Elderflower, Sambucus Nigra, aka Elder.
Elderflowers are a well regarded European plant with many legends & folklore steeped in mystery and superstition surrounding them.
The elder was long regarded as sacred, protected by the Elder Mother who lived in its trunk. Many country folk would not cut or burn the wood for fear of upsetting her. However the elder was thought of as a protective tree – believed to keep evil spirits from entering the house if grown outside the door. I can only guess that this is why you can find them planted around old homesteads all over Europe, spilling out around old farms & roadsides in NZ.
Elders were said to protect people from lightening when they sheltered under them from a storm. Legend has it that Christ’s cross was made from elder wood. And if you want to see fairies, all you need to do is stand under an elder tree on Midsummer’s Eve, wooooooo.
Elder is symbolic of new beginnings & rebirth, marking the 13th month in the ogham calendar, the end of the old & beginning of the new year.
Elderflower is packed with vitamins A, B, C, and E, & is particularly useful during the winter cold & flu season. It is known to have anti viral, anti bacterial, anti inflammatory & anticatarrhal properties as well as stimulating the immune system. Therefore great for coughs, colds, flu, fevers, sinus, hayfever, sore throats & respiratory infections. The flowers are used to tonify and strengthen mucous membranes hence it's use in treating respiratory tract conditions.
Elderflower is gentle & safe & my kids love it in a warm herbal tea combined with peppermint (which is an excellent traditional remedy for sweating out a fever). Bear in mind that Elderflower is a cooling herb and when taken cold is diuretic, when taken hot it produces sweating.
Topically Elderflowers are used to treat acne and oily skin (see my Elderflower & Chamomile Facial oil).
My favorite way to consume Elderflowers is by making a cordial or wildbrew (aka fizz, champagne or beer)...Recipe in another article, search Elderflower brew.
Yes Elderflowers turn into Elderberry, so don't be too hasty to pick all your Elderflowers in Spring or the elderberry won't develop in Autumn. Elderflowers flower in late Spring, early Summer, whilst the Elderberries develop in late Summer, early Autumn. During Winter the plant looses it's leaves and becomes dormant.
Elderflower spreads very quickly and is classed as a noxious weed and it's prohibited to plant it in some regions of NZ....however before I knew this I propagated copious amounts of it from cuttings which are now growing wildly all over my garden.
Caution. All parts of the plant are toxic except for the flower heads and the fully ripened purple/black berries. Do not eat the leaves, stalks or stems.