Black Elderberry

- By: Aimee Regur

(Australian Wild Plum and Willow Facial Cleanser, Egyptian Blood Orange and Calendula Facial Cleanser, Argentinean Tangerine and Thyme Toner, Nigerian Ginger, Lavender and Thyme Facial Cream)

Sambucus nigra, is native to Europe though it has been naturalized in North America for centuries. Many native sand cultivars of sambucus spp. can be found from Canada through out Central America as well as parts of Asia, and are well loved for their attraction of pollinating birds and insects. The most popular medicinal species is Sambucus nigra and canadensis, with its abundant fruit, it was traditionally prepared in jams, pies and wines. Now-a-days the most popular application is in syrups and cordials.

Black Elderberry fruit is most well known for it’s antiviral activity, when in fact it does not kill viruses, but prevents then from adhering to healthy cells. In its essence it is a prophylactic to help prevent flues and colds, more so than being a treatment for them. Elderberry is very nourishing, as it is loaded with Vitamin C and essential minerals. Many do not know that all parts of the Elder are used in traditional medicine. The flowers make an excellent tea for managing the aches, pains and fever associated with the flu. The flowers and berries are gentle enough to use on young children. The flowers can also be used as an infusion in the bath to calm nerves and ease related pain. The leaves of Elder are an emollient and anti-inflammatory, meaning they are cooling, soothing and moisturizing to tissues. The bark, seldom used, as it can be purgative in large doses was a favorite remedy of the famed Greek physician, Hippocrates. Note that the roots are extremely toxic and should not be ingested, though it can be administered in homeopathic preparations for asthma.

Cosmetically the high tannin content in both the berries and leaves tone, tighten and firm the skin, while the soothing emollient properties soften, eliminate redness and irritation and improve circulation.

Humans have a long history with Elder, found in Stone Age sites, Elder has been written about by Hippocrates, Dioscorides, Pliny the Elder ad Culpepper. Sambucus in Latin refers to a wood wind pipe and in the old-Anglo-Saxon tongueElder comes from Aeld, meaning fire, as the inner bark could easily be pushed out to create a hollow tube to blow fire. The Elder has many old beliefs and folkloric sacred uses and taboos. It is said by many who are deeply connected with Earth energies that the Elder is the grand protectress of the garden, driving away evil spirits and negativity, while allowing good spirits and fairies to enter. In the Renaissance it was known that people could hang Elder from their door to keep the witches out, when really it was probably the witches trying to keep the crazed towns people out (the same is said of St. John’s Wort). It is bad luck to burn Elder bark and auspicious to place branches on Summer Solstice altars. There are numerous Goddess associate with the Elder, including Hylde Moer a German and Danish vegetation goddess, Holda the German Winter Goddess, Hecate the Greek crone goddess of the cross roads and magic and Freya the Norse Goddess of love, fertility, battle and death. Stories from renown wilderness teacher and guide John Young, say that he once had two students on either end of the country, neither knew the other, each came to him, moved and inspired with the song of Elder… and the songs were the same.

“Drunk all the time, feeling fine on Elderberry wine”
– Elton John