Herbology, as practiced in Europe and North America, is based on the principal that if the systems (digestive, circulatory, etc.) of the human body are functioning correctly, then the body will maintain or achieve optimal health. I have experienced this first hand after being diagnosed with cancer. I chose an alternative method for healing which involved a serious detox regimen for a minimum of six months. Using herbs to obtain and maintain health embodies the idea of preventative medicine, quality of life and increasing long life. But in practice, this means cleansing and revitalizing body systems. Medicinal plants like Elder are used to effect change in body systems when there is sickness and disease and bring the body back into homeostasis. This purpose of this article is to introduce you to Elder and all its wonderful properties and possibilities. I believe that the more you know, the more empowered you become and the easier it is to care for your own health and that of your loved ones. Let’s dive in and see what sticks shall we?
Elder has been used forever it seems and it is a very powerful healing plant. There are many ways in which Elder helps to cleanse and revitalize the body and all its qualities are probably not fully understood even today. The great herbalist, Henry Box of Plymouth, England says, “…for colds, influenza, fevers, inflammation of the brain, pneumonia (inflammation of the lungs,) stomach, bowels or any part, this is a certain cure. I have never known it to fail, even when given up to and at the point of death. It will not only save at the eleventh hour, but at the last minute of that hour. It is so harmless that you cannot use it amiss, and so effectual that you cannot give it in vain.” “Dr. Edward E. Shook, Advanced Treatise in Herbology, 1978.”
Elder was called the medicine chest of the country people. John Evelyn writing in 1664 said “If the medicinal properties of its leaves, bark, and berries were fully known, I cannot tell what our country men would ail for which he might not fetch a remedy from every hedge either for sickness or wounds.” So, basically, it is safe to say, Elder is the “Good for just about everything” herb and is one that you should definitely embrace. I remember when I first moved to where I currently live, I wanted a big garden. After a LOT of work, I cultivated a 2400 square foot garden and was greatly satisfied. However, there was this one stubborn plant that came up every year and was a real bear to get rid of. I would chop away at this thing, and it just wouldn’t go! I later learned (many years later) that this lovely plant was Elderberry and after that, I blessed it and welcomed it into the garden. In fact, I let it take over the entire east side of that garden. I am so grateful it was patient and waited for me to understand what it was.
One of the qualities of Elder is as an astringent, which tightens, tones, and stops secretions in body tissue. Flower infusions can be used as a gargle for sore throats, mouthwash for mouth ulcers and inflamed gums, and an eye wash for conjunctivitis, twitching eyelids, and tired, sore eyes. Elder flower tea taken internally reduces inflammation of rheumatism, gout, and arthritis especially when made worse by damp, cold weather. The American Indians used bark for swellings, inflammations, and also to ease parturition. When the root or bark is used it should be dried and kept for several months before use, otherwise it is to griping and strong. Elder does have a laxative effect as well, and this can be obtained by stewing the berries, or even combining them with other fruits to make a type of jam.
Elder is stimulant which increases activity or efficiency of a body system or organ. Stimulants act fairly quickly. Elder also has a diaphoretic quality, which induces perspiration. Flowers are used for the onset of upper respiratory infection, colds, tonsillitis, sinusitis, laryngitis, flu, aching, and chills. They stimulate circulation. This causes sweating which cleanses the body through the pores of the skin therefore healing the fever and infection. The berries are sometimes made into a conserve for sore throats. Flowers can be used in the beginning of eruptive diseases like measles and chickenpox as the sweating brings out the rash quickly so healing can begin. A few of the other things blooms and berries are good for is scrofula, palsy, syphilis, cholera, sciatica, and epilepsy. It is an excellent remedy for children’s disease such as liver derangement and erysipelas. Has it become evident to you yet, that elderberry is your “go to” herb? There is very little of this plant that is not healing for some part of the body.
Elder has diuretic qualities and diuretics increase urine flow by building permeability of kidney cells or by increasing the blood flow. The flowers help the kidney action by relieving fluid retention, getting rid of toxins, and clearing heat from the body by way of the urinary system.
The relaxant qualities of the flower is helpful to relieve bronchial spasms and catarrh, at the same time, for the asthma sufferer. They remove phlegm when one is suffering from sinusitis and hay fever problems. Sleep can be brought on with use of the flower and leaves. Elder flowers are the mildest and safest part of the plant, even mild enough for small children. A person can administer Elder flower tea at night to help induce peaceful slumber when little ones are restless or irritable just before they become ill. Elder flowers have a long history of use as a relaxant to soothe nerves, allay anxiety, and lift depression. The fresh leaves when picked and warmed can be laid on the temples for relief of nervous headaches. When in the wilderness, if you experience headache and sick stomach from over exertion in the hot sun take a handful of Elder blooms, minus the green part, and put in a cup of hot water. Steep for 30 minutes and drink slowly as you relax in a cool, shady place. It will make you feel better and give you more energy.
Elder is also an alterative which is an herb that slowly changes an unhealthy condition of an organ to a healthy, gradually bringing on a good condition to the whole body. The flowers make an excellent spring tonic and blood purifier. Take every morning before breakfast for a few weeks and you will feel like spring itself, more energetic and full of life. We at Crooked House Herbals produce a wonderful Vital Living Elderberry Syrup which may be taken every day as an immune booster and wellness tonic. We also have our RoseE Syrup which is fortified with Rose Hips for extra vitamin C and our Comfort Cough Elixir and Intense Mouthwash also contain Elderberry.
Flower essence remedies are another way to help heal emotional problems. Elder flower is very strong as it stimulates energy, vigor, resilience, joy, and our powers of recovery and renewal of energy. I think herbal remedies for the physical aspect of healing are the best healers but flower essence remedies are very useful along with the herbals, to help with the emotional aspects of illness.
Elderberry is a rather hearty plant (as I mentioned before virtually indestructible) therefore, I highly recommend you grow it in an area that you can afford to allow it to invade. Don’t plant an elderberry bush/tree in your rose garden. The most potent and best for medicinal purposes is the Sambucus Niger. If you are serious about maintaining a healthy lifestyle may I suggest you get familiar with Elderberry and partake of some its many benefits. We are Crooked House Herbals are here to help you as you embark on your personal wellness journey. May you be blessed with good health and joy as you return to the natural way of living. And remember, Nature Heals You Best!