By Heather Luna, Director of the Acorn School of Herbal Medicine in Nevada City, CA. 

Flavonoid Herbs and Berries for Fall

…in your Northern California backyard right now

hawthorn berries in califronia nevada county sierra foothils, californiaAutumn breezes are bringing in cooler weather and with it comes an increased risk for colds and flus. Fortunately, Nature has our back.  Here in the Sierra Foothills we have an abundance of flavonoid rich herbs that can help to build immunity and prevent seasonal illness. And you might find these herbs growing abundantly right in your own back yard during the time of the Fall Equinox.

Flavonoids are natural constituents that give plants their bright colors. These are strongly antioxidant elements that can help us stay healthy during the changing season. Flavonoids are essential cofactors for nutrients like vitamin C, and are what make cherries red and oranges orange.

These color rich plant constituents increase tissue integrity, making our blood vessels stronger, our lungs more elastic, and our immune systems more resistant to infection. The more flavonoids you consume the more resistant you are to seasonal illnesses, and the faster you’ll recover if you do get sick. My four favorite local flavonoid rich herbs are Hawthorn, Elderberry, Blackberry, and Rosehips.


hawthorn berries in califronia nevada county sierra foothils, california

Hawthorn Berry

  • Strengthens the cardiovascular and respiratory systems
  • Increases natural immune resistance
  • Builds muscular strength and endurance

The berries are bright red when ripe and ready to pick in September and October. They can be eaten fresh or can be dried to make teas, however they are best when made into a syrups and elixirs. Harvest enough berries to fill a quart sized jar for making a large batch of the recipe below.

elderberries in california, nevada county herbal remedies natural


  • Increases natural immune resistance
  • Traditionally used to treat fever and respiratory infections
  • Shortens the duration and severity of viral infections

Elderberries can be found in gardens and the wild hillsides throughout Nevada County. The berries can be either blue or black when ripe depending on the species. Green fruits should be left to ripen. To harvest snip the entire fruiting cluster from its stalk and put them in the freezer overnight. Once frozen the berries snap easily off the stem and can be made into syrup.

blackberries herbal natural elixirs nevada county california


  • Antioxidant rich, creating better resistance to disease.
  • Increases cellular respiration
  • Tones digestion, aiding in nutrient assimilation

Blackberries are simply meant to be eaten. However, making a cordial can become a seasonal treat to serve at fall harvest gatherings, either sip straight or drizzled over pie and ice cream for dessert. To make a cordial gather at least a quart of fresh berries between August and October.

rosehips berry remedies in northern california nevada city grass valley


  • High in vitamin c and broad-spectrum flavonoids
  • Gently strengths all the tissues of the body by nourishing the blood
  • Increases immune resilience

Rosehips are the tastiest when harvested between the first and third frost of the season. The cold temperature causes them to ripen and become sweet. Pick them whole and allow to dry before making into syrups, cordials, or elixirs.


Use any of the herbs above as a syrup or elixir for a wellness remedy!!

Take smaller doses during cold and flu season to prevent illness. Take larger doses during active infection to speed up recovery. Here’s how to make Syrups and Elixirs with these berries you can find right now in your own backyard in California and wherever these herbs grow.


Traditional Elixir Formula:

Pick your herb! It can be just elderberries, or hawthorn, or any combination of the herbs mentioned above. Try it with fresh blackberries to make a tasty sipping cordial!  Fill a quart size jar 2/3rds full with either fresh or dried herbs. Add vodka or brandy to the jar until half full and then top jar with honey until herbs are completely covered and saturated in liquid medium. Cover with lid and shake vigorously until the contents are free flowing. Let stand one month, shaking the jar daily. Strain out herbs. Bottle and label. Shelf stable for about two years.


Make any herb into a syrup:

This recipe turns out best when the herbs have been allowed to dry prior to use, however fresh herbs will still work. You can use my special formula below or make with your own choice of herbs, even just using rosehips alone makes an amazing syrup.

Add your herbs/berries to a large pot and fill with water. Ideally you want about 1 part herb to 10 parts water. Turn on low heat and simmer for 30-40 mins. Let sit until cool enough to strain.  Add the juice of one lemon and preserve with 1/3 the liquid volume of honey.  Brandy can be added to this and will help to preserve the shelf life. Store in fridge. Keeps about one month. If you add ¼ volume brandy it will keep for many months.


Heather’s Elderberry Syrup Recipe ~

4pts. elderberry

2pts. hawthorn berry

1 pt. rosehips

1/2pt. cinnamon chips

1/4pt. ginger (dried cut rhizome)

1/4pt. licorice root

*Dose is 1 tablespoon taken 3x/day for seasonal illness prevention or up to 1 ounce shot glass full every two hours during active illness to speed up recovery time.

About the Author~

heather luna acorn herbal school nevada city, californiaHeather Luna is a practicing Clinical Herbalist in Nevada City, California. She is the Director of the Acorn School of Herbal Medicine and has been teaching classes in Natural Medicine for 20 years.  She is a mother, beekeeper, gardener, plant whisperer, and health care radical, who specializes in Nature Cure therapeutics. The greatest medicine is not found in a bottle, but rather in how we choose to live.

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