Food as Medicine

Want to learn how to find health and healing in your kitchen? Join the AANMC and Dr. Aaron Wong for a free informative webinar to learn how your food choices can nourish your mind, body, and spirit. Good nutrition is core to overall health and fundamental to the naturopathic approach to wellness and disease management.

*Webinar does not qualify for CE

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To view the archive of past webinar recordings, please click here.

About the Presenter

Aaron Wong, ND is a big proponent of food as medicine and growing your own food. He has been doing public talks on the importance of food and its impact on health from a mind, body, spirit perspective for many years. He is an avid gardener and an enthusiast of local plant medicine. After completing his degree in chemical and biological engineering at the University of British Columbia, Dr. Wong suffered a debilitating back injury that completely changed the course of his life. Through years of recovery and trying numerous conventional and alternative treatments, Dr. Wong found healing within mind, body and spirit medicine. Dr. Wong is a graduate of the Boucher Institute of Naturopathic Medicine (BINM) and has additional training in acupuncture, IV therapy and chelation. He is also a Registered Therapeutic Counselor. Dr. Wong is the clinical director at Butterfly Naturopathic in North Vancouver and is an experienced Clinic Faculty Supervisor at BINM supervising third and fourth-year clinicians.

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*The information you submit in this registration will be used to inform you of updates to this event and will enroll you in the AANMC newsletter. The AANMC values your privacy. Please see how we protect your data in our privacy policy .

Elderberry 101: The Naturopathic Kitchen

Welcome back to The Naturopathic Kitchen! As always, our goal is to bring new, healthy foods into the kitchen and try them out in fun and flavorful recipes! This week we will take a closer look at a winter staple, the elderberry.

Elderberry 101

Elderberry is perhaps among the oldest medicinal herbs on record. Its healing properties have been recognized since the time of Hippocrates, as early as 400AD. Archeological studies have dated the elder tree back even further, to the Neolithic age (around 2000BC). Historically, the elder tree has been used for a variety of purposes from medicinal to musical instruments. Traditionally, hollowed elderberry sprigs have been used to tap into maple trees to retrieve maple syrup. Several tribes of Native Americans used elderberry branches to make flute-like instruments. The plant itself was sometimes called “the tree of music.”

Where do elderberries come from? Where can I find them?

Though it may not be well-known, elderberry is far from a newcomer to the herbal medicine field. Elderberry syrup can be purchased commercially in many stores, but it is rare to find fresh, frozen, or dried elderberries in supermarkets. They are typically available in herb shops and can be ordered online in bulk amounts.

The elderberry plant is growing in popularity as a landscape hedge. Wild elderberry bushes can be found in many places around the globe. In North America, its characteristic clusters of small, cream-colored flowers are often seen in late spring and early summer with the clusters of small, dark, purple berries appearing mid-summer to early fall.

How do elderberries help my health?

Elderberries are well known for their medicinal properties. Elderberries are rich in antioxidants, anthocyanin and vitamin C. In fact, they have a vitamin C level that is twice that commonly found in oranges, and an antioxidant capacity that is triple that of blueberries. They are also high in phytonutrients like polyphenols and bioflavonoids.

Though there are many different varieties of elderberries, Sambucus nigra or black elderberry is the type most often used for medicinal purposes. Elderberry has been used in the treatment of flu pandemics and has been shown to reduce the duration and severity of cold symptoms.1 It has also been shown to minimize obesity related complications including lowering triglyceride levels in the blood, reducing inflammatory markers and improving insulin sensitivity.2 Further, elderberry has led to improved vascular health and lowered cardiovascular risk factors by reducing the amount of cholesterol found in the aorta, which serves as an indicator of reduced atherosclerosis progression.3 Elderberry has also been researched for its impact on the growth and spread of cancer. A recent study found that elderberry had the potential to inhibit the proliferation of metastatic melanoma cells.4

What medical conditions/symptoms is elderberry used for?

Immune support

Antiviral activity

Treatment of upper respiratory symptoms

Management of multiple influenza strains

Improve HDL function

Fatty Liver

Promote cancer cell death

When should elderberries be avoided?

Although it is clear that elderberries have numerous benefits to health, there are also some cautions that should be considered with their consumption. Elderberries are known to impact the immune system and have the potential to increase immune activity. While this is a good thing when it comes to most people who come down with a cold or the flu, it could be detrimental to those with an autoimmune disease and result in increased disease activity. For this same reason, consuming elderberries with medications that are designed to suppress the immune system might decrease the effectiveness of the medication.

It is also important to note that although the flowers and cooked berries are safe to consume, raw berries, bark, roots, and leaves are known to have poisonous qualities and can cause significant stomach issues such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Luckily, the toxic substances found in berries can be safely removed by cooking the berries. However, cooking or juicing the branches, bark, of leaves is not recommended.

Let’s try out elderberry with these tasty recipes!

Spiced Elderberry Syrup



1 c fresh or ¾ c dried elderberries
3 c water
2 T fresh sliced ginger
1 t cinnamon or ½ cinnamon stick
1 t cloves
1 c raw honey



  1. Place elderberries, water, ginger, cinnamon and cloves in a pot. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer for 45 minutes to one hour.
  2. Remove from heat and using a fine mesh sieve or cheesecloth, strain out mixture.
  3. Transfer liquid to a jar and stir in honey.
  4. Keep in the fridge sealed for 2-3 weeks.

