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Power Berry

Elderberry Syrup Mamas continues to grow

Three local mothers with an interest in health and all-natural recipes have jumped on the elderberry train.

A nurse and single mom of twins, AMANDA OKULEY became acquainted with elderberry syrup during her pregnancy after she experienced issues with getting sick often. Okuley asked others what methods they were using to fight common ailments. After checking out some of the suggestions, Okuley tried elderberry syrup for the first time and was happy with the results.

“It was just like a tablespoon a day. I got over colds really quickly, and I just stopped getting sick. I said, ‘Wow, this is really an amazing product,’” says Amanda Okuley, who launched a business around the increasingly popular ingredient.

As a nurse, Okuley points out that elderberry should not be taken in place of medication. Rather, she says, elderberry can be a helpful tool in promoting overall health in a natural way.

In the same way herbal supplements are handled, elderberry products are not approved by the Federal Drug Administration, and the agency has cracked down on companies that make claims that come too close to making them sound like drugs in the prevention and treatment of diseases.

Still, there is a small pool of research about elderberry extract’s impact on bacterial growth and flu viruses.

One was published in the Journal of International Medical Research. In it, a study on sixty randomized patients with flu-like symptoms showed that “Symptoms were relieved on average 4 days earlier and use of rescue medication was significantly less in those receiving elderberry extract compared with placebo.”

Okuley began making syrups and started ELDERBERRY SYRUP MAMAS in 2014.

She began making and packaging her own products when she met one of her soon-to-be business partners, HOLLY LIAO, who was also pregnant at the time.

“Holly is one of my best friends,” Okuley says. “We met when she was pregnant, and I was pregnant. She was one of my first customers, actually. She purchased a bottle of elderberry syrup from me, back when I was brand new to selling it. And then, we just kind of bonded and became really good friends.”

In the 2017-18 flu season, Okuley soon realized she could not keep up with the demand for her product. Quickly selling out of stores and not able to restock as quickly, Okuley realized she needed to hire some help.

With that, Okuley brought Liao in on Elderberry Syrup Mamas and gave her the responsibility of handling events such as the local farmers market.

“I kind of gave her most of the business. I gave her the farmers market, and I gave her a lot of my products,” says Okuley, now a single mom. “I was going through kind of a nasty custody battle. I was kind of right in the right in the thick of the scary stuff, so I couldn’t handle my business. And, I said, ‘You know, just give me a small percentage of the sales, and you just go girl.’ And, she just took off running.”

Joining back in February of 2018, Liao had a similar introduction to elderberry syrup. She wanted a natural approach to common sickness as she wanted to avoid mainstream drugs while pregnant.

“For me, not only as a preventative for cold and flu, I also started taking it for my allergies,” Liao says.

To round out this trio, mother of three CYNTHIA BOULAY joined Elderberry Syrup Mamas in the summer of 2018 and focuses primarily on creating new recipes and products for the brand. She is specifically responsible for the jams, jellies, and seasonal treats the business offers.

Between Wilmington, Hampstead, Surf City, Burgaw, and Southport, they now sell an assortment of syrups, jellies, teas, lollipops, and lozenges in fifteen locations.

“We do not use any stabilizing products,” Okuley says. “Making elderberry syrup shelf stable involves a process that would reduce the efficacy of the product. So, I think, that’s kind of what sets our product apart. Not only is this our fifth year in business, but we strive for those high-quality products, and we don’t limit the efficacy of it just to make the process easier for us.”


To view more of photographer Terah Wilson’s work, go to terahwilson.com.


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