Elder is one of my absolute favorite herbal medicines not only because it’s effective, but also because it tastes great! You can make a variety of preparations from the flowers and berries to help keep you well during cold and flu season including teas, jams, syrups, and elixirs. Elder’s ability to prevent and treat up to 8 types of flu virus make it (IMHO) a medicine kit must have, so be sure to stock up before cold and flu season rolls in to begin your medicinal preparations. You can get the highest quality elderberries and flowers HERE.
Today I want to talk about the wonderful Elder tree and its many uses and benefits. Enjoy!
The Properties and Benefits of Elderberry
Botanical Name: Sambucus nigra
Family: Caprifoliacea (Honeysuckle Family)
Common name: American Elder, Common Elder, Black Elder, Bour Tree, and European Black Elder
Parts Used: Flower and berry. The dried berries are less bitter tasting than the fresh berries.
Flavor: Flower- bitter, acrid; Berry- sweet, bitter
Affinity/ Systems affected: Lungs and liver
The Benefits of Elderberry
Properties/Constituents: Elder is commonly used in the first stages of a cold as it is highly antiviral. It also works well for nasal and chest congestion, even allergies like hayfever. (you can read more about treating allergies naturally here.)
Elder protects against eight strains of flu virus as it prevents the virus from infecting healthy cells. Other benefits of elderberry include improved bacterial and viral infection in the upper respiratory system since Elder dries dampness. It may even improve strep throat and cold sores.
Both flowers and berries encourage the body to release toxins through their diuretic and diaphoretic properties.
The flowers of elder are used in salves as a treatment for burns, rashes, acne, wrinkles, and other skin ailments. You can also bruise the flowers and rub them on the skin to keep away mosquitos and other flying pests. A cold tea can be applied to garden plants to prevent aphid infestation.
Combined with equal parts peppermint, yarrow, ginger, and licorice root, a powerful tea can be made to knock out a cold in no time. This tea should be steeped in boiling water in a covered container and consumed before getting in a hot bath. Crawl into bed with plenty of warm blankets. This will induce sweating that will break a fever.
The Flowers – Alterative, anti-catarral, anti-inflammatory anti-rheumatic, antiseptic, antispasmodic, astringent, carminative, decongestant, diaphoretic, diuretic, expectorant, febrifuge, galactagogue, laxative, nervine, purgative, rejuvenative, restorative, gentle stimulant, tonic, vasodilator, and vulnerary.
The Berries – Alterative, Anti-catarral, anti-inflammatory, anti-rheumatic, antiseptic, antispasmodic, antiviral, decongestant, diaphoretic, diuretic, expectorant, laxative, nervine, rejuvenative, restorative, and tonic.
• Internal uses: The flowers are used internally for Colds, Flus, and especially fevers. They also reduce inflammation caused by influenza and soothe skin irritations. It is most often taken as a tasty syrup like this one.
• External uses: For clearing the skin, improves eczema and psoriasis.
• Aromatherapy/ Essential oil use: N/A
Plant Preparations/Medicinal Uses: Teas, tinctures, encapsulations, syrups, wine, cordials, elixirs, and jams. Elder is often combined with bee propolis or Echinacea for extra immune-boosting effects. You can learn how I make an elderberry elixir here.
Contraindications: Elder may not be suitable for people who suffer from auto-immune diseases as it boosts the immune system. It may also increase the negative effects of chemotherapy.
Berries – Used in jams, pies, cobblers, and syrups.
Flowers – Jelly, Vinegar, and in baking.
Precautions: The branches and leaves of Elder are poisonous. Small stems which are often left on the berry are safe to consume.
Notes: In ancient times, the Celts believed that Elder was a sacred symbol of life and death. It was so sacred, that the tree could not be used as tinder or woodworking. It was worn as an amulet to encourage happiness, prosperity, and as a ward against evil. It is said that when you go to harvest Elder in the wild that you must first ask the Elder Mother for her blessing and permission to do so.
You may also enjoy reading:
How to Make an Elderberry Elixir
Cold Bustin’ Elderberry Tea
Natural Cold Remedies Part 1- The Healing Power of Elder
The Properties of Thyme
Natural Cold Remedies- Part 3- The Healing Power of Garlic
Natural Cold Remedies Part 2- The Healing Power of Ginger
Essential Oils for Boosting the Immune System and Fighting Cold and Flu
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