Thank you to for this wonderful recipe!

Elderberry Muffins



3 c oat flour
1 T baking powder
3/8 t baking soda
½ t salt
¼ c applesauce
7 T melted dairy-free butter alternative
1 c soy buttermilk, (soy milk combined with 1 T of apple cider vinegar)
½ c honey
1 t vanilla
2 c fresh elderberries, rinsed and drained



  1. Heat oven to 350.
  2. Mix dry ingredients (oat flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt) in a large bowl.
  3. In a separate bowl, mix applesauce, soy buttermilk, honey, melted butter alternative and vanilla.
  4. Place elderberries in a small bowl and add 1 – 2 tablespoons of the flour mixture. Gently stir the elderberries to coat them with the flour mixture.
  5. Add the wet mixture to the dry mixture and stir until the dry ingredients are just moistened. Add the berries. It’s okay for the batter to be lumpy because you don’t want to over mix so the muffins will be fluffy.
  6. Pour the batter into muffin cups and bake for about 17-20 minutes. Let cool before serving.

Thank you to for the tasty recipe!

Learn More About Becoming a Naturopathic Doctor

Receive information from the accredited schools of your choice located across North America!

Our Favorite Herbs to Stay Healthy

Herbal medicine has been used for centuries. Join Patricia Gaines, ND, RH (AHG) Chair of Botanical Medicine at SCNM to find out why!

Top Herbs Everyone Needs to Know About

The presentation covers:

-Common medicinal herbs along with their safety and use indication

  • Centella asiatica – Gotu kola
  • Matricaria recutita/Matricaria chamomilla –Chamomile
  • Crataegus spp. – Hawthorn
  • Urtica dioica – Stinging nettle

-Top conditions treated with botanical medicine
-Supporting research in the field of botanical medicine
-Patient case study
-Resources for those wanting to know more about the field of botanical medicine

Want to learn more about herbal medicine? Check out The Naturopathic Kitchen  where we explore the use of food as medicine.

Learn More About Becoming a Naturopathic Doctor

Receive information from the accredited schools of your choice located across North America!

Do You Have the Mind of an ND?

Naturopathic medicine is gaining attention in the media as people seek out alternative routes to solving their health problems. But it is also getting more attention because of the opportunities that it provides people for career paths. Regulated naturopathic healthcare is attracting more and more potential students to the field because of the flexible schedules and opportunities to make a difference in the community that come with this area of medicine. Could naturopathic medicine be the right path for you? If you are considering this exciting area, here are a few things you need to know about what makes for a great naturopathic doctor.

Do you have the heart and mind of an ND?

Do you want to shape the future of healthcare?
Do you want to spend time getting to know your patients in order to treat their whole self?
Do you believe nutrition and exercise are important for a healthy lifestyle?
Do you recognize the importance of treating both the mind and body?
Do you recognize the role stress plays into a patient's healthcare?

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A Holistic Approach

One of the main tenets of an ND’s practice is taking a holistic approach to treating patients. NDs treat the whole person, looking at how different systems and ailments are interconnected. In addition, NDs are more likely to take a team approach to treatment, looking at a variety of causes for health problems with help from many specialties.

Nutrition and Exercise

An important feature of an ND’s work is the reliance on nutrition and exercise to promote a healthy lifestyle. Naturopathic doctors are often called upon to act as educators, teaching their patients how to take care of themselves by showing them what they should and should not eat and how they can best exercise.

Mind-Body Connection

NDs look to treat both the mind and the body. Many naturopathic medical clinics feature ways of treating not only physical ailments, but mental and spiritual problems as well. These can include treatments for PTSD at veteran’s clinics or domestic abuse centers as well as providing safe spaces for migrants and the LGBTQ community.

Stress Management

Naturopathic medicine takes a proactive approach to health care, noting the importance to prevent ailments before they occur. Recognition of the role of stress in illness and teaching patients lifelong skills in stress management is core to naturopathic treatment plans. Mind-body medicine approaches are tailored to the individual patient in order to mitigate tension before it impacts our health.

Natural Approaches and Herbal Medicine

If you are thinking about becoming a naturopathic physician, you will need to become knowledgeable in natural approaches to treatment. NDs make it a point to seek out the gentlest treatments for their patients, reserving more invasive methods as a means of last resort. Herbal medicine is a key tool in the naturopathic tool belt. NDs honor cultural botanical medicine practices with modern advances in botanical research.

We’ve talked about the various areas licensed naturopathic physicians need to know in order to be a great ND and there are a few common characteristics of successful naturopathic medical students :

• Strong academic background
• Excellent communicators
• Socially conscious
• Passionate for disease prevention
• Inquisitive and excited to find the root cause of illness
• Recognizes the power of a holistic approach to patient care

All of these characteristics will help lead you into a rewarding career in the exciting field of naturopathic medicine. Find out exactly what the path to a career in naturopathic medicine looks like for you by visiting