Updated: Sep 26, 2021
My dear sweet Elderberry,
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
Today I will focus my attention on the benefits of elderberry and my newest favorite recipe, a delightful Elderberry Elixir.
Elderberries and their flowers are packed with antioxidants and vitamins that will boost your immune system. They can help lessen inflammation, tame stress, and protect your heart!
Traditionally, elderberry has been used to treat fever and rheumatism. Ancient Egyptians used it to heal burns and improve their complexions.
Today, Elderberry is commonly taken as an herbal supplement to treat cold and flu symptoms.
The raw bark, berries, leaves and seeds of the plant are known to be poisonous and can cause stomach upset and digestive problems.
As with anything you put into your body, be an informed consumer and research your plant medicines, the preferred methods of preparation, and proper dosing.
I enjoy elderberries in all the properly prepared ways and have not experienced negative side effects, personally.
Foraging elderberries in the PNW.
In the natural health community it's highly recommended to take elderberry to help prevent and ease cold and flu symptoms. It's still gathered and used in medicine all across North America and Europe. In fact, I was first introduced to elderberries when we lived in the UK. That's where my passion for this plant medicine began.
Elderberry refers to several different varieties of the Sambucus tree, which is a flowering plant belonging to the Adoxaceae Family.
My first ever black elderberry harvest from West Row, in Suffolk England.
The most common of the elderberry is the Sambucus nigra, AKA the European elderberry or black elderberry. This tree is native to Europe and was the first variety I was introduced to. It grows in many other parts of the world too. This plant variety grows up to 30 feet tall, and has clusters of white flowers in late spring, known as elderflowers. The berries are found in clusters like the flowers, they are small black or blue-black berries bunches.
Other varieties include antelope brush, danewort, red fruited elder, dwarf elder, and the American Elder.
Oregon Blue Elderberry harvest. The bloom washes off in warm water.
The berries are quite tart and need to be cooked to be eaten.
The flowers have a mildly sweet aroma and can be eaten raw or cooked.
One Cup of fresh Elderberries contain 106 calories, 26..7 grams of carbs, and less than 1g each of fat and protein. The nutritional benefits are:
High in Vitamin C. There are 52 mg of vitamin C per cup of fresh berries.
High in dietary fiber. 10 grams of fiber per cup of fresh berries.
A good source of potent antioxidants called phenolic acids which help reduce damage from oxidative stress in the body.
A good source of flavanols, quecertin, kaempferol, and isorhamnetin. The flowers carry up to 10x more flavenols than the berries!
Rich in anthocyanins. These compounds give the fruit its dark purple almost black color and are a powerful antioxidant with anti-inflammatory properties.
Nutritional content varies and depends on the plant variety, ripeness of the berries, environmental and climate conditions.
Fresh Elderberries with jars of dehydrated elderberries, rose hips, and mullein in my apothecary.
Lets talk about Elixirs and how Elderberry Elixir is a must have in your medicine cabinet.
Extract of elderberries has been found to help reduce the length and severity of cold and flu symptoms caused by the influenza virus.
Brandy or Whiskey may help reduce cold symptoms. Whiskey is an effective decongestant. The alcohol dilates the blood vessels. It can help relieve aching muscles and soothe a sore throat. Used at nighttime it works as a cold medicine that helps you sleep. But too much will have you waking and feeling worse than the night before. Moderation is key!
Raw Local to you Honey has many benefits. It can soothe a sore throat and kill certain bacteria. Local raw honey helps with seasonal allergies, and reducing the duration of cold symptoms by just eating 2oz a day. It is a natural antiseptic and antimicrobial as many types of bacteria cannot survive in honey. And it can help tame a stomach flu by calming inflammation in the stomach, providing stomach pain relief!
Elderberry extract with raw honey prior to mixing/shaking.
Here‘s what you need to make an elderberry elixir.
Large mason jar, or any size depending on you supply of elderberries.
A second mason jar or dropper bottles for storage.
Brandy- it tastes the best and is great at soothing a sore throat.
Fresh or Dried Elderberries.
Optional Dropper Bottles for easy use.
Using fresh elderberries, remove the stems and leaves. Rinse them clean with warm water. Add to your jar filling to the shoulder of the jar, mashing them as you go.
If you are using dehydrated elderberries, fill the jar 1/2 way.
Next, add honey. I used a pint of honey to my 1/2 gallon mason jar of berries. I would use 1/4 pint in a Quart Jar, and 1/2 cup of honey in a Pint jar.
Then top the rest of the way with brandy. Make sure the berries are totally submerged.
After 6 weeks, pour the mixture through a sieve lined with cheese cloth pressing and squeezing out all the juice.
Store in a cool dark place.
Method 2: Quicker!
Fill your jar halfway with dried elderberries.
Top the berries with raw honey. Cap and place on a sunny windowsill for at least 4 weeks.
Or place the jar in a double boiler on very low heat for a few hours- high heat kills all the benefits of honey.
Strain the berries and then top the infused honey with brandy and mix well.
Store in a cool dark place.
You can add other medicinal and beneficial herbs to your elixir from the start.
Mullein is excellent for respiratory illness. It loosens mucous and soothes irritated mucous membranes.
Cardamon is great for soothing coughs.
Cinnamon can break a fever, helps with coughs, and calms digestive upset.
Clove is an effective herb for coughs, and fighting cold and flu.
Elderflowers help to break a fever.
Lemon loosens phlegm, anti-inflammatory, and eases histamine response.
To use: Take daily to strengthen your immune system and as a preventative.
During cold and flu, or the new covid, take the elixir 3-5 times a day to help shorten the duration and support immunity. You can take it by the spoonful or add it to you tea or hot toddy!
Elderberry elixir will last indefinitely. Store it in a cool dark cabinet, out of sunlight to keep the integrity of the plant medicine in tact.
My family has been using elderberry for 8 years with great success for helping us through sick season. My children now gleefully shout "elderberry bush!" every time they see one. They love the flavorful benefits too!
Have you ever used elderberry or made a medicinal recipe? Please share below your experience with you favorite plant medicine!