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Boost Your Immune System With This DIY Vitamin C Syrup
By Meagan - September 10, 2014

Boost Your Immune System With This DIY Vitamin C Syrup

Boost Your Immune System With This DIY Vitamin C Syrup I've always known that vitamin C was one of those "popular vitamins" that people take to keep from getting sick, but I never really knew why other than it boosts the immune system... that is, until all four of my kids came down with whooping cough. After two weeks of non-stop coughing, I finally figured out what we were dealing with... right about the time my 3 month old started coughing. Now I'm not one to get all up in arms over things. I usually keep my cool which must be the ER nursing experience I have taking over, but as I started looking into natural ways to help my kids deal with whooping cough, I was starting to get a bit concerned as I realized there wasn't too much out there for such a young baby. If fact, it's downright dangerous, even deadly, at that age. Thankfully I found an answer... well several of them. One of those answers was vitamin c, and in my opinion, it was the most important one. As I dug into using it with whooping cough I fell in love with this vitamin. How did I not know how great it was beyond the fact that it "boosted the immune system." You see, lots of things boost the immune system so I'd never really given a simple vitamin a lot of thought during sicknesses. In fact, I probably thought about it a lot like most people think about it. I knew our bodies needed a small amount of it to prevent some diseases, but other than that, when I'm sick, there were many other things on my mind... like what herbs to start using. I'm not going to go into our whole whooping cough story here. I'll be sharing that over at Growing Up Herbal soon, but I will say there's a huge benefit to using vitamin c for all sorts of viral and bacterial infections. Today I wanna tell you a bit about how great vitamin c is so that if you are like I was and you don't know much about this vitamin, that will come to an end today. I also want to talk about getting a good bit of vitamin c via herbs, about vitamins c and heat, and I'll be sharing my own personal recipe for an herbal vitamin c syrup that makes its appearance in my house every fall.

The Basics of Vitamin C

Vitamin c is a water soluble vitamin that humans don't make on their own. It has to be replaced on a daily basis either via foods like fresh fruits, fresh veggies, and herbs or with supplements. Unfortunately, vitamin c is one nutrient that has been found most wanting in the American diet which is probably due to the fact that there aren't sufficient amounts of vitamin c in packaged, processed foods. Thankfully, most people who eat a healthy real food diet get enough vitamin c each day. If you are curious about the daily recommended amount of vitamin c based on age as well as the different foods that contain vitamin c and their amounts, this article will help you out. Vitamin c is nontoxic and there aren't many side-effects from its use. If the body gets too much vitamin c at once it's excreted either in the urine or by causing diarrhea. I did find that if large, mega-doses of vitamin c are taken by a healthy individual it can increase their risk for kidney stones; however, if a person is sick, this isn't the case because the body is using up the vitamin c at a rapid pace, decreasing the risk of getting too much. Vitamin c is an antioxidant which is helpful in protecting the bodies cells from damage. It's also a universal antitoxin which helps protect the body from poisonous and harmful substances, specifically the toxins that viruses and bacteria excrete in the body. Lastly, it also plays a role in the formation of collagen and it helps the body absorb iron, another much needed mineral.

Vitamin C From Herbs

So the big question is this... at least in my mind. Can a person get enough vitamin c from herbs? Well, I addressed this "vitamins from herbs" question in my last post, and I've come to this conclusion. Sure we can get a good amount of vitamins from foods and plants to help us not get sick... that is, to maintain health, but when it comes to being sick and needing much larger doses of those vitamins, I'm not so sure if we can get all we need from from them. I definitely think that a sick person should eat healthy, nutrient dense foods and use herbs during that time, but from what I found when my kids had whooping cough was that they needed MEGA-DOSES of vitamin c which meant herbs and foods would not be enough on their own. What I decided for us was to use as much natural occurring vitamin c as we could during that time as well as to supplement with a specific vitamin c supplement recommended for mega-dose therapy. In the end, this was the thing that worked for us best... vitamin c that is.

Heat and Vitamin C

I want to address the issue of heat killing vitamin c. It is true that heat can decrease the amount of vitamin c in foods and herbal preparations (not "kill" it), but from what I've found, it's not as big of a deal for herbs as it is for foods. You see, when you cook foods in water, the vitamin c (which is water soluble) is released into the water. When you eat the food, it has less vitamins in it and more in the water. Most people do not consume the water they cooked their foods in which means they're consuming less vitamin content in their foods. This is one reason waterless cookware is so popular among health-conscious people. It's thought that the vitamin c content in foods is decreased by 15-55% during cooking depending upon the food, the cooking method, the degree of heat, and the length of cooking time. When it comes to herbal preparations like teas, infusions, tinctures, syrups, etc. you have a few things going for you.
  1. You do consume the water that the herbs are prepared in therefore you are getting the vitamins that were infused into the water.
  2. Herbal preparations are made using low heat.
  3. Most preparations are not heated for long periods of time... at least the kind where you're worried about vitamin loss.
Granted you may not be getting 100% of the vitamin content of fresh or raw herbs, but it's definitely more than what you'd get from cooked foods.

