An amazing remedy for colds and the flu, this distinct purple berry has been used as a part of herbal medicine for years. While they share a similar name, elderberries aren’t actually related to the elder tree. Rather, the sambucus genus of plants refers to between five and thirty species of shrubs, perennial plants, and small trees. The reason why there’s such a large range (I mean, five to thirty, come on now) is because there’s five main categories that the others fall into. The black berried elder variety (sambucus nigra) is host to eleven different subspecies that range across the warmer parts of North America and Europe. Blackberry elder, which grows in Western North America has characteristics of both the previous group and the other group, having the blackberry of the sambucus nigra but the shrub like growth of the red berried variety.
In folk medicine, elderberries are commonly made into elderberry syrup that can be taken in order to drive off or help with colds. When mixed with honey, ginger, cloves, and cinnamon, it makes an amazing syrup that helps cut even the flu down to size. It can also be used as a laxative or to help with hay fever. Studies have also shown it to be helpful in relieving leg pain and possibly even heart disease. But be careful with how much and how often you take elderberry. If you are pregnant, or breastfeeding, doctors warn to stay away from elderberries as not enough studies have been done to see how it affects young babies. Since elderberries affect the immune system, people with autoimmune disorders should also stay away from them, as they will increase the symptoms. Finally, elderberries are only safe if they are cooked; the leaves, stem, and uncooked berries are actually poisonous, so be carefully when preparing foods containing these.
In the magical world, elderberries are extremely important. One of the favorite foods for the faeries, elderberry wine is often left as an offering for them. Carrying pieces of the plant such as the wood or leaves would ward off attacks. Sacred to many goddesses, the Elder Mother is said to inhabit the plant, and punish any who harm it without permission. If planted, especially around kitchens, it will ward off negative influence and disease. A powerful healing component, if the leaves and berries are hung outside windows, they were serve as a protection charm.
If you guys are interested in making the syrup, send me a quick message or reply and I’ll make a post with the recipe.