photo by steve p2008 on Flickr
photo by steve p2008 on Flickr

#NaBloPoMo Day 29: Herbal Profile: Elder

I decided to profile a herb. (yes, “a herb”, because there is an “h”!) I have decided to start with Elder (Sambucus Nigra – European, Sambucus Canadensis – American) since this is the season that seems to call on it more than any other time of the year. Elder was also the first herb mentioned when I polled on Facebook for suggestions.

photo by steve p2008 on Flickr
photo by steve p2008 on Flickr

Sambucus Nigra, Sambucus Canadensis
elderberry, elder berry, “poor man’s pharmacy”, Hylde Moer, Elder Mother

small tree or hedge shrub with cream coloured flowers in early Summer and small black/purplish-black berries in Autumn

Parts Used
berries, flowers, leaves and sometimes the bark

flowers – flavonoids, volatile oil
berries – fatty acids, sterols, mucilage, tannins, vitamin C
seeds/bark – cyanogenic glycosides
bark – resins

diaphoretic, laxative, astringent, anti-inflammatory, and antiviral

Professional Uses
bark – laxative
flowers – prescriptions for hypertension

Domestic Uses
flowers – wine/cordial, water, fritters, jam, added to salads
berries – wine/port, chutney, hedgerow jam
leaves – insecticide for greenfly (decoction)
branches/sticks – lightweight splints for broken bones

Medicinal Home Use – Internal
– hot infusion/tincture: sinusitis, hayfever, colds, fevers (especially good for children)
– syrup/decoction/tincture: cold/flu prevention, cough medicine, gentle laxative
– wine: anaemia, menstruation issues, fibroids, West Nile virus

Medicinal Home Use – External
– rinse: sore eyes, irritation/inflammation in mouth
– compress: sore eyes
– cream: sore skin, chapped hands, itchy anus
– ointment: piles, swelling
– compress: headaches, swollen joints
– decoction/compress: tinea, ringworm, scabies, rashes, eczema

infusion Р3/4 C dried or fresh flowers in 2 C boiling water; brew 3-5 minutes; add raw honey if desired
— hayfever – 3 C per day for 3 months before hayfever season; or eat the fresh flowers
— cold/flu preventative/fever reducer – 3 C daily
tincture – 3/4 jar dried or fresh flowers and/or dried berries, fill jar with 1 part water & 2 parts vodka, and let sit at least 4 weeks occasionally shaking
— ¬†various uses – 10 – 20 drops in 4 oz water
wine – 3x/day

raw berries should not be eaten due to their strong laxative quality. strong bark decoctions for emetic purposes can be especially hard on liver and kidneys.

Lore and Magic
faeries. elder has a strong spirit that is protective. asking permission before cutting branches or harvesting bark, flowers, and berries is advised.

Elderberry Rob
4 C Elderberry juice (pressed and strained from fresh berries)
1 tsp Allspice, ground
1/2 tsp Ginger Root, ground
Combine in pot and reduce over very low heat until molasses-like consistency. Store in dark glass bottle in cool place. Take 1 tsp in 1 C hot water daily or add to cough syrup

Romani (Gypsy) Fever Reducing Tea
Equal parts Elderflowers, Yarrow, and Peppermint hot infusion. Drink freely until fever cools.

Elderberry and Immunity Boosting Cough Syrup

The Earthwise Herbal: A Complete Guide to Old World Medicinal Plants, by Matthew Wood
Rosemary Gladstar’s Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health, by Rosemary Gladstar
Herbalism: An Illustrated Guide, by Non Shaw (Element Books Unlimited)
Family wisdom passed from elder women down to me

{Disclaimer: I am NOT a doctor or nurse. This information NOT medical advice or meant to diagnose or treat an illness. If you have questions or concerns, please seek the advisement of a physician or herbalist before using any herbal preparation for yourself or your family.}




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