Dr. Karly McMaster, ND
Elderberry Immune Gummy Recipe
Optimizing Immune Function Through Cold & Flu Season Part 3
Elderberries and elder flowers are one of my favourite immune herbs, not only for their powerful medicinal properties but also because they are so yummy! I recently discussed their medicinal benefits for the immune system here. Elderberries are often prescribed as a tea or tincture (alcohol extract) but can also be made into a fun snack that's paleo-friendly and has other ingredients that help to support the immune system. These gummies only have 3 ingredients and are really easy to make!
Manuka honey is a specific honey made from honey bees in Australia and New Zealand. These bees pollinate a native plant called the manuka bush, which explains the honey's name. So what makes this honey so special? Well, honey has many medicinal uses, including treating seasonal allergies if the honey is harvested to your local area. Manuka honey, however, is used often for its antibacterial properties to fight infection both topically and internally.
One of the reasons manuka honey has more therapeutic benefit is because of its high levels of the compound known as methylglyoxal (MGO). The levels of MGO and antibacterial properties in manuka honey correlates to the rating of the honey on UMF/ K-Factor scales. MGO works by stimulating macrophages to attack bacterial cells as well as increasing inflammatory cytokines (eg. TNF-alpha) to call other immune cells to fight the infection. Manuka honey has been shown to be effective in inhibiting the growth of many gastrointestinal bacterial strains, even when diluted 10-20 fold, and can completely kill these bacteria at slightly higher concentrations.
Several studies have shown that manuka honey is effective in treating antibiotic-resistant strains including MRSA and VRE. Bacterial resistance to honey has not been reported, which is mostly likely due to the fact that honey is works in multiple complex mechanisms in comparison to antibiotics which typically have one primary mechanism of action to kill bacteria.
It's important to note that most studies that show therapeutic benefit of manuka honey, are using the honey without heating to extreme temperatures. The medicinal compounds are most likely altered through the heating process and may have less antibacterial actions after heating. For this reason it's best to keep the honey at temperatures less than 40 degrees Celsius (104 F).
Gelatin is a complex protein that is typically sourced from animals and is often found in supplements to support healthy skin, hair, nails, and joints. Due to its full amino acid profile, gelatin is beneficial in healing intestinal cells after a gastrointestinal infection or chronic stress. After a stomach flu, it's common for there to be damage to the intestinal cells that causes what we refer to as "a leaky gut" or an increase in intestinal permeability. The increase in permeability allows molecules to enter the systemic circulation and cause immune upset, which can often lead to food sensitivities and symptoms associated with IBS.
Glutamine is an amino acid, found in gelatin, that has been specifically researched for its benefits in healing intestinal cells and reducing intestinal permeability. It can be used in isolation as a supplement, but I typically recommend using a protein with a full amino acid profile, like gelatin or collagen, to promote more balance in healing connective tissues. More specifically, gelatin contains another amino acid called glycine, which can help to augment the potential excitatory effect glutamine has on the nervous system.
Elderberries, manuka honey, and gelatin are the perfect trio for supporting your immune system and allowing your body to heal after a stomach flu or chronic stress. And even if you haven't been sick lately, they are a yummy treat you can have to replace sugary sweets! Find my recipe for Elderberry Immune Gummies below, enjoy!
Elderberry Immune Gummy Recipe:
2 cups Organic Elderberry Juice
2 TBSP Manuka honey (K-Factor 18)
6-8 TBSP of Organic Beef Gelatin (My favourite brand is Vital Proteins Pasture-raised, Grass-fed Beef Gelatin)
Silicone molds: Silicone chocolate molds or ice cube trays work great or you can buy silcone "gummy bear" molds for smaller gummies.
In a small saucepan, combine Elderberry juice and manuka honey, and heat over low heat until steaming but not boiling. Stir occasionally to incorporate honey.
Slowly whisk in 1 TBSP of gelatin until fully dissolved before adding the next.
Once gelatin is fully dissolved, remove from heat. Carefully pour mixture into silcone molds or alternatively you can use a dropper if your molds are small.
Let set in refrigerator, the setting time will depend on the size of your molds. Small molds should only take about 30 minutes, ice cube- sized may take a couple hours.
Store gummies in an air-tight container in the fridge.
* This recipe can be changed to make any other flavour of gummies! Some of my other favourites are Pear Spice and Green Juice gummies. The ratio should be about 1 cup of liquid to 4 TBSP of gelatin depending on your preference in texture. The sweetener can be eliminated or substituted with maple syrup or regular honey. Have fun experimenting with different flavours!
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Johnston, M., Mcbride, M., Dahiya, D., Owusu-Apenten, R., & Nigam, P. S. (2018). Antibacterial activity of Manuka honey and its components: An overview. AIMS Microbiology, 4(4), 655–664. doi: 10.3934/microbiol.2018.4.655
Kukuruzovic, R., Robins-Browne, R. M., Anstey, N. M., & Brewster, D. R. (2002). Enteric pathogens, intestinal permeability and nitric oxide production in acute gastroenteritis. The Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal, 21(8), 730–739. doi: 10.1097/00006454-200208000-00007
Lin, S. M., Molan, P. C., & Cursons, R. T. (2010). The controlled in vitro susceptibility of gastrointestinal pathogens to the antibacterial effect of manuka honey. European Journal of Clinical Microbiology & Infectious Diseases, 30(4), 569–574. doi: 10.1007/s10096-010-1121-x
Natarajan, S., Williamson, D., Grey, J., Harding, K., & Cooper, R. (2001). Healing of an MRSA-colonized, hydroxyurea-induced leg ulcer with honey. Journal of Dermatological Treatment, 12(1), 33–36. doi: 10.1080/095466301750163563
Rapin, J. R., & Wiernsperger, N. (2010). Possible links between intestinal permeablity and food processing: a potential therapeutic niche for glutamine. Clinics, 65(6), 635–643. doi: 10.1590/s1807-59322010000600012