There are so many benefits and uses for elderberries that these little berries are a household staple in our home, especially during cold and flu season.
Elderflowers and elderberry have been used to promote a healthy immune system for ages. Both the flower and the berries are used for health purposes, although it is strongly advised to cook the berries before using them, as raw berries have properties similar to cyanide poison.
Elder is generally found in Europe, Africa, parts of Asia and even North America. Of its many species, Sambucus nigra, the European Elder, is the most commonly used species. The plant can grow up to 30 feet tall in dry or moist soil. The wood of the tree is white and easy to cut, and hence, is quite popular for making small objects. And the flowers are pretty enough to find a spot in a fancy garden!
Rosemary Gladstars Take on Elderberry As Herbal Medicine
I love listening to Rosemary’s history on the Elder Plant and how it’s been used traditionally to help the immune system. You can tell how much she adores this plant just by watching her facial expressions as she talks about uses and benefits of the Elder plant.
When growing or planting an elderberry bush keep these tips in mind:
- Plant seeds in the spring.
- It is suggested to plant them as soon as they are available, in the nursery. Waiting long will kill the seeds.
- Elder is really fond of fertilizers, so add compost to the soil before sowing.
- Plant the seeds 6 to 10 feet apart. Remember to leave about ¼ inch soil over the seeds.
- It’s a good idea to add fertilizer each year in early spring. One pound of ammonium nitrate for each plant is a good amount.
- The ideal soil to grow Elder is one with pH 5.5 to 6.5 and also moist, fertile and well drained, but it does not mind having other values of acidity, fertility or texture.
- If you have heard the rumor that elder prefers swamped spots, you should be aware that it is totally wrong. Elder is intolerant of bad drainage.
- Elder have shallow roots, so in the first season, you have to keep them well-watered. Also, as mentioned earlier, a good drainage system is a must.
- They should be weeded regularly, or there is the threat of elder plants taking up all the garden.
- Through the roots, elder will grow more plants. You can dig them up and replant in another spot or mow them if you do not want it growing further.
Uses and Benefits of Elderberry & Elderflower
Elderberry is most well known for its ability to help boost the immune system, especially when using the elderberries in a syrup. Elderberry is also thought to help bring on fevers and helping the body fight off an infection.
Elderberry Boosts The Immune System
Elderberry is most well know for helping the body boost the immune system.
This study did a clinical trial on over 300 people traveling on planes. Half of the participants took elderberry extract. Those who got the extract had significantly shorter duration of cold episode days and the average symptom scores were quite lower. They stated that their data suggests “a significant reduction of cold duration and severity in air travelers.”
Another study stated
We conclude from this study that, in addition to its antiviral properties, Sambucol Elderberry Extract and its formulations activate the healthy immune system by increasing inflammatory cytokine production.
Anytime anyone in our household comes down with any kind of viral infection, I make a fresh batch of Elderberry syrup. Any member of the house showing signs of being sick, gets a spoonful every hour or so. Everyone else just gets a spoonful a day.
In her book Body into Balance, Maria Groves says
Elderflowers have the added benefits of acting as a natural antihistamine, helping to relieve cold, flu and allergy symptoms, while boosting a healthy (germ-killing) fever response.
Elderberry Saftey and Dangers
Elderflowers are generally safe to use fresh and the berries of the plant are safe as long as they are always cooked before use. The leave, sticks and roots of the plant should not be used, as many consider them toxic, although they are used by some herbalist.
Elderberry Herbal Remedy Recipes
The best part of an elder tree is using its bountiful gifts for delicious food and medicine. Here are some of our favorite ways to use both elderberries and elderflowers.
This is our staple elderberry recipe. Elderberry syrup is such a delicious remedy that my kids beg for it. Whipping up your own batch is pretty easy, and is perfect for when a cold or the flu strikes your house.
I value elderberry syrup so much, that there’s always a jar in my house. If anyone has even the slightest sniffle, they are getting a few spoonfuls throughout the day.
I also recommend forgoing the manufactured versions. Whenever I hear people say that elderberry syrup didn’t work for them, they had only ever tried the store bought. IF you can’t make your own, look to see if there are any local supplies that make it at home.
If you are a tea drinker like myself, Elderberry tea may be more up your alley.
How to make Elderberry Tea:
To make the tea is simple, put dried elderberries and water in a pot. (Keep the ratio at 1 tablespoon of berries to 1 cup of water.) Bring to a boil, and let simmer for 15 minutes.
You can cinnamon, ginger or any other herbs or spices you may like, and a bit of honey too.
Elderberry tea has a natural sweetness to it, and I find it very enjoyable with no honey.
Elderflower syrup is a delicious way to add the benefits of elderflower to your everyday life. This syrup tastes so good and can be added to mineral water for a tasty healthy soda or as a yummy sweetener for your teas.
(1) Groves, M. N. (2016). Body into balance: An herbal guide to holistic self-care. North Adams, MA: Storey Publishing.