Staying Healthy With Vitamin C

So far we've talked about what vitamin c is and how it helps the body. We've also talked about the fact that we humans can get sufficient amounts of vitamin c from foods and herbs in order to stay healthy and prevent disease. And we've talked about how heat affects the amount of vitamin c available for absorption. Below I want to share my recipe with you for an herbal vitamin c syrup that I use with my family anytime something is going around. My goal is to use this herbal remedy to get extra vitamin c into our bodies, beyond what food provides, so that we can not only boost our immune systems when illness is going around, but so we can fight it off faster if we do end up coming down with something.

Herbal Vitamin C Syrup

*Dosage: adults - 1 TBSP. 3xday --- children - 1 tsp. 3xday Ingredients: Directions:
  1. Bring 4 cups of pure water to boil in a saucepan. Immediately turn down heat until the water is simmering (steaming, but not boiling).
  2. Measure and add herbs to water. Stir to mix. Let herbs simmer in water over low heat until water is reduced by half (2 cups).
  3. Strain herbs and compost. Pour herbal infused water into a 1 quart mason jar.
  4. Let cool until slightly warm. Add raw honey or maple syrup to water. Stir well. Refrigerate. Use daily when trying to prevent sickness.
So there you go! I hope you'll find this recipe a great way to keep your family healthy for the upcoming cold and flu season. Don't forget about BHS's new Herban C Tea. It's another great way to add vitamin c to your diet on a daily basis, and it uses several other great herbs high in vitamin c as well!
Have questions or more information about vitamin c? Share it in the comments below!
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29 Comments

  1. Monica
    Genius Meagan! I'm making this asap.. I was going to make elderberry syrup, now I know why I procrastinated.. :) Anyways, could I substitute concord grape instead of bilberry? I'll have to reorder the bilberry.
    Made throat spray today out of the herbs calendula, sage and thyme.
    Hopefully I'll be ready..
    1. Meagan
      I'm not sure what the vitamin c content is of concord grapes, but you could always Google it Monica. I think next time I make this I'm going to use some pine needles as they're one of the highest sources of plant based vitamin c and I'd like to try that out. Good luck with your throat spray. I need to make some more of it soon too!
      1. Monica
        Meagan I found bilberry in my slash... :) whew! My Concord grape wasn't ripe enough, if I'll get any this season, I think the birds are after the grapes...I made the herbal C syrup, the taste is wonderful! Thank you.. Great idea on the pine needles..Scotch pine needles okay to use?
        I added Our Calendula tincture to the throat spray to help preserve it. Hopefully I am ready to fight the superbug.. Meanwhile, making more applesauce, apple butter,and freezing some for pies.. Yes my 10 year old tree did give me apples. I feel so bless...
        1. Meagan
          Hum, I'm not sure on the exact types of pines. I know white pine is good. Again, you'll have to look it up on Google or in a book. Sorry I couldn't be of more help there!
          1. Monica
            http://www.zetatalk.com/food/tfood07p.htm
            Is a website that one can use scotch pine for Vit C tea here is the other website: https://thegeordieforager.wordpress.com/tag/pine-needle-tea/
            White pine is # 1 use by the Indians.
            1. Meagan
              Awesome! Thanks for sharing!
          2. Rick Kinnunen
            do not use hemlock needles unless you want to meet socrates
            1. Meagan
              Thanks for the warning!
      2. Biz
        Are you replacing the bilberry with pine or just adding it in?
        1. Meagan
          I thought about adding it in. I've never used pine before, but I've heard it has a pretty pine-like flavor so I figured I'd keep all the berries to help mask that flavor. I'm not sure you'd taste it so much in this anyway, but you never know.
          1. Monica
            I think if you pick the pine needles toward late afternoon/evening the pine flavor is not as potent..In the morning after the dew, the flavor of the pine is much stronger. I was concern of a piny flavor taking over the berries flavor too...really,if added, I would go half the amount of the berries. What do you think, Meagan? Thinking of trying this....
            1. Meagan
              I've never used pine needles before Monica so I can't say, but let me know how it turns out for you if you try it!
          2. Monica
            Trying the pine needles... Making the ultimate syrup... Trying half of the recipe and comparing it to the one I have made.. See if it'll taste ok.. Left out the bilberries, added 1 tsp of astragalus root as a immune booster.. Get back to you how it taste... Got to taste good for kids!
          3. Monica
            Result: the scotch pine is good ...although the syrup does not have the potent berries flavor using the bilberry...I was careful not to put too much pine needles and I got more pine/rosehip flavor..Maybe more Vit C? Would kids like it? Well longs you sweeten the syrup good enough... Down side of using pine, is that it can be messy, with pine needles all over the stove...Got to figure a better way stripping the needles off the stem...But a good substitute, when I run out of bilberries or if bulk herbs store does... :) hope this helps anyone...Monica
  2. nancyleep
    Great article Meagan - I look forward to reading more about your whooping cough "adventures...."

