By Sherrie Norris
Stephanie Rickenbaker graduated from Appalachian State University in 1999 with degrees in marketing and Spanish, a minor in international business. A long-time Charlotte area resident, she “absolutely loves” the High Country and has a few specific reasons for visiting here, at least monthly.
In addition to finding rest and relaxation in her family’s mountain getaway, Rickenbaker takes delight in the personal delivery of her immune-boosting “remedy” that sells well on local shelves — and at numerous locations across the southeast.
“The High Country is such a special place,” she said. “As soon as I get there, it’s like I can breathe easier and I don’t have a care in the world.”
And, breathing easier is something she desires for everyone, which is one reason for the success of her “Sweet’s Syrup” business that has taken her by storm in the last three years.
What started out as a family remedy quickly escalated into a thriving business for Rickenbaker, a former pharmaceutical sales agent who never personally considered natural remedies and clean living as an option.
Things began to take a drastic turn for her soon after her wedding in 2011 when her new husband, Ed, became very sick and was eventually diagnosed with chronic myelogenous leukemia.
“Wellness was not a priority of mine,” she said. “I ate whatever processed food I wanted, never bought organic and exposed myself to countless toxins daily.”
Opening Eyes to Lifestyle Changes
Soon after Ed’s diagnosis, a family friend and health coach, Toni Branner, opened her eyes to the connection between diet and disease, Rickenbaker said. “I started learning as much as I could and we began to make major changes in our diet and lifestyle. Because Ed was prescribed a “very toxic medication” to minimize his liver damage, Rickenbaker began researching ways she could help keep him healthy.
That’s when she learned about the protective and healing powers of elderberry syrup, and began concocting a tonic of organic elderberries, raw local honey, cinnamon, ginger and cloves.
Named for her daughter whose nickname is Sweet, Sweet’s Syrup was born and took on a life of its own as family members, friends and acquaintances learned about it, tried it and liked it.
Today, just three and a half short years after she introduced it in her circle of friends, Sweet’s is still handcrafted, but is now produced in mass quantities to keep up with its growing demand. It has a huge online presence, as well as finding a welcome spot in shelves across North and South Carolina, as well as Georgia.
Not only was she able to stop three of her own medications after consuming the syrup and changing habits, she said, but Ed’s condition improved, as well. “I know the efforts in Ed’s diet have helped prevent the debilitating side effects that many CML patients experience. He is now celebrating five years undetected.”
Rickenbaker admits “’huge regrets” that it took Ed’s life-threatening disease to gravitate toward cleaner living and wellness. “But I suppose you don’t know what you don’t know — and now that I know better, I do better.”
Rickenbaker learned also through her research, that the majority of cancer and chronic illness is not hereditary and can be prevented.
“My hope is that my friends, families and Sweet’s customers will be influenced from this story and make positive lifestyle changes before — and not after — a diagnosis. It does matter, it does make a difference and you can make a huge impact.”
Rickenbaker’s husband is “doing well,” her two children are rarely if ever sick — and she’s hearing almost daily about how her Sweet’s Syrup is changing lives of the young and old, alike.
The product has fast become a hot item and topic of conversation among those looking for a healing boost — minus the toxins and “other” ingredients that are so often billed as healthy, she said.
Having already made over 60,000 bottles of Sweet’s Syrup, Rickenbaker said she never expected this level of success. “It’s kinda surreal to be where I am right now.”
Her trips to Boone in recent weeks have been to deliver and promote her organic elderberry syrup that is proving to be a go-to favorite remedy for many people.
RIckenbaker’s blend is not only recognized for its protective and healing properties, but it also has a great flavor and is safe for most all members of the family.
While she has a busy team in production and delivery, she said there’s just something special about bringing her remedy to Boone, specifically to Boone Drug, Be Natural Market and soon to be available at The Mustard Seed.
How Sweet it Is
Rickenbaker told High Country Press on Monday about her product, and how the nature-made remedy combines organic elderberries (powerful antidoxidants) and spices with raw local honey into a blend specifically chosen for its protective and healing properties.
“It is a super immune booster and natural remedy against colds, coughs the flu and really helps with allergies,” she said. “It can be used as a preventative or taken just whenever you feel like you’re coming down with something. After I started making it for my family, we all really liked it and hardly ever got sick anymore.”
