The Elder Plant A Healing Herb for All
The Elder plant is so highly regarded by traditional
herbalists and naturopaths that it has gained a reputation as a
sort of 'complete medical chest' because of its countless
attributes and therapeutic qualities.
There is a long history of folklore that has been attached
to this very popular herb. For instance, Galen described the
herb as both hot and dry, and in the 17th century
the plant was a popular choice for treating problems of
The herb was used alternately as a diuretic and as a harsh
purgative. In the 18th century, Elder flower water
was used as a popular skin whitener that supposedly could
remove all the freckles from a person's face.
The Elder plant, scientific name Sambucus nigra, is
comprised of several parts that are used by herbalists to
create potent remedies.
The flowers and berries of the Elder plant have been
described as drying, slightly sweet, cool and sometimes
bitter. The flowers are mainly used to help treat problems
of excessive phlegm and to encourage sweating.
Many herbalists think of the Elder flower as the ideal herb
for treating colds or influenza. Herbal remedies made from the
Elder flowers are also used to help control the symptoms of hay
fever. They can be ingested as a prophylactic to help
strengthen the upper respiratory tract. This should be done
before the pollen count rises. The Elder flowers can also be
used topically to treat chilblains and as an all around
anti-inflammatory. The Elder flowers used for most herbal
remedies are traditionally harvested in early summer.
The Elder berries are also
used to create herbal remedies. The berries are rich in
vitamins A and C when they are ripe. Traditionally the berries
have been taken to prevent the onset of winter colds. They are
usually harvested in early fall.
The bark of the Elder plant is also used in some herbal
remedies. The bark is usually taken to treat chronic, stubborn
constipation as well as some arthritic conditions. Herbalists
have described the bark of the Elder plant as warm, and it is
believed to be effective as a liver stimulant. However,
naturopaths and herbalists rarely use the bark of the Elder
plant in remedies prepared these days.
There are many ways to prepare the Elder plant in an herbal
Perhaps the simplest way to ingest the Elder plant is to
prepare it in an infusion. As an infusion, the Elder plant can
be drunk in a hot tea to treat
fevers, mucous conditions of the upper respiratory tract
system, and to control the symptoms of hay fever.
Many herbalists combine the Elder plant with other herbs,
including boneset, yarrow, and peppermint.
The flowers of the Elder plant can also be used to create a
cream that can be applied to chapped skin and skin sores.
For sore or strained eyes, use an eyewash created with Elder
flowers to rinse the eyes several times a day.
Elder flowers can also be used to create a mouthwash to
treat sore throats, tonsillitis, and mouth ulcers.