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  • Writer's picturemisha

Herb Profile: Elder

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

Description 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

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

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

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

Dosages infusion – 3/4 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

Cautions 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.

Recipes 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.

Sources 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 elders 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.}

*a reminder that gypsy is a racial slur and not a word that should be on the lips, in the mouths, or the typing fingertips of anyone who is not Romani.

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