    Do you use fresh or dried fruit, hips and flowers? Do you think there is a difference?
    1. Meagan
      I made mine using dried berries, but I'm sure fresh would work just as well. You just double the amount of each when using fresh... so instead of 1/4 cup of each, you'd use 1/2 cup of each. HTH!
  3. Paula
    How much of this syrup would an adult use for prevention and how much when sick? Can you use this daily during the high risk seasons or is that going overboard? I, too, am a former nurse turned homeschooling natural mama and am so excited to add this herbal preparation to my defenses :)
    1. Meagan
      For prevention, I use one TBSP. once a day... if a sickness is going around I up it to 1 TBSP. 3 x day. If I come down with something, I switch over to this vitamin c supplement and use mega doses till I'm over the sickness. Hope that helps!
      1. Paula
        Yes that helps, Thank you!
  4. Tina K
    Ok forgive me if I overlooked this, Im reading it while watching a wild toddler...but how much Vit C do you end up with in a dose of this syrup?
    Also I look forward to reading your whooping cough story. My family went through a case of it last year and it was terrible! But we survived and my newborn never got it, PRAISE JESUS! I did the Vit C therapy with everyone using sodium ascorbate. And although I do believe it helped I found out about it about half way into the sickness. So 3 months of coughing and vomiting, but not one asthma attack from my asthmatic toddler and no other effects afterwards it seems. And now we can have that great lengthy immunity.
    1. Meagan
      Honestly Tina... I don't know how to know how much actual vitamin c is in a dose. I suppose you could Google each herb to find a general amount and then figure out how much is in your syrup based on how much herb you used. I'm not sure... maybe I'll do that.

      As for the whooping cough, we did the same thing. I found out when one child was 2 weeks in, two others were 1 week in, but the baby had just started with it so luckily, the vitamin c helped him most!
  5. Janelle
    I have bilberry extract powder... Will that work instead of the whole berries? I realize it won't strain as nice and be as pretty, and also maybe I should use less?
    1. Meagan
      Yes, that will work. Just shake your syrup before using it.
  6. Erin C.
    Blueberries are European blueberries as I was told by a rep last week when I was in Whole Foods. Ihavebeen using freeze dried blueberries and it has been working great in the Ultimate Immune Boosting Elderberry syrup! My three kids and I had come down with a cold last week and we took the therapeutic dosage of it and we got over it so much faster. Then my husband came with it and he took the therapeutic dosage as well and he got over his cold super fast too! Yay for homemade elderberry syrup because I was buying Sambucol (4oz bottle for $13 from CVS), expensive and has preservatives in it as well. Also, it does not taste nearly as good as Ultimate! Your Mint-licious cough syrup is awesome and kid-approved at my house also! All three of my kids love it and even ask for more...finally, I can give them so.ething that not only tastes great, but that actually works and does not have any nasty side effects and can be taken as often as needed!!! Now, this part is mom-approved!!
    1. Meagan
      Thanks Erin! It's nice to know the freeze dried blueberries are working well for you. Glad everyone in your family got over their illness quickly too.
  7. Biz
    This looks a lot like the elderberry syrup recipe. Do you use both together?
    1. Meagan
      It is similar, but it doesn't contain the ginger, cinnamon, or cloves the elderberry does. You can combine them together which is what I like to do so my elderberry is higher in vitamin c. Another difference is that this recipe uses a lot of herbs and so it makes a very concentrated vitamin c syrup so you don't have to take that much. It's a great preventative!
  8. Monica
    Meagan, my dog got this cough last two weeks and gave him this elderberry syrup in his water... He just lap up the whole bowel...lol also I use slippery elm powder in his food... That cleared his insides... Couldn't you use some slippery elm in applesauce for the kids?
    1. Meagan
      Awesome Monica! Thanks for sharing.