sides and repeat.  If done correctly, it should come drizzling out of both sides of your nose.  I find it works best if I gently insert the bulb as far into my nostril as possible and block my throat with the back of my tongue.  This helps route more solution between my nostrils and less down my throat.  You are probably going to be better at this on one side than the other but make it a habit to switch anyway.  When you are done, even the stuffiest of noses will be rewarded with the ability to blow your nose.

Honestly, it’s the little things sometimes. What a relief!

Note: while you may be ok with sharing a bulb syringe with your loved ones (eww), at the very least you need to pull boiling or HOT tap water through it to sanitize it before next use.  I’ve procured additional syringes over the years so everyone can have his/her own.  They often come in inexpensive, commercial ear-cleaning kits.

Click here for a Nasal Irrigation Solution made from everyday ingredients (adapted from a Kansas City Star article written by Karen Uhlenhuth  and attributed to KC Area ENT Specialist Gary Shaw).

Make up a quick batch, grab the rubber bulb, roll up your sleeves and begin!  Your nose will thank you for it!   And keep another tissue handy.  The solution will often surprise you and wait to completely drain from your nasal cavities until you’re in the middle of “downward dog” pose in yoga class 🙂

InJoy! ~ M