Medicinal Herb – Elder

Elder plant

Medicinal Herb Post #2 written May 22, 2018Elder (Sambucus spp.)
You might be wondering why I’m posting about Elder today seeing how there aren’t any berries, let alone blossoms yet. There are more medicinal parts to the plant (like the leaf) than just the berries and parts that should be avoided like the mildly toxic bark and roots and red berries (Sambucus racemosa). Elder is one of the best antiviral herbs one can grow. It’s leaves are the strongest medicinally and should be harvested before the energy of the plant moves into blossom and berry production. It’s the number one herb for the onset of a cold/flu.However, Elder should be avoided during cytokine storms. Cytokine storms are when the body produces too many disease fighting cells like macrophages and T-cells, essentially attacking the whole body instead of just the virus. This is more likely to happen to those with strong immune systems. A good example of this is the Spanish influenza and the reason for so many deaths. Other herbs that can increase cytokines are Echinacea, Honey, Ginseng and Chocolate (sad I know).So when is it beneficial to take Elder? At the very first signs of cold/flu/influenza! A great combo to take is Elder leaf, yarrow and peppermint. Echinacea is also another good herb to add as well. If the virus has moved from the head down into the throat and lungs you would want to use expectorant herbs like gumweed, wild cherry, and elecampane and anti-cytokine herbs like tumeric, garlic, grape leaves, ginger, skullcap and St. John’s Wort.

Elder flower is a known diaphoretic, or herb that helps one sweat out a fever making it more productive. Use it with yarrow, catmint and spearmint or peppermint for best results. The flower is good for upper respiratory infections like sinus infections, congestion and blocked Eustachian tubes. Elder flower is very soothing with it’s emollient properties for the skin. It is soothing for allergic reactions, redness and inflammation of the skin. Use in a cream or as a poultice.

The berry can be used for deeper coughs. It is especially beneficial for stopping the replication of the influenza virus. The virus looks like it has tiny little thorns on it that puncture the cell walls then replicates. Elderberry disarms the replication of the virus and therefore shortens the duration of illness. Use at the onset of illness every 2 hours in syrup or tincture form. It can be used with echinacea and willow or boneset to help with achiness, mullein leaf and flower for deep congestion as well as dry hacking coughs and coltsfoot, mullein or licorice to soothe a sore throat, gumweed or elecampane as a good expectorant. The berries are very high in antioxidants and strengthen veins and capillaries. Other berries that do the same are currants, blueberries, blackberries and raspberries.

The leaves should only be used for adults, flowers for children and berries for everyone. Here are some ideas to use Elder:

Cold/flu tea – Elder leaf, yarrow, peppermint. 1 tsp of each in a cup of hot water that was just boiled. Cover and let steep for 20 minutes. Drink a cup 3x a day for a couple of days. For children use Elder flower, yarrow and spearmint. I haven’t been sick in years using this simple recipe.

Check out my recipe for the best elderberry syrup!

Elder is considered safe for everyone including pregnancy. Use the berry and flower for children and pregnant women.

Emily Saddler

Emily is first a wife to her best friend Ryan, homeschool mom of 7 awesome kids, Holistic Health Practitioner in the state of Utah and Traditional Naturopath outside of the state of Utah, master gardener, yoga/pilates instructor, certified clinical and master herbalist, licensed massage therapist, and doula. She is a very passionate advocate of all things Mother Nature! Emily maintains a blog called “The Organic Farm Girl” where she shares gardening advice, delicious recipes made with fresh, organic ingredients, herbal and natural home care product recipes and loves teaching classes on gardening, plant identification and herbal remedy workshops. Check out the events and classes page for more info.

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