|Black Elder (Sambucus Nigra)
Much folklore is associated with this European plant that is also known as "bourtree". Pre-Christian documents attributed protective, healing powers to the black elder, and in England it was believed bad luck to cut its branches for fear of showing disrespect to the mother elder, who was thought to inhabit the tree.
Plant Facts : The elder is a member of the honeysuckle family and can grow to a height of 33 ft. The sweet smelling, spicy but somewhat bitter tasting flowers produce blackish-purple fruits with an aromatic, tart taste. The stalk and branches contain a white, fluffy pulp.
Origin : The elder is native to Europe, North Africa and western and central Asia. It thrives throughout lowland forests and along roads and fences and is very often found in farmhouse gardens.
Parts Used : The flowers and ripe berries are used medicinally. The flowers should be harvested as the plant begins to blossom.
Components : The black elder flowers contain flavonoids, rutin, mucins and tannins and a large portion of organic acids and calcium. The berries contain fruit acids, vitamins B and C and folic acid, as well as essential oils.
Indications : Described as a "complete medicine chest", black elder induces perspiration. When you have a feverish cold, take it in the form of a hot drink. Elder also promotes expectoration, which makes it a good treatment for coughing and bronchitis. The pulps of the berry and the freshly pressed juice have a diuretic and laxative effect on the body. Avoid the red berry species of elder, as it can irritate the digestive system and make you feel nauseous.
Extra Tip : A folk remedy for burns is a paste made of elder and milk. Boil freshly picked, chopped flowers in enough milk to make a thick paste. Allow to cool and apply to the affected part of the skin.
Types of Applications
Tea flowers : Pour about 1 cup of boiling water over 2 heaping tsp. of dried elder flowers. Strain after 10 min. Drink 1-2 cups of freshly prepared tea several times, daily. For best results, drink the tea as hot as you can tolerate it.
Tea from berries : Add enough cold water to cover approximately 2 heaping tsp. of dried elder berries and allow to stand for several minutes. Then slowly bring the water-berry mixture to a simmer. Gently simmer for 10min., and then strain and drink.
Juice, syrup : Remove the stems from 2 lb. of ripe berries. Squeeze the juice from the berries into a saucepan and add about 1 lb. of sugar. Boil for 5 min. Skim the foam from the surface, fill canning jars with the syrup and seal white hot. Prepared syrup is available from pharmacies and health food stores if you don't want to make your own. To prevent or to treat a cold, drink the heated juice or syrup dissolved in hot water.
Puree : Boil about 1 lb. of ripe elderberries with 1 cup of water and 2 diced apples. Put through a sieve and sweeten to taste.