Elder has a long history in folklore and in herbal medicine. It was seen as a whole medicinal chest in one tree. Viewed in many cultures as ‘earth mother’, Elder was widely revered and in Ireland, cutting down the Elder was thought to be bad luck for your home and your cattle herd.
Elderflower is used medicinally for fever as it encourages sweating. It also helps to break up catarrh and so clears congestion of the lungs. It is often used with Nettle to reduce the symptoms of hay fever. A delicious cordial can be made from the flowers or they can be infused as a tea for hot flushes, colds and sore throat.
Elderberries, made into a syrup, are well known for reducing the severity of colds, flu and coughs and help to prevent infection. The leaves can be made into an ointment for sprains, bruises and chilblains.
Collect berries on a dry day in September, when they are black and shiny. A fork is useful for taking them off the stems. Weigh the berries, add half of the amount of water and place both in a saucepan to simmer for a half hour. Allow to cool before straining. Put the berry juice back in the saucepan and add 3 slices of lemon, a cinnamon stick, soft brown sugar and some cloves, simmer for 30 minutes. Allow to cool before straining. Bottle and label for use in winter. Take 1tsp 3 times a day when a cold or cough appears.