Elderberry flowers and berries are used in herbal medicine to treat colds and flu, coughs, constipation, hay fever, mouth ulcers, sore throats, tonsillitis, rheumatism, herpes, wounds, bruises, and muscle sprains. The berries are also used in syrups, jams, teas, vinegars, and wines.
The flowers are considered a powerful expectorant and make a useful addition to cough syrups. They reduce phlegm, stimulate the circulatory system, promote sweating, increase urinary flow, and when applied topically, are anti-inflammatory. Elderflowers are known to soften the skin and are often added to lotions and creams. They help heal chapped skin and are a good addition to hand lotions. Elderflower water can whiten skin and may even remove freckles. Elderflowers are sometimes added to ointments for the treatment of bruises, sprains, and chilblains.
Elderflowers are a good remedy for feverish colds and flu. They are sometimes taken to strengthen the upper respiratory tract and can help prevent hay fever and allergies if taken early in the year before pollen season arrives. For added strength, combine with yarrow, peppermint, or St. John’s Wort.
Elderberries promote sweating and are diuretic. They are often used as a laxative in cases of stubborn constipation. Elderberry syrup is used in the treatment of coughs and colds. For added strength, combine with thyme. Elderberries are a rich source of vitamin A and C. The berries can be dried for use as a nutritious food. In days before oranges and other citrus fruits were commonly available, elderberries were made into wines and syrups and taken to prevent scurvy. Elderberries are also used as a hair dye.
Elder bark is sometimes used to promote vomiting. The bark is also a liver stimulant, but in today’s society, it is rarely used for that purpose.
Elder leaves can be used as a poultice for wounds in emergency situations but should not be taken internally. When crushed and rubbed on skin, they will keep insects away for up to an hour. Elder wood is hard and close-grained. It is used for making skewers, toys, and shoemaker’s pegs.
Elder plants grow throughout North America and are abundant in the North Georgia area. Elders produce large clusters of small white or cream coloured flowers in the late spring, and are followed by clusters of small red, bluish or black berries. The shrubs can live over a hundred years.
Elderberries grow best in moist, fertile, well-drained soil but will tolerate a wide range of soil conditions. Elderberry plants are generally free of pests, which makes them great for landscape plantings. Harvest elderberries in late August through early September (before the birds get them all).
*Do not take any part of elder if the body is dehydrated. Do not take elder bark when pregnant. Do not use unripe elder berries. The seeds of red elderberries are toxic so remove them before use. Always consult with a healthcare professional before taking any herbal remedy especially if pregnant, nursing, or taking other medications.
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