Medicinal Herb of the Day: Elderberry (sambucus sp.)


I owe you one from yesterday, so here’s another for your enjoyment.

The health benefits of elderberries are all the rage now. Elderberry farming is becoming increasingly popular and quite a money making venture for some entrepreneurs.  Personally, I love to harvest elderberries from the wild since I know that they’re pure, wholesome and not tainted with chemicals. You generally find them growing in wetlands, along creek banks, river banks, ponds and such. I would not recommend harvesting them from the roadside since they have become contaminated with vehicle exhaust fumes and residue, from roadside spraying, etc.  Let me share with you a LONG story about elderberries and how good they are for you.


Antiemetic (relieves nausea)

Poultices help relieve engorged breasts on humans as well as animals.

Poultices help increase healing of slow to heal wounds

Wonderful in salves for skin conditions such as boils, eczema, acne,

Poultices have an analgesic effect and can help ease the pain of toothaches and also help reduce the bacterial load of the infection in the gums

Wonderful antioxidant properties for heart ailments

Used to treat colic

Used to help treat venereal disease

Used to help alleviate water retention

Used to help decrease fever

Used as a blood purifier

Used as a pain reliever in poultices and salves for arthritis and muscle aches and pains

Helps to relieve congestion

In tonics, helps to alleviate coughs and the symptoms of the common cold

Can be used in suppositories, to relieve nausea if oral products cannot be taken.

To make a tincture.

Use only fully ripe elderberries. They should be a blue-black color and juicy. Do not use red or green berries as these will make the tincture or tonic bitter. Soak the pods of berries in a mild solution of baking soda or vinegar and water. This will not only clean the berries, but will remove bugs and other debris. Rinse and drain the berries in a colander. I use my fingers to remove the berries, but know that elderberries will stain anything they touch to a nice shade of lavender. On fabrics, the stain is permanent, so wear an apron!! Gently roll the berries off their stems into a large bowl. You can use a fork to dislodge the berries if you choose, but I find this to be slower and more tedious than using my hands. After all, we’re farm wives and what’s more to seeing a farm wife with a few stains on her hands, right? another easy way to separate the berries from the stems is to put the washed, drained berries in a zip-lock bag and freeze them. Frozen berries pop off like magic. After removing them from the stems, rinse again, and drain into a colander.

To make the tincture, put enough berries in a sterilized glass container to fill about 1/2 way up to the top. Cover the berries with vodka, everclear or brandy. The alcohol should be at least 80% proof. Cover and allow to sit in a dark, cool place for at least one month. Swirl (do not shake) the container occasionally during the tincturing process. After a month, strain the berries through a cheesecloth, rebottle the tincture in a sterile amber or blue bottle, and  label. As long as it’s kept in a cool, dark place, it will keep for several years. 

To use the tincture, measure the tincture using about 1 teaspoon in a glass of water. Take this about 3 times per day at the start of a cold or the flu.


Elder Rob

10 c. Elderberry Juice
5 c. Sugar
1/4 c, whole cloves,
1/4 cup chopped fresh ginger (or 1 tablespoon powdered).

Combine all and stir to dissolve sugar. Cook until thickened slightly. Strain out cloves and ginger, if desired. Store in a sterilized Jar or bottle and water bath can for 15 minutes.  Wonderful for coughs and colds.