The Elder tree has been used for a few centuries and was called “Nature’s Medicine Chest” or “Country Medicine Chest”. It has more folklore attached to it than most other European plants. Many people used to believe that the tree was inhabited by the “Elder Mother” or spirits, so no one would cut down a tree, trim a branch or even pick the flowers or fruit without saying a rhyme to it first to give the spirits time to leave. Over the years people have used Elder to help with flu, colds, congestion, allergies, coughs, arthritis, and the list continues.
A research paper published back in 1995 involved patients that had the flu, half were given a placebo and the other half received an extract of elderberries. The study showed 90% of the people given the extract recovered in 2-3 days and the ones taking the placebo took 6 days to recover from the flu. The berries contain antioxidant flavonoids, the most important one being Anthocyanin, which are bioactive molecules that studies all over the world are proving to be essential to good health. The Anthocyanin is one of the most potent antioxidants known, with about 300 antioxidants discovered so far, which also gives the rich, dark colors associated with Elderberries and many other fruits and vegetables.
The berry is not the only beneficial part of this tree, the Elderflowers have been used many for of the same ailments, but also for anti-inflammatory, earaches, hay fever, candidiasis (or fungal and candida infections)and increasing the resistance to infections in the mucous linings of the nose and throat. They have a Muscatel scent, which pairs well with sweet and savory meals or desserts. Elderflower water has been used in lotions and it can be as a skin tonic, and take it for what it is worth, but in the 1700’s people used elder water to reduce freckles.
In Western medicine the leaves have used in poultices for bruising and sprains, while in the Eastern medicine world they have used the leaves, stems and roots, to help with fractures and spasms. Back in Western medicine they have used the roots for kidney and lymphatic ailments, and they have used the bark of the elder tree to help with epilepsy over the years. You can also take the Elderflower clusters and dip them in batter then deep fry them, sprinkle with orange juice then dust with powdered sugar and enjoy. Elderflowers and elderberries can be used to wine, and France has a liquor made from elderflowers
The flowers are collected in the spring and the berries in the fall, just in time for cold and flu season. The berries are loaded with Vitamin C, which means you could drink elderberry tea to do the same as those Vitamin C powder drinks for your immune system. Use the berries in conjunction with other herbs and berries and you may never need to buy those packets when your home, but I still might buy them when I travel simply for the convenience factor. Last but not least is the simple fact that we can make natural green, violet, and black dyes from the elderberry, so that’s all for now on the benefits of the wonderful Elder tree.