Using raw, local honey is vital, she added. “It’s key, because the honey produced is seasonal, and fights what’s currently blooming. If you start taking the syrup about two weeks before you normally get any symptoms, you might be able to avoid them. It has to be raw, because whenever honey is pasteurized, it kills the live enzymes and the benefits.”
Furthermore, she added, Sweet’s Syrup can help boost your immune system, wherever you live, but if you are looking for seasonal allergy support, it’s best to use a syrup with honey from your region.
She is confident in her suppliers, she said, and enjoys working with Charlotte-based Herb’s Honey, which has 1500 hives all over North Carolina, and described it as “ amazing honey, effective in covering a wide range of allergies south of the Mason Dixon line and east of the Mississippi.”
It is seasonal honey, harvested four times a year and containing pollen from foliage common to the Southeastern U.S., helping to build immunity to those specific allergens, she added.
Saying it’s important for her to know where everything comes from, Rickenbaker uses local ginger as much as possible. She recently visited her main elderberry supplier in Austria and hopes to source additional spices in the future from Sri Lanka.
Rickenbaker never dreamed of her home remedy becoming a highly sought-after product, she said, as she intended it only for her family, at first. “After I saw how it helped us, I shared about it on a local mom’s Facebook page in Charlotte, she said. “ I put it out there just to see if anyone was interested — and from my first post, I received 150 orders! Then, I began learning that many of those who ordered were seeing positive outcomes with decreased sicknesses and allergy complications.”
Soon, she realized, she might be on to something. So, together with her sister, a graphic designer, she created a packing label, began dispensing it in beautiful glass bottle with an “apothecary” feel – and the rest is history evolving, she said.
Currently, Sweet’s Syrup is marketed primarily by word of mouth, is sold at over 100 locations and as an online purchase, can be shipped anywhere.
And, she has a very capable team who work closely with her to keep the production going. “My chefs make it for me in 100-gallon pots in a very food-safe, sterile environment, per FDA regulations. It is made in a peanut-free, dairy-free and wheat-free kitchen that is safe for people with most allergies.”
Rickenbaker said the benefits of elderberry syrup gained a lot of attention during the flu epidemic in 2017. “You couldn’t find it anywhere. There was such a huge demand for it, especially after Dr. Oz featured it on his show.”
But all for good reason, she said, as clinical studies show that it does reduce symptoms and duration of the flu.
And for that reason, Sweet’s Syrup production is “ramping up,” Rickenbaker said, with expectations of another busy flu season ahead.
More About Sweet’s
Sweet’s Syrup is available in 8 or 16 ounce bottles, beginning at $19.99 to around $32.99 at most locations.
It is recommended that adults take one tablespoon per day, while a serving for children over the age of 1 is one teaspoon per day. “And more, if needed, for those (adults) who suffer from seasonal allergies.”
Since Sweet’s contains unpasteurized honey, which can be risky for certain individuals, it is advised that you consult your doctor before consuming Sweet’s especially if pregnant, nursing, or have a specific condition, such as auto-immune disease.
Sweet’s Syrup must be refrigerated, RIckenbaker said. “Each bottle has a sell-by date on the bottom. Once a bottle is opened, we recommend consuming within three months. Unopened bottles are good for six months from production date.”
Sweet’s Syrup also practices environmental stewardship by packaging with recyclable materials and sourcing organic, sustainably farmed ingredients whenever possible.
The Sweet’s team is committed to helping others achieve better health through delicious, organic products delivered with honesty and exceptional customer satisfaction.
“I respect the trust my customers place in me and my product and I’m committed to maintaining that trust,” said RIckenbaker. “Your family’s health is important to me, and I can’t wait to hear how Sweet’s Syrup helps you!”
In summary, RIckenbaker said, “It’s been really amazing, she said, “A huge blessing. I thought I might sell a few bottles, but I’m in awe at how it has taken off. I love hearing how it has helped people and how it has impacted their families. I know from experience, and am hearing how kids don’t get as sick as they once did — and if they do, they are able to knock it out quickly.”
Testimonials on the Sweet’s website are abundant — from physicians and health coaches, moms and others who are concerned for the health and wellbeing of their patients and family members.
For more information, visit sweetssyrup.com, email to
[email protected], find on Facebook, or call 704-312-0942.
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