I’m trying to get us all thinking wellness for winter. Elderberry elixir and cough drops (I order online) were very helpful to me the last couple of winters. When all the Teachers & Student were home with the flu I was not. I think the elder helped make that possible. I’ve always had a great immune system until I move here 5 years ago. I’m guessing serious trauma and head injury messed it up somewhat. So I do wellness care to keep things on track. Here is one you may want to consider for your tool box as well. Wishing wellness to all of our divas. Namaste, The Queen Cronista….
Elderberry Benefits: Elder Blossoms as Herbal Medicine
Elderflowers have many uses, but they particularly shine in two areas: for fevers and to promote healthy skin. While that may seem an odd pairing, it’s not uncommon that herbs acting as relaxing diaphoretics also support the physiological functions of skin health.
In my northern climate, elderberry distinctly marks each season. By late winter and early spring, the elderberry bush begins to leaf out, greening the landscape with its plentiful leaves. As summer approaches, it briefly breaks into a profusion of white blooms. During this season you can easily distinguish the shrubs from other green growths. Take note of where they are! By late summer and early fall, the shrubs will be dripping in heavy bunches of berries. While I love elderflower for medicine, the berries remain one of my favorite herbal medicines of all.
People have been using the elder herb for thousands of years for food, medicine, and tools. It has a rich folklore and has long been associated with the faery worlds, death, and rebirth. It is still highly revered today as one of our most powerful herbs for preventing and treating colds and influenza.
Herbalists are not the only ones who are recognizing the amazing benefits of elderberry. Numerous clinical trials have been done with the berries and in 2013 the first international conference on elder was held in Columbia, Missouri. The goal of the conference was to “raise elderberry to the scientific level it deserves.”
John Evelyn, writing in praise of the Elder, says: ‘If the medicinal properties of its leaves, bark and berries were fully known, I cannot tell what our countryman could ail for which he might not fetch a remedy from every hedge, either for sickness, or wounds.’
– Maude Grieve, A Modern Herbal
Elderberry Benefits: History and Folklore of Elderberry Uses
There is a long history of elderberry uses in Europe. Archaeological excavations show large numbers of seeds at prehistoric sites, indicating elders were consumed during the Magdalenian era, which was 17,000 to 12,000 BP. It’s been hypothesized that the wood was probably used as well for making tools.1
Excavations have revealed ceremonial flint spearheads that were modeled after elder leaves, giving us the insight that the elder was probably revered then as it is now.
Elderberry shrubs were an important plant for the Celtic people. Celtic druids made flutes from elder to communicate with the souls of dead people. Celtic myth says that the spirits of the forest dwell in the hollow wood of the elder tree and that the white blooms in the spring symbolize the reincarnation of the dead.
During the spring in Austria and in the north of England, people would leave elder cuttings on graves. If the branches flowered then that meant the soul of the dead had joined paradise. Luckily, elder grows really well from cuttings!
Historically, almost every part of the elder bush was used for medicine, including the flowers, berries, leaves, and bark. This article will specifically look at using elder blossoms and elder berries.
Elderberry Benefits: Elder flowers as a Relaxing Diaphoretic
While mainstream culture often reaches for a pill for fevers, herbalists recognize many types of fevers and use a variety of herbs based on the kind of fever a person has.
Elderflowers excel for fevers when the person feels hot, is agitated or tense, and isn’t sweating. Drinking the warm tea encourages the capillaries to open up, thus helping to dispel excess heat from the body. A traditional tea remedy for fever that is still common today includes a blend of elderflowers, peppermint, and yarrow.
While elderflowers are ideal for this particular type of fever, I wouldn’t hesitate to use them in other feverish cold and influenza situations. The tea blend mentioned above is many people’s favorite tea to take at the onset of a cold or flu to help them shorten the duration of the sickness.
An almost infallible cure for an attack of influenza in its first stage is a strong infusion of dried Elder Blossoms and Peppermint. Put a handful of each in a jug, pour over them a pint and a half of boiling water, allow to steep, on the stove, for half an hour then strain and sweeten and drink in bed as hot as possible. Heavy perspiration and refreshing sleep will follow, and the patient will wake up well on the way to recovery and the cold or influenza will probably be banished within thirty-six hours. Yarrow may also be added.
– Maude Grieve, A Modern Herbal
Like most diaphoretics, when taken as a cool tea rather than a hot one, the diuretic effect is more pronounced, encouraging the healthy flow of urine.