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Steeped in lore and myth, the bewitching Elder Tree has been revered as a healing tree for centuries.
The Elder tree is intricate, possessing nourishing, edible, medicinal and poisonous compounds. In the seed, all of these aspects coexists at once.
Elder trees are found throughout North America and the Black Elderberry (sambucus nigra) is by far the most popular in Western Herbalism. The root has strong purgative properties, and is very rarely used today. The berries have earned some popularity as the featured herb in Elderberry Syrup (a sweetened concoction that you can often find in health food stores. See a simple recipe at the end of this article).
While the berries are more popular, the flowers have similar properties and do not contain the same digestive-irritating compounds found in the berry seeds (which are strained out during extraction). Elder flowers are a beautiful and underrated herbal ally for respiratory health and common winter ailments.
Winter Health Ally
Winter has it’s own charm in higher latitude; powdery snow, a chance to cozy up near a fire with some hot cider and many holidays. There’s always two stories, and the other side contains an elevation of viral infections such as the common cold, the flu and now also C.V19. There are strategies to help balance our body and help prevent these types of infections such as supplementing with vitamin D, adding spicy herbs to your food, as well as continuing safety precautions that limit spread. In addition to these, adding in some Elder Flower tea can also be a great way to incorporate an antiviral herb into your daily habits. (And there’s a recipe below!)
Like Elder berries, Elder flowers contain antiviral properties as well as diaphoretic and antipyretic agents. A diaphoretic helps to promote sweating, and in this way assist the body in it’s natural elimination process and cool the body. An antipyretic helps to prevent or lower a fever, which is a common symptom of colds and flus. Elder flowers can also help to loosen and expel congestion and phlegm from the lungs. You can see why Elder is revered during the cold and flu season!
The benefit of working with the flowers are that they can be easily brewed in tea (where as the berries must be simmered for at least 20 minutes) and they are very gentle and incorporate well with other herbs. The flavor is unique, a little bit musky but not unpleasant. Elder can be used daily, for prevention and as needed. Drinking tea hot further adds to the diaphoretic effect.
Stay safe, warm and enjoy a cup of Elder Flower tea this winter. Bonus points if you’re reading an old fairy tale while sipping.
My favorite Elder Flower Tea Recipe
1 part Elder Flowers
1 part Mint (Pepermint or your favorite variety)
1 part Lemon Balm (who also has anti-viral compounds)
Mix herbs and then use 1 Tbsp per cup of freshly boiled water. Steep for 2 minutes and strain. Add honey, sweetener and/or lemon as desired. Enjoy!
Simple Elderberry Syrup Recipe
3 Oz dried Elder berries
3 cups water
1 cup Honey (bonus for raw)
Combine in a pot and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes
Strain, cool down and add the honey. Stir and bottle in a sterile airtight glass container. The honey helps with the preservation but also refrigerate and use within two weeks.
You can add cinnamon, ginger or rosehips while simmering for flavor and added herbal goodness.
Note: This article is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and is for educational purposes only.