The Herb Stop Blog
Elder Flower and Elder Berry's Health Benefits
The Elder tree/bush has been valued for its medicinal uses for thousands of years. Herbalist's of all ages have used Elder as a remedy against many ailments. The botanical name Sambucus nigra is derived from the Greek musical instrument made of its wood, the sambuke, and nigra refers to the color of the berries. Rooted in old folkloric traditions, the whole tree/bush, including leaves, bark, flowers, and berries have been used medicinally. Even the hollow branches were used to kindle a fire. Today's Herbalists only use the flowers and berries. Although you may find some information and recipes in old herb books using the leaves and roots of the Elder, please use caution, as these may be toxic.
Elder flowers are primarily used to detoxify the body, as they are known to increase circulation. When you drink Elder flower tea hot, it is known to have sweat-inducing properties useful for colds, flu and fevers. The flowers are also known to have the capability of eliminating toxins that have been in the body for a long time and have hardened or been suppressed. When you drink Elder flower tea cold it is known to affect the urinary system with a diuretic effect. Elder flowers are widely used in skincare to cleanse, condition, and lighten the skin. Herbalists turn to Elder flowers to treat irritated skin, roseacea, eczema, boils, sunburn, as well as for wound healing. Elder flowers have a long history of use as a relaxant, soothing nerves, allaying anxiety and lifting depression.
Elder berries made into Elder berry syrup or wine is now the most popular cold remedy in Europe as well as the United States. Fresh Elder berries are sold at many Farmer's Markets in the summer. People buy them to make their own homemade Elder berry syrup or extract for their families. During cold and flu season they reach for the Elder syrup bottle and give the sweet and tasty medicine to treat a cold, fever, or sore throat. Children love Elder berry syrup!!! Elder berries are sometimes prescribed by Naturopathic physicians to help build the blood in cases of anemia. These little berries are also known to increase digestive activity and secretion to move the chyme (partially digested material) more quickly and more efficiently through the digestive system. Also, your liver will love Elder berries to relieve congestion and to enhance liver activity.
Leilah's Favorite Recipes Using Elder Flowers or Elder Berries
Whenever I have the opportunity to harvest fresh Elder flowers or the berries, I have several go-to recipes I absolutely love. Here are two of my favorites, one with Elder flowers and the other with Elder berries. If you cannot find them fresh you can purchase them from an herb store in dried form.
Elder Flower Champagne
I have made this recipe many, many times with great success. This is an absolutely delicious, bubbly, and perfectly sweet drink. Just a heads-up, it is slightly alcoholic.
6 freshly picked Elder flower heads
2 lemons, sliced
1 gallon of good water
1 1/2 lbs sugar
2 Tbsp white wine vinegar
Place the flower heads and lemons in a primary fermentation vessel. Pour all the water on it. Soak for 24 - 36 hours. Pour through a sterile cloth and add the sugar and vinegar. Stir well until the sugar is completely dissolved. Pour into screw-top bottles (I usually use one pint bottles). Leave the tops slightly loose for about 10 - 14 days. You will notice little bubbles forming. Then tighten the tops and keep for two to three months before drinking. Serve cool.
In 2019 I bought one pound of freshly picked Elder berries at the Payson Farmers Market from Boyds Farm. I made syrup on the same day to lock in freshness. During the winter season I thoroughly enjoy one or two ounces of this highly antioxidant (think anti-aging) and immune boosting tonic. Here is my favorite and easy recipe for fresh Elder berry syrup.
3 cups of fresh Elder berries
9 cups of water
3 cups of honey, maple syrup or agave
Place the berries (without stems or leaves) in a saucepan and cover with water. Add any herbs or spices you would like in your syrup, such as cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, etc. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for about one hour. Mash the berries and strain through a cheese cloth. Add honey or other sweetener and mix well. Bottle the syrup and store in the refrigerator for up to 3 months.
Is It Too Late To Make Your Own Homemade Elder Berry Syrup?
You can successfully make your own homemade Elder berry syrup now if you missed summer's bounty, by substituting fresh Elder berries with dried ones. Use the same recipe as above, but only use half the amount of berries, 1 1/2 cups. Plan for next year and make it with fresh Elder berries. This way you will have a powerful medicine for you and your family for next winter season.
Ready-made Elder berry syrup is also available for you at The Herb Stop. We have added other herbs to the Elder berries to support your immune system and for the natural relief of respiratory complaints.
Caution: Do not eat fresh Elder berries, large amounts may be toxic. Always eat cooked Elder berries, such as juice, syrup, jams, pie, etc. Never pick or use red Elder berries, always the blue/black.
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products and statements are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent disease. Consult your doctor, pharmacist or herbalist before use.