A shrub native to the United States, elder (sambucus caerula) was thought by Native Americans to promote a long life and heal all illnesses. This is where the name “elder” originated.
From Denmark to Russia, Sicily to Northern California, elder trees have traditionally been associated with forces like magic and protection. In some traditions, elder is seen as the queen of forest fairy medicine and it is considered essential to acknowledge and respect the plant before one is granted access to forest medicine.
Medicinally, elderberries are beneficial for colds, coughs and the flu. The flowers are great fever reducers. The berries have been shown to prevent flu viruses from spreading deeper into the body. High in anti-oxidants, they are full of nutrition and safe for all ages.
People use them in juicing, jam, baked goods or even to infuse into alcohol. Heading into fall and winter, it is beneficial to drink a mug of elderberry tea twice a day to ease colds, flus, coughs, lung congestion or constipation. Two teaspoons of dried berries per cup of boiling water should do the trick.
It is wonderful to make an elderberry cordial that will last for years, stored in lowlight in a pantry or fridge. Here’s my recipe:
Fresh blue/purple elderberries
Granulated organic sugar
Spirits (vodka or plum brandy)
1. Place the elderberries in a saucepan with enough water to cover them. Simmer on low heat for 15 minutes.
2. Strain through cheesecloth or straining bag. Squeeze all the juice out of the berries.
3. For every 2 cups of juice, add 1.5 cups of sugar & 1tsp or 9 cloves, if desired.
4. Simmer for 10 minutes or until the sugar dissolves.
5. Allow it to cool.
6. Add 2 cups of spirits for every 4 cups of elderberry mixture.
7. Lastly, transfer into clean glass bottles, making sure that the caps seal effectively. Label and store.
*Note: When harvesting, ONLY the blue/purple elder berries are medicinal. The red varieties are toxic.