Honor thy Elder.
Common Names: Elderberry, Elderflower, Blue Elder, Black Elder
Botanical Name: Sambucus racemose, S. nigra, S. cerulea, S. canadensis
Plant Family: Caprifoliaceae
Parts Used: Flowers, Berries
Actions: Flowers- Antiviral, diaphoretic, alterative, nervine, antioxidant
Berries- Antiviral, immunomodulating, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory
(Systems affected: Lungs, Liver)
Habitat: Blue elderberries are commonly found growing in the dry region of Washington, east of the Cascades. These shrubs can also be found throughout the U.S.
Collection: The elder shrub drips with their heavy load of berries in the fall or shine with their bright, white flower clusters in the early summer. All species of elder with blue and black berries can be used interchangeably. All species of elderberry contain cyanide in their seeds, leaves, and bark. Red elderberries have high amounts of cyanide, so they are avoided altogether in medicinal preparations, yet their flowers are fair game. Some completely ward off the Red Elder, yet others collect their flowers from the Red Elder and the berries from the Blue Elder… be careful when processing... you do not want any of the stems in our herbal remedies.
It is commonly held that red elderberries are poisonous, however, native people of the PNW and other parts of North America traditionally used Red Elderflowers as food. Currently, I have made fritters with the Red Elderflowers and also infused honeys with them. As previously mentioned, I prefer harvesting the Red Elder flowers so I can collect the Blue Elderberries when ripe.
Clearing of the Skin
Many folks turn to elderflower as a diaphoretic during a fever. However, the sweat- inducing properties of elderflowers helps move stagnancy and detoxifies the skin. A fomentation (soaking a cloth in a strong herbal infused tea and applying it, at high heat, to the skin) and elderflower tea wash can help burns, rashes, minor skin ailments and reduce rosacea.
Flu & Fever
Elderflowers are diaphoretic. They help induce sweating to excel a fever. Combine Elder flower with peppermint, pennyroyal, catnip or yarrow to help dispel excess heat from the body. This can in return quicken the duration of the sickness.
Immunomodulating & Antiviral
Elderberry is highly distinguished today as one of the most powerful herbs for preventing and treating influenza and colds. Combined with Echinacea, these herbs kill any virus or bacterial infection that takes out our immune system. Specifically, elderberry helps respiratory infections and expedites the process of treating influenza. Many studies have been done throughout Europe and Israel that affirm the benefits of elderberries against cold and influenza symptoms. In most of the studies, elderberries helped relieve symptoms in a shorter duration than over-the-counter medication.
Elderberry contains a protein called “hemagglutinin,” which in short, inhibits a virus’ ability to penetrate a cell wall and replicate. Since the virus is being prevented from spreading, patients are able to recover in a shorter amount of time (within 24 hours- 3 days for some). This protein also attributes to elderberry’s anti-viral qualities.
The berries also contain a significant number of antioxidants and flavonoids. Both of which reduce inflammation throughout the body. Elderberries are known to help decrease arthritic pain, sooth coughs and sore throats and also strengthen one’s vision. Better yet, they taste delicious (especially combined with honey!).
Enjoy Elderberries and Elderflowers as a syrup, honey, shrub/oxymel, vinegar or concentrate!
1 part Fresh Elderberries
Optional- ginger, reishi mushroom, Echinacea
Take elderberries off of stems. Gently heat fresh elderberries on the stove (keep on simmer and do not let go to boil). Mash them to help extract the juice. Once berries are sufficiently mashed, strain off seeds. Add equal amount of honey to juice.Store in refrigerator.
Take frequently by the tablespoon full at the onset of illness and continue until you feel better. Or use 1⁄2 – 1 tsp. every 2-3 hrs. to fight colds, flu, lung or sinus congestion.
5 cups elderflowers
1 1/4 cups boiling water
Pick the blossoms when fully open, but still fresh. Snip away all the little stalks. Measure the flowers into a bowl, pour on the boiling water, cover and leave to infuse for two or three hours. Strain into a jug and pour into small bottles.
Use water externally as a skin wash or internally and drink as a tea.