Review: Backwoods Alchemy's Elderberry Syrup
Updated: Sep 22, 2018
Some often forgotten components of Mabon and Samhain are 1) that we think about those that are less fortunate than us, and 2) that the harvest is all about preparing for the winter ahead, so we are thankful for what it yields. But winter preparation isn't all about the harvest; it's ensuring we have a variety of items we need to see the cold months through.
A lot of people purchase Elderberry Syrup as a means to stave off colds and to help when those colds happen. Elderberry Syrups are a popular sale too; big name apothecaries sell the liquid and some market it to both kids and adults. And because it's easy to make, there are some smaller apothecaries that make it and sell it as well. Enter: Backwoods Alchemy Co. This store has an Etsy extention--that's where I purchased mine from--as well as a stand-alone eCommerce store. Let's talk about the product.
I bought a small bulk of these because they were included in our February 2018 Subscription Box on divination. Elderberry is an herb known for its connections with increasing psychic abilities. It's benefits were multifold, though; because elder also has been used to treat cold and flu symptoms, inflammation and headaches. It's also high in nutrients and fiber. Because of this, some like to have elderberry syrup on hand for the winter months.
This syrup came in a dropper, so customers could use however much or little they wanted, and when tonics are part vodka (or alcohol), using only a little may be ideal. It also came in glass, as true tonics or elixirs should. Products like this with preservative can have a long shelf-life, but not all people like their long-lasting items sitting in plastic, as leaching chemicals is, arguably, a very real problem. The darkened glass enforces the lack of rancidity, as sunlight exposure is at a minimum (though, still keep it in a darkened area).
The product shares how to use it and its ingredients, which often is not the case with Etsy products, so this is one of the reasons why this particular brand was selected.
Ladybug and Old Ragnar (I can't tell if these names are actual nicknames or if they are part of their business's narrative), the shop owners, are very sweet and accommodating.
The liquid is brown and thin, less "syrup" like than one would think. For those who want a thicker consistency, this may be a downside. It's also more tart and vodka-flavored than many might think; I enjoy this but many who go into a more traditional syrup--thick, sweet--may be disappointed. The product does incorporate vodka, but the label doesn't share what kind (whether it's a potato vodka, which is useful for those who need gluten-free). I find that to be problematic and, indeed, had a customer who needed gluten-free. I refunded her for this product in the box, as she couldn't use it. In terms of growing pains for my business, this issue let me learn to be more discerning with my Subcription Box inclusions.
It's also more tart and vodka-flavored than many might think; I enjoy this but many who go into a more traditional syrup--thick, sweet--may be disappointed. It definitely holds up with time; using this in February and using it now is no different in terms of taste or consistency.
As I hoped my subscribers would do, the product would be ideal for a few drops into water or tea, or a few drops placed under the tongue. This is a simple and quick way to "eat" your correspondences before or during ritual. In this case, it would be before tarot readings, pendulum or planchette work, water scrying, or tea-leaf reading.
You have to be highly careful with elderberry syrups and eating elderberries in general; elderberries need to be cooked before they are consumed. This is because elderberries contain lectins and cyanogenic glycosides, which can cause stomach upset. The latter can release cyanide, which, if consumed in great amounts, can lead to vomiting and diarrhea, and can lead to a fatal dose depending on how much you consume. But the risks are definitely not worth purchasing an elderberry syrup from someone who doesn't know what they're doing and doesn't cook the berries sufficiently. Thus, I am always cautious of anything elderberry, but this product did not yield any ill effects for me.
As shared, if you went into the product hoping for what we think of as a syrup--thick and sweet--this might not be ideal. You can snag a 1 oz. bottle for 7.50, which is on the higher end in terms of Etsy and general retail (like Target).
In all, I do recommend it if you're wanting to support a small business and you want a pretty bottle on your altar. But I am sure you could snag more for cheaper and gain the same benefits. The packaging will be a little less enchanting and more...medicinal, which doesn't scream "witchy."
By the way: Backwoods Alchemy Co. also offers an Elderberry Syrup Kit, just be careful with cooking the berries.