The Elder tree is one of my favourite medicinal plants, and one that has a few options for using as a “food as medicine” plant. Both the flowers and the berries are medicinal but are also commonly used for culinary purposes, including the tasty Elderflower “Champagne” and Elderberry wine.
Native to Europe, the elder is well known deciduous hedgerow plant growing alongside roads and on the edges of towns in many parts of England and Ireland. It is a highly adaptable species however, and happily grows in many countries of the world, in many different climates, including Queensland, where it tends to flower and fruit many times a year, not just in the summer.
European Elder, Sambucus nigra, has a long history of use as a remedy for coughs, colds, allergies and fevers. It has received quite a bit of research over the last decade or so, confirming that the berries in particular, have proven medicinal actions.
The berries are rich in vitamin C, bioflavonoids and polyphenols, including anthocyanidin compounds, which are largely responsible for its medicinal action. The best known of these actions include antiviral, immune boosting, decongestant and anti-sinus actions. However, research has also found that elderberries demonstrate anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer actions. It also has a diuretic and mild laxative effect and can help support healthy blood sugar regulation.
It is important to not eat the berries fresh without cooking due to the presence of a cyanide like compound that can be toxic in large doses. Small doses may be tolerated, but it is best to err on the side of caution and cook all berries before consuming.
Thus elderberries can be made effectively into a syrup that preserves the berries and captures the medicinal components.
Please watch my YouTube video to learn how to make a Elder syrup at home and grab the recipe below.
Get the immune boosting recipe for Elderberry Syrup
Dosages for this homemade syrup:
Children – take 1 teaspoon (5mls) daily as prevention, or 3-4 x daily if sick.
Adults – take 10mls once daily as prevention or 3-4 x daily if sick.
If you would like to partake of the medicine of Elder but don’t have time or means to make your own syrup, you can easily find commercially available tinctures and tablets.