Materia Medica: Elder
Common names: Elderberry
Latin name: Sambucus nigra var. canadensis
Parts used: Flowers and berries in modern herbal medicine, all parts historically.
Action: The flowers are a wonderful diaphoretic! Fevers are the body’s way of fighting off infections, so we don’t always want to lessen a fever, unless it’s either too high or has been going on too long. For a fever they’re beautiful in a tea or even in the bath, but tinctures will work well too.
Elderberries are antiviral and are an immunomodulator, which means they help the body balance to whatever level of action the immune system needs to fight infections. The berries make a lovely tincture, syrup, or elixir (combination of the two!) to prevent infections, and when taken during acute infections can lessen the infection’s severity. You can dry the berries too and add them to teas, they’re in our Heart Chakra blend, as well as the Everyday Wellness!
Once you can identify elder, and are aware of its healing properties, you’ll see it everywhere! Highway ditches, roadside creeks, your backyard! It’s a shrub and not a tree, and if you see one in the wild you’ll probably see 50! It prefers wet feet, which is easy to get in rainy Florida, and as of the last few years has taken to flowering almost year round! We’re lucky to have an elder shrub growing in the Dandelion garden and it is one of the happiest cultivated elders around! Tall, prolific flowers and berries, and keeps both its neighboring human and bird population very happy (the birds eat the berries too!).
I love to use elder daily in the wintertime, when everyone around me is full of cooties. It makes a beautiful and delicious preventative drink, and is was from inspiration from the elder that created the Everyday Wellness herbal tea blend at Dandelion!
Elder really is a pharmacy within a plant, and a tasty one too! Please enjoy these links to learn more about elder from some brilliant teachers: