long been used as food, particularly in the dried form.
Elderberry wine, pie, and lemonade are some of the popular
ways to prepare this plant as food. The leaves were touted
to be pain relieving and to promote healing of injuries when
applied as a poultice. Native Americans used the plant for
infections, coughs, and skin conditions.
American elder (canadensis) , also known as Elderberry, is small tree that grows to 12 feet and is native to
North America. The European elder (nigra) grows to 30 feet, is found
throughout Europe, Asia, North Africa, and has been naturalized in
the United States. The tree has been called "the medicine chest
of the common people.
flowers, leaves, berries, bark and roots have all been used in
traditional folk medicine for centuries. The fruits have been used
to make elderberry wine, and when cooked, can be used in pies and
jams. The berries contain more vitamin C than any other herb except
rosehips and black currant.
elder also has a rich background of cultural superstitions. In the
Middle Ages legends held that tree was home to witches and that
cutting down one would bring on the wrath of those residing in the
Russians and the English believe that elder trees ward off evil
spirits and it was considered good luck to plant a tree near your
home. Sicilians think that sticks of elder wood can kill serpents
and drive away thieves.
herb has a long history dating beyond the stone ages. Egyptians
discovered that applying its flowers improved the complexion and
healed burns. Many early Indian tribes used elderberry, and its
variants, in teas and other beverages. In the 17th
century the British often drank home made wine and cordials that was
thought to prolong life and cure the common cold.
berries from the elder contain a considerable amount of vitamins A,
B and C, as well as flavonoids, sugar, tannins, carotenoids and
amino acids. Warm elderberry wine is a remedy for sore throat,
influenza and induces perspiration to reverse the effects of a
chill. The juice from the berries is an old fashioned cure for
colds, and is also said to relieve asthma and bronchitis.
of the fruit are beneficial for nerve disorders, back pain, and have
been used to reduce inflammation of the urinary tract and bladder.
Raw berries have laxative and diuretic properties, however the seeds
are toxic and may induce vomiting and nausea. Elderberries are
edible when cooked.
leaves contain the flavonoids rutin and quercertin, alkaloids,
vitamin C and sambunigrin, a cyanogenic glucoside. Fresh elder
leaves also contain hydrocyanic acid, cane sugar, invertin, betulin,
free fatty acids, and a considerable quantity of potassium nitrate.
Elder flowers and elder flower water have been used in a variety of
ways topically and as a tonic mixture.
flowers are a mild astringent and are used in skin washes to refine
the complexion and help relieve eczema, acne and psoriasis. Flower
water makes a soothing gargle and when strained makes an excellent
leaves and flowers are a common ingredient in ointments and
poultices for burns and scalds, swelling, cuts and scrapes.
Infusions and preparations with the blossoms combined with other
herbs have also been used to quicken recovery form the common cold