In a Mother's Words "Elderberry has been my go-to immune booster ever since I had children and learned about its amazing health benefits. It has a long history of uses and is revered for its antioxidant and antiviral qualities. In Old World tradition, an elder bush was planted at the edge of a garden as the "protector" of the garden. I have to admit, I have often wondered if author J.K.Rowling of the famous Harry Potter series knew what she was doing when she made the most powerful wand, an elder wand.
Both the elder flowers and the berries have medicinal properties. In late spring-early summer, the elder bush produces beautiful white lacy flowers in flat-topped clusters that can span 6" wide. The flowers are edible and can be dried and made into tea or fried like a fritter in a light tempura-like batter which sounds pretty delicious. Elder flowers are a diaphoretic, which means they induce sweating and therefore help to relieve or lower fevers. The elder berries are produced later in the season, late summer-early fall. When ripe, the tiny berries are purplish-black and hang in heavy globular clusters.
Some of the key components of elderberries are Vitamin A, B and lots of C, bioflavonoids, beta-carotene, iron, potassium, and phytosterols. They also contain flavonoids, including quercetin, an antioxidant that helps prevent damage to your body's cells and is believed to deliver much of the therapeutic actions of the elderberry flowers and berries. The elderberries' antiviral properties are so helpful in fighting colds and flus. It is also often used to treat upper-respiratory infections. At our house, we start taking a daily dose (1/2-1 Tsp.) of elderberry syrup at the first sign of a cold or flu. It is incredible at either knocking the cold out completely, or at least shortening its duration. We will also take it a little more regularly, a dose Monday through Friday with the weekend off, at times of the year when I know we are going to be exposed to more germs. For instance, when the kids go back to school, we need to get on a plane, or if our work environment has become infiltrated with sick people during the cold season. Although all parts of the plant (leaves, flowers and berries) can be used to make teas, jams, syrup, wine and cordials, they can all be mildly toxic, as they contain a cyanide-producing substance. It is advised not to eat them raw, and only harvest the berries when they are completely ripe (purple-black)." -- Posted by Liz Wiley on 09.10.2015 from http://roundthebendfarm.org/2015/10/12/food-is-medicine-elderberry/ Hippocrates, the Father of Modern Medicine, called elderberry" the peoples' medicine chest." North American elderberry (Sambucus Canadensis) and its compatible partner, aronia (Aronia Melanocarpa), also known as chokeberry, are both grown at The Bailey Farm. These two berries are rated as the highest capacity antioxidant small fruits according to the ORAC rating (measures the antioxidant capacity of foods) that grow naturally in our country. They are rated much higher than our more familiar berries -- blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries -- and for that, I consider elderberry and aronia the king and queen of the small fruits. Elderberry and aronia are also super high in Vitamin A, B, C, calcium, iron, phosphorus and potassium. Elderberry, in particular, has a long medicinal and mythological history. Medicinally speaking, this small and mighty berry is literally the Protector of our cells, just as the plant itself has been known through history as the 'Protector of the Garden.' Elder flowers and leaves also have beneficial medicinal properties, so it is no wonder the Elder plant has taken on mythological proportions. It is in the dark blue-black color of the elderberry/aronia where the extraordinary health benefits are found, elevating these berries to a class by themselves. But why elderberry? How do these berries benefit us?
Prevent & treat upper respiratory infections and fevers; relieve nasal congestion and sore throat
Antioxidants fight free radicals (flus, virus, cold); inhibit replication of many strains of human and animal flu
Stimulates the immune system by increasing production of cytokines
Preliminary trials suggest activity against herpes and HIV viruses
Possibly useful in treating hay fever by making the mucous membranes less reactive to allergies
According to James A. Duke, Ph.D, author of the bestselling Green Pharmacy Herbal Handbook, the therapeutic uses of the elderberry plant include preventing and/or treating
Elderberry must be processed, or cooked before ingesting. The basic differences between elderberry and aronia are
Elderberry is mild-tasting and is a smaller berry than the aronia berry; heat to 130 F before ingesting
Aronia, while possessing all the health benefits of elderberry, may also contain cancer-fighting agents; is known to speed cancer recovery in patients
Aronia is bitter tasting; can be ingested raw because cyanide toxins found in elderberries are not present in aronia, although I process it along with elderberries when I make syrup and shrub tonics
"Elderberry holds a bounty of flavonoids and triterpenes packed within its tiny fruit. These chemicals seem to be the key to elder's anti-inflammatory, antiviral and immune stimulating effects. New research points to elderberry's ability to block avian and human influenza viruses from connecting to cells throughout the body. Researchers are particularly pleased to see dangerous viruses like the swine flu virus included in the list of infections that elderberry prevents."-- http://www.thepracticalherbalist.com/holistic-medicine-library/elderberry-the-flu-fighter/
Elderberry (but not aronia) can be substituted for other small fruits used in baking recipes. Imagine elderberry muffins, upside down cake, elderberry buckle, or elderberry-pear pie. The options for baked applications are endless. Elderberries and their flowers can be made into wine, beer, tonics cordials, tea, jams, jellies, sauces, vinaigrettes and ice-cream. The blossoms are famous as the main ingredient in elderberry flower fritters. See Recipe tab for more.
