Latin Name: Sambucus nigra
Description: Elder, a perennial shrub, grows up to 6-12 feet high. It can be grown easily in the garden and can also be found growing in areas where there is moisture and rich soil. Although the plant is difficult to start from seed, you can successfully start your own elder from a cutting. The plant has shallow roots and will grow by shooting off new branches from the runners. The plant is easiest to sight in the spring, when the white, lacy flowers are blooming on the plant. Come back to the same area in mid-summer, and you will find the bush is covered with the desired purple berries, unless the birds got to the berries before you did. Both the flowers and the berries can be used medicinally.
Parts Used: Flowers, berries, leaves. The white flowers appear in the spring on big umbrels and are very fragrant. Eventually, the flowers change into purple berries by mid-summer. The berries are high in vitamins A, B and C.
Plant Properties: Antispasmodic, emetic, expectorant, demulcent, diuretic, sedative, relaxant, vulnerary
Uses: Elderflowers are used to reduce fever, soothe coughs and help the body recover from colds and flu. Drinking an infusion of the flowers will produce a mild perspiration that helps to reduce fever. The elderflowers can also be infused in a carrier oil for topical use to treat chapped skin.
Elderberries are rich with vitamins and antioxidants that are proven to boost the immune system and to block the ability of viruses to penetrate cellular membranes. In addition to using elderberries as a cold and flu remedy, the berries are also used to improve appetite and digestion and can also promote regular elimination.
Elderflower Cordial: Fill a mason jar with elderflowers, cover with brandy, and top off with honey. Cover the jar, put away in a dark cupboard, and forger about it. By wintertime, you have a tasty cordial to add to teas or sparkling water.
Elderflower Oil Infusion: An elderflower oil infusion can be made by covering fresh flowers with olive oil (or your preferred oil) in a glass container with a lid. Set the container on a sunny windowsill to steep for 14 to 28 days, strain and store in dark glass bottles. It is best to allow the flowers to wilt for a day after picking before beginning the oil infusion. If you aren’t expecting any rain, you can set the container outside and use cheesecloth to cover the jar. This allows the moisture remaining in the flowers to evaporate, reducing the risk of mold developing in the oil. Herbal infused oils are for external use.
Elderberry tincture: Here’s how to make an elderberry tincture from your dried elderberries:
1. Fill a jar half full of berries.
2. Pour Everclear over berries until the jar is 3/4 full. You can substitute any 80-100 proof alcohol that you prefer.
3. Top off with filtered (or bottled) water. Tap water should not be used.
4. Put a lid on the jar, and making sure it is leak-proof, shake the jar. A mason jar with a canning lid is best for this step.
5. Put the jar in a cupboard (keep it out of sunlight) and shake it every now & then for the next 4-6 weeks.
6. After 6 weeks, strain the tincture through a small strainer into a clean jar. Label the jar.
How to use:
1. Store your tincture in a cool, dark place, avoiding big temperature fluctuations. The tincture will last for years, but you should be using it, so don’t worry about this.
2. You can take ¼-½ teaspoon daily to boost the immune system.
3. If you are having any symptoms of illness, increase your dosage up to 3 teaspoons a day, depending on the extent of your symptoms. I usually take a dose at the first sign of illness, and continue to take a dose of tincture during the day/night when I continue to feel something “off”. It is best to take frequent, small doses throughout the day if you are sick.
Elderberry syrup – By far one of the most favored ways of getting your elderberry medicine. When making a syrup, various spices can be added to your taste and to increase the benefits of the syrup. This is my favorite recipe, because it is so simple.
Combine ½ cups of dried elderberries, 3 cups of water and ginger, cinnamon, and cloves to taste. I use a cinnamon stick and about ¼ ounce of freshly ground ginger, with ½ tsp cloves. Bring the liquid to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 30 minutes. Smash the berries, and allow mixture to cool to the touch, maintaining enough warmth to integrate the honey. Strain off the berries, add ¾-1 cup of honey to the strained liquid, stir well. Refrigerate. Take 1 ounce daily for wellness. If you think you are getting sick, or are sick, take several times a day. I take some daily, then take it multiple times a day at the first sign of anything that doesn’t feel “quite right”.
Elderberry shrub – The elderberry shrub combines all the health benefits of elderberry, apple cider vinegar (ACV) and raw honey to create a tart beverage that can be used to flavor herbal teas. To make the elderberry shrub, combine 1/3 cups of dried elderberries, 1 2/3 cups of water, and 1 cup of ACV in a quart mason jar. Put in the refrigerator for several days, shaking it daily. Then remove this mixture from the refrigerator, strain off the berries while pouring the liquid into a pan. Gently heat to just warm enough to combine up to 1 cup of honey (I use ½-¾ cup) into the liquid. When the honey is fully integrated, pour shrub into bottles and store in refrigerator. I use about 2 ounces to flavor various herbal teas or add to a ginger, lemonade for added zing. It can be taken straight from the bottle, but be mindful that ACV can weaken the enamel on your teeth. So, if taking it straight, drink plenty of water afterwards.
Contraindication – Elder is an emetic, which means it can cause vomiting. For most people, a therapeutic dose is not going to be problematic. As with all herbal remedies, it is best to start with low doses until you know how your body responds to the remedy.