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The USDA Makes the Elderberry and Elderflower Sound Miraculous

Posted by terrepruitt on March 1, 2012

In a post about an article I read about boosting your immune system I mentioned elderberries.  I think it is funny how things get brought to your conscious.  Last year I went to a Yelp Event where one of the vendors serving was St Germain.  St. Germain is a French liqueur made from elderflowers.  I had never heard of it, but when first hearing of the event my friend had told me it was her favorite.  After tasting it in their signature cocktail I understood why.  That was my first conscious memory of hearing about elderberries.  Then I read the article and it mentioned elderberries.  So I decided to do a few searches on Elderberries and as is the case with most things Wiki has a wealth of information.  First off the Elderberry is kind of the category of 5 to 30 shrubs or trees.

It seems as if most countries and peoples use the elderflowers to make syrups.  The syrups can be added to pancakes or diluted with water and used as a drink.  Or what the french had done and made a liqueur.  Seems as if the berries are used in the tradition of many berries, in wines, james, jellies, marmaldes, and fruit pies.  Every site I have seen says that the flowers are often dipped in batter and fried.  Elderberries.com states that they believe it is best not to eat them raw. 

According to the United States Department of Agriculture:  “Only the blue or purple berries of elderberry are edible. Edible berries and flower are used for medicine, dyes for basketry, arrow shafts, flute, whistles, clapper sticks, and folk medicine. The active alkaloids in elderberry plants are hydrocyanic acid and sambucine. Both alkaloids will cause nausea so care should be observed with this plant. Elderberries are high in Vitamin C. The red berries of other species are toxic and should not be gathered.”

The USDA site also states that folk medicine considered the elderberry a very valuable healing plant.  And it sounds like it could do almost anything.  The flowers have flavonoids which some say are thought to help prevent cancer and improve immune function.  The tannins are a help with reduction of bleeding, diarrhea, and congestions.

The flowers can also be made into a tea to aid in breaking “dry fevers and stimulate perspiration, aid headache, indigestion, twitching eyes, dropsy, rheumatism, appendix inflammation, bladder or kidney infections, colds, influenza, consumption (bleeding in lungs), and is helpful to newborn babies (Hutchens 1991). Used as a wash, the flowers or leaves are good for wounds, sprains, and bruises, as well as for sores on domestic animals. The leaves, which are stronger, have a slightly laxative property. Applied externally, leaves, flowers, bark and twigs are excellent as a poultice, mixed equally with chamomile, for soreness, inflammations, joint stiffness, and to reduce the swelling of bee stings. The flowers and berries, employed as a diuretic, can aid arthritis and rheumatism. Steeped in water, the flowers are used externally to aid in complexion beauty, tone and soften the skin, and lighten freckles or spots. The berry juice made into salve aids burns and scalds. The juice taken internally will act as a purgative.’

Wow, huh?  Sounds like the entire plant can pretty much do anything.  But I haven’t seen the berries sold anywhere, have you?  I have to admit I have not LOOKED for them, but since they sound like they can take care of some many things I would think they would be more popular.

Since the actual genus name is Sambucus, it probably wouldn’t surprise you to know that the Italian liqueur Sambucca is comprised of oil from the elderflower.  Aside from the liqueur versions and the jam versions, it really sounds as if the flowers and the berries are very good for you.  They have a lot of vitamin C and a good amount of vitamin A.  And according to folk medicine they do a heck of a lot.  I am going to look for them in September.  That seems to be the season for Elderberries. 

After reading they can help boost your immune system AND all the other stuff listed here, do they interest you?  Do elderberries sound like something you would like to add to your diet?  Do you want to try some elderflowers?

2 Responses to “The USDA Makes the Elderberry and Elderflower Sound Miraculous”

  1. Linda said

    I suppose it would depend on how they taste. It won’t do you any good if you can’t stand to eat them. I know plantain from your yard is suppose to be really good, too, but I’ve tasted plantain and it’s not really very tasty. Although, it has a lot of good uses both inside and outside the body.


    • Well, I think the reason the elderberries are made into syrups and jams is because they are bitter. So they might not be so good to eat without adding something. But the flowers sound interesting because you can eat them and get benefits or use them externally—like you said. I will have to see if I can find them first. I don’t recall ever seeing the berries.


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