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Sambucus nigra is a perennial shrub in the Adoxaceae family, which is commonly known as Moschatel family, and is a small family of flowering plants consisting of about 150-200 species. Black Elderberry, like many in the Adoxaceae, are native to most of Europe and North America. Common names include Elder, Elderberry, Black Elder and European Black Elderberry. The Latin specific nigra means “black” and refers to the deeply dark colour of the berries.
Black Elderberry grows in large areas of North America, including east of the Rocky Mountains and south to Bolivia. Seeds found in Switzerland Neolithic pole-dwellings hint that Elderberry was cultivated as early as 2000 BCE and written history. Hippocrates and Pliny the Elder both noted Elderberry’s medicinal properties. Elder is cited as a poisonous plant for mammals and humans because the seeds, stems, leaves and roots contain a cyanide-inducing glycoside. Cooking the berries destroys the glycosides present in the seeds, making the berries with their seeds safe to eat. The use for fire is how the elderberry received its name ‘Elder’, which comes from the Anglo-Saxon world ‘ellen’ meaning fire-kindler or the word ‘aeld’ meaning to kindle, since the hollow stems were used to blow air into a fire.
Among pagan traditions the Elder tree was hung in buildings for protection and the sprigs used on graves to aid the transition from life to death. The wood was used in instrument-making because the pithy interior can be taken out to create flutes. A sacred blow pipe was mas made from the Elder to blow special energies into herbal healing formulas by Creek, Cherokee, Mikasuki and Seminole Native Americans. Many Native American nations have reported extensive knowledge on uses for various parts of Elder tree, including Elder Flower infusions for fever, bark infusions for sores, eczema, as poultice or wash. Fermented berries have been used as a tonic to alleviate neuritis and rheumatism.
Dried leaves spread around home for insecticide. Both the flowers and the berries have a long tradition of culinary use in European medicine, primarily for winter cordials, preserves, syrup, infusions, pies and wine. Europeans used elderberries and flowers for washing ones face for beauty.
Elderflower has been used for swollen sinuses (sinusitis), colds, influenza (flu), bronchitis and as a diuretic to support the kidneys. Elderflower tea before bed can induce a cleansing sweat in the event of cold and flu-like symptoms.
Elderberry drinks were prepared for throat complaints and as a fruit syrup for colds and flus. Elderberries are highly nutritious according to Alaskan herbalist Janice Schofield; they contain vitamins A, B, and C and the minerals calcium, iron and potassium. They also contain a fair amount of bioflavonoids, which may strengthen cardiovascular tissue including arteries in the eyes and kidneys.
The taste and energetics of Elderflowers are slightly herby, sweet and slightly musky; similar to lychee with drying and cooling qualities. Elderflowers have an affinity towards the lungs, cardiovascular, urinary tract, kidneys, immune system and skin. For lung support combine Elderflowers with Mullein Leaf, Ginger or Thyme. For the immune system combine Elderflower with Astragalus, Elderberry or Echinacea Root.
How to use:
1 teaspoon of Elderflower to one cup of boiling water. Steep for 15 minutes, strain and drink up to three cups a day.
Use as a face wash: Elderberries or flowers are a powerful protection from damaging free radicals that are formed when we’re exposed to environmental factors such as sun and pollution. Also rich in vitamin A, Elderberries can be used as a daily wash to help fade age spots.
Cautions & contraindications:
Elderberry is possibly unsafe when the leaves, stems, unripened fruit or uncooked fruit is consumed. Cooked elderberry is deemed to be safe, but raw and unripe fruit might cause nausea, vomiting or severe diarrhea.
This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any disease or illness. Please consult your healthcare provider prior to the use of this product if you are pregnant, nursing, taking medications or have a medical condition. Individual results may vary.