History & Myth
The elder is a tree of beginnings and endings, of birth and death, so the elder fairy is a spirit of transformation and the crossing of thresholds. Generally seen as an old woman, the elder fairy advises on what to cast away and what to take up. --www.thegoddesstree.com
The disappearance of elderberry in North America during the 1950's and '60's and its subsequent reappearance in current times is ironically symbolic of the Elder plants' own ancient mythology known for its regenerative and transformative properties.
According to the Celtic Oracle, the magical properties of the Elder plant include Exorcism, Prosperity, Banishment and Healing.
Your life becomes charmed because the Elder tree, superstitiously nicknamed "Elder Queen" and "Good Mother" protects trees, fairies, and you from harm. You may draw strength from advice rooted in bonds with your mother or grandmother. Just as the pith when dipped in oil and burned can be lit and put to float in a glass of water, new light will be shed on a matter you are reflecting upon. As the Elder flowers of Spring depart as ripe, purple berries in the Gall, the significance of what you put in reveals what you might expect. A dream may bring a prediction, should you fall asleep under and Elder tree. -- www.thegoddesstree.com
At any age, stage, or transition in life, pause and reflect on the rich and ancient mythology of the Mother Elder tree. She is always there to protect, and offers profound insight into life's varied seasons.
Quoted again from The Goddess Tree,
The circle will always turn afresh, change and creativity arising from the old and brining about the new. All is continuously linked as phases of life and experience repeat themselves in subtly different forms, leading always to renewal.
"In Europe and Asia food gathering and making meals are a family function, while in America it's a fast-food window." -- David Handley, Vegetable and Small Fruit Specialist, Co-operative Extension, UMaine, Orno
In early America, wild foraging for foods (especially fruits, nuts and mushrooms) was popular out of necessity, and because humans had a closer relationship with nature. Wild foraging continues to be practiced in Europe and Asia, but it became less popular here as Americans developed large food distribution systems and convenience foods following WWII. During the 1970's back-to-the-land movement through much of the 1980's, some farms offered a pick-your-own (PYO) option to the public, supplying the once-foragers-now-consumers with a quick-fix back-to-nature experience, and foods to preserve for the winter.
While America has been late to the (elderberry) party, in Europe, elderberry and aronia have been vital, stand-alone industries for generations. This unfortunate fact is glaringly evident when visiting any (Swedish-born) IKEA store on the east coast of America, where their standard cafe offerings include elderberry syrup and elderberry juice boxes.
Rediscovering Elderberry in America
Why is America so 'late to the party?' Elderberry can be found as far north as Greenland, all through Europe, Scandanavia and North America. But in the 1950's and '60's, the Tomato Ringspot virus (ToRSV) spread through the elderberry population of North America via the dagger nematode, a plant parasite. Gradually, the commercial yield in America became unviable, and elderberry all but disappeared from this continent. Today, the gradual re-discovery of the powerful medicinal benefits of elderberry is converging with the new small farm movement, the public's growing demand for local and organic fresh foods, and the blending of eastern, western and herbalist medicine wisdom. Result? The mighty Elder plant, like the Phoenix bird, rises once again, to teach and protect.
"The future has an ancient heart." -- Old Italian proverb
Recommended Reading on Medicinal Herbs
Are you interested in learning more about medicinal herbs, and developing a personal apothecary for you and your family?
There are hundreds of health-empowering books on the subject, some published long ago and still in use, (The Green Pharmacy Herbal Handbook), others that are brand new, (The Organic Medicinal Herb Farmer). The four books listed here are The Bailey Farm's medicinal bibles.
The Organic Medicinal Herb Farmer, Jeff Carpenter with Melanie Carpenter, 2015
The Green Pharmacy Herbal Handbook, James A. Duke, Ph.D, 1929, 2000
Medicinal Herbs, A Beginner's Guide, Rosemary Gladstar, 2012
The Woman's Handbook of Healing Herbs, A Guide to Natural Remedies, Deb Soule, 1995, 2011