The Elder tree (Sambucus nigra) is sacred to many European goddess-traditions who held in high esteem the Elder Mother, a spirit who inhabits the Elder tree and offered protection from physical and psychic harm. She was also called upon to make contact with the faerie realm. When viewed in the light of modern pharmacological understanding it makes sense that this potent antiviral plant was seen to shield and protect from illness.
Elder teaches us to exist in both the realm of the physical and the spiritual and asks us to embrace both worlds. Woodwind instruments made from Elder are thought to produce music loved most in the spirit world and faerie realm and can be used to cross the divide between the dimensions.
You can call upon elder to help when you feel caught between two worlds either literally or metaphorically. She can help you to find a way to embrace seemingly opposing forces or ideas and synthesize them in coherent and meaningful way.
Elderberry has a long history of medicinal use and the berries have been found to have a higher concentration of compounds known for their antioxidant activity than other berries.
Its most common medicinal application is in the treatment of sore throats, coughs and respiratory infections and flus where it is thought to reduce swelling of mucous membranes, reduce mucous production and treat bacterial, viral and fungal infections.
In modern herbalism it is known for its antiviral properties particularly against the influenza virus and its use in inflamed mucous membranes caused by either allergy or infection.
It has been used topically for bruises, skin conditions, and as an anti-inflammatory application for wounds.
Traditionally it has been combined with peppermint and yarrow to make the popular blend YEP tea for colds and flu.
Elderberry has a bitter taste when uncooked and should not be used in its raw state. Uncooked berries and other parts of the elder family of plants contain cyanide inducing glycosides and can be potentially toxic. As such caution is advised before using uncooked fresh or dried fruits.
Elderberry syrup can be made from fresh or dried berries and taken as a cold and flu tonic or used to drizzel on pancakes, yoghurt or fruit or added to water for a nice refreshing drink.
1 cup of water,
1 cup of fresh elderberries or ½ cup of dried elderberries
1 cup of either sugar, honey, maple syrup, rice malt syrup or molasses
Optional: for added health benefits and taste variations you can add any combination of lemon, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom or cloves.
I added 1 whole lemon boiled with the elderberries and a thumb size piece of ginger. Spices can be added at an amount of ½ to 1 teaspoon.
Combine all ingredients and bring to the boil. Let simmer for 20 to 30 minutes stirring occasionally. Then take off the heat and let it cool with the berries still infusing for another 20-30minutes.
When cool enough to handle easily strain through a stocking, muslin or a nut milk bag and squeeze all the juice out of the berries.
When it has been strained, pour it into a glass bottle and label it with the date and ingredients and store it in the fridge.
For runny noses, coughs, colds & flus
Children 2- 5 years give ½ a teaspoon 3 times a day
Children 6 -12 years 1 teaspoon 3 times a day
Children over 12 and Adults 2 teaspoons 3 times a day
In Australia dried Elderberries can be ordered from
In America from
BMC Complement Altern Med. 2011 Feb 25;11:16. doi: 10.1186/1472-6882-11-16.
Inhibitory activity of a standardized elderberry liquid extract against clinically-relevant human respiratory bacterial pathogens and influenza A and B viruses.
Nutrients. 2016 Mar 24;8(4):182. doi: 10.3390/nu8040182.
Elderberry Supplementation Reduces Cold Duration and Symptoms in Air-Travellers: A Randomized, Double-Blind Placebo-Controlled Clinical Trial.