Black Elder (Sambucus nigra)
Parts used: berry, leaf, and flower.
This is one amazing herb for wintertime! Often considered safe for most populations, including kids, elderly, and pregnancy (always consult your healthcare practitioner). This herb is gentle and effective!
Elder berries can be used in place of other fruits to make such sundries as pies, jams, jellies, syrups and can be soaked (extracted) in various alcohols such as brandy. Elder Berries are not considered safe to be eaten raw, and the red is actually way more problematic than the black. The seeds have cyanide producing glycosides that get released upon digestion, but seem to be non problematic when the elder berries are cooked, made into a syrup or prepared as an extract.
Elder has long been used to treat many ailments, in particular states of catarrh, cold, flu, sore throat, fevers and more. Elder has long been used to:
- Make various tools (branches)
- Heal wounds (leaves)
- Treating the various infectious illnesses listed above (flowers and berries)
Black Elder Flowers for the Flu:
The gorgeous white flowers are also used to help the body sweat (diaphoresis)- a crucial part of infection treatment. By improving the body’s ability to sweat, one can help the fever break and keep the internal body cooler, without having to use an over the counter medication to break the fever that accompanies many illnesses.
Fevers are very advantageous for many reasons, and rarely result in febrile seizures. Most fevers should not be treated with antipyretics. Fevers help to fight of invaders by:
- Bacteria or virus from is killed from the heat and
- Your own immune response improves which will also help kill off virus and bacteria that have invaded and taken over.
Black Elder Clinical Trials
Elderberry has a few clinical trials. One in particular of interest was this one where symptoms were relieved 4 days earlier (on average) and use of rescue medication was significantly less in those taking elderberry extract compared with placebo. In this clinical study done in Norway, 60 patients who were suffering from influenza like symptoms for less than 48 hours received 15ml of elderberry syrup four times a day for 5 days.
Elderberry has been equated to the natural version of tamiflu, the pharmaceutical used to shorten the duration of the flu….treatment only. While this may be true, as elderberry has some research showing that it shortens the duration of the flu in those suffering with flu like symptoms, that might not be the end of the story. In an in vitro study, elderberry extract was placed with various influenza cell lines. The elderberry reduced the amount of virus that infected red blood cells (hemeagglutination inhibition) and inhibited replication. Thus demonstrating the effectiveness of the berry toward not only treating influenza, but preventing the spread from one person to another.
Apparently in Brazil, elderberry is part of a tea to improve constipation and includes fennel, anise and senna. There was a study on this tea that showed improvement in the number of bowel movements significantly improving by day two of tea intake. Senna has a long history of being used as a laxative, and both fennel and anise are carminatives, which translates into them being great at dispelling gas and reducing bloating. Whether there was additional improvement in bowel habits from the elderberry is not clear, but it is always fun to see what other cultures do with various herbs!
Elder flower vinegar is a great remedy for sore throats. A new spin on an old tradition: if you are familiar with lemon honey hot tea, you can replace the lemon with a tbsp of elder flower infused apple cider vinegar. Of course, you will want to make the elder flower infused apple cider vinegar when the flowers are blooming, in the late spring- summer (depending on where you live).
Where Can I Buy Elderberry
There are numerous recipes online to make homemade elderberry syrup. You can also buy syrup on amazon or kids syrup on amazon or in the health and wellness section of your local organic food coop. (Note: the amazon links are affiliate links which means I get a small amount of money to support YWE if you make a purchase.)
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To your continued health,
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