Elder Flowers | Old World Winter Ally + Recipes

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Elder Flowers in bloom | By Tania Oceana

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).

A fallen Elder Flower on Elder leaf by Tania Ocean | 2018

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!)

Elderflowers

Elder Flower Tincture by Tania Oceana

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.

RECIPES

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!

Stay cozy

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.

Lobelia | The nasty herb for shoulder tension and wildfire lung support

The abundance and variety of properties in a single herb never fails to impress me. The idea that one little plant can wear so many different hats also helps reminds me how odd it is to try to pack any living being in to too few, and separate, boxes.

Illustration of Lobelia Inflata

Lobelia Inflata is a small plant who often sports little purple flowers, and who wears the following hats; Muscle relaxant, expectorant, antispasmodic, eases asthma, supports tobacco cessation, tastes kind of like poison and in large doses it is toxic. And of course in additional to those there are always other secrets to wonder about.

Lobelia is so nasty in flavor that it can literally cause one to gag. The lesson in this, I believe, is to work with this herb conservatively. To save your taste buds, a tincture is a better way to go over tea. A bit of loose Lobelia herb could be hidden in say, some strong peppermint tea, but to understand the individual affect, a tincture in a bit of water is a good bet. Due to the strong nature of this herb, a little goes a long way. Instead of the usual 30 drop dose for most herbal tinctures, Lobelia is more of a “drop dose” herb, meaning that 1-10 drops is usually sufficient to feel the effects. If you are sensitive, then you can start on the lower end.

And now the age old question, “so what do you use this herb for?”

A valid question, and I understand the enthusiasm! I do also want to spread the idea though that a more holistic way to approach herbalism is with a bit more open curiosity to what properties this plant has. These properties are all of those different hats, and they can change based on the the weather (your desired application for example) and the plants mood (those random factors affecting the plant, the sourcing and various factors within yourself, that limit homogeny and make life interesting). Ok so let’s start with the muscle relaxation aspect. Lobelia has the lovely ability to loosen muscle tension throughout our body in both our smooth and skeletal muscles. Just that alone means that this herb can greatly aid in tense, knotted shoulder or neck muscles, uterine cramps, leg cramps, restless leg, and even our tiny lung muscles if they happen to be constricted or spazzy from allergies, asthma or illness. Whether the muscle tension is from stress, injury or an inherited condition doesn’t change the effect, which is a deep sigh of relief and physical relaxation. The muscles calm, lose their stiffness and lessen in tone and spasms.

This physical relaxation often promotes emotional relaxation because when your neck loosens up, your cramps subside and pain looses some of it’s sharpness, it’s so much easier to feel comfortable and remember to see all the beauty around us.

As for Lobelia’s relationship with the lungs, the affect is twofold. You have the muscle relaxation aspect, which can calm a spastic cough, tense lungs and the emotional trigger aspect that can exacerbate constriction and breathlessness. The lungs open and relax. The second aspect it Lobelia’s expectorant property. Expectorant means that it helps to loosen, break up and expel excess phlegm from the lungs. So essentially it can help you hack up phlegm which can ease respiratory congestion. This could be beneficial in many ongoing or acute issues in the lungs, such as a chest cold or chronic bronchitis. I do want to mention to please consult a medical professional before attempting to substitute any conventional asthma protocols for Lobelia!

In addition to those with asthma, anyone in forest fire prones areas can often benefit from additional lung support. Here in Oregon, these last few years have been the worst I’ve ever seen in terms of unhealthy air quality from wildfire smoke. That mixed with the heat and excessive city emissions, August and September can be a tricky time for those with sensitive lungs and to a lesser degree everyone else as well. Thankfully this year we got a bit more rain than last year, and more of us are aware and becoming aware of small changes we can make to keep our environments, ourselves and each other healthier. Good news is that when we support any one of them, we support them all.

And lastly, for those who want to transition off of tobacco cigarettes, Lobelia can help with both the tobacco cravings and the inevitable cleaning out of the lungs from accumulated cigarette tar (even when smoked). While Lobelia does not contain any nicotine, it has been called “Indian Tobacco” due to it’s use among North American Natives, as well as it’s use as a tobacco alternative. The physical and mental relaxation properties can be of benefit when transitioning from nicotine, and Lobelia is often blended with other smoking herbs for flavor and effect. Surprisingly, the flavor of the smoke is not gross and can even be pleasant.

In case you are curious how to experiment with this interesting plant, I’d love to share a simple and balanced herbal blend to help support your hardworking lungs this season:

BREATH SUPPORT BLEND | Loose Leaf Herbal Tea or Tincture

1 Part = 1 TBsp Loose Herb OR 1 Dropperful of Liquid Tincture

5 Part Mullein Leaf

2 Part Marshmallow Root (Or substitute Licorice Root)

1 Part Lobelia Herb

Making a Tea: Combine your herbs. Pour 1 quart of freshly boiled water over your blend and steep for 5 minutes. Strain and enjoy! You can add honey or a sweetener if desires, and you can enjoy this blend hot or cold, one cup at a time. This blend should last about a day in the refrigerator. 1-3 cups per day is a great way to support your lungs during fire season.

Using Tinctures: Combine in a dropper bottle. Take 1 Droppersful in a bit of water or into tea 1-3x/day during fire season.

Thank you for ready and stay green!

If you are on the journey to quitting tobacco cigarettes, we have five different flavorful herbal smoking blends. All organic, no fillers, no nicotine, and made with love in Oregon!

Check out all of our blend HERE

EXPANSION | This Herbal Smoking Blend features Lobelia and Roses by Mossy Tonic

A Minute for Milky Oats

Milky Oat Tea is simple way to incorporate a healthy, food-as-medicine herb into your daily routine.

Milky Oat Tops brewing in a single serving teapot

This nourishing herb can be infused into a restorative brew that is safe to take on a daily basis. Avena sativa (aka Milky Oat tops) are nourishing to the nervous system and help to slowly but surely balance out feelings of nervousness, stress and exhaustion. 


The high mineral content also benefits multiple areas. The magnesium helps to calm and soothe the muscles and the mind, while the silica and calcium help to promote and maintain strong hair, skin, nails and bones.

To get the most out of Milky Oats, cover them in freshly boiled water and let steep at least several hours or even better, overnight. You can make a big jar batch and store that in the fridge to used throughout the week. Great herbal pairs include Peach Leaf, Skullcap and added to freshly made Lavender flower tea.

Stay Green Plant Lovers!

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