Sambucus nigra, or otherwise and more commonly known as the elderflower, is a perennial plant that is a member of the Adoxaceae family. Elderflowers can be known by many other names as well including Bour Tree, Pipe Tree, Ellhorn, Black Elder, American Elder, Common Elder, and the European Black Elder. The word “elder” actually derives from the Anglo-Saxon word, “aeld,” meaning fire. Another name for elderflowers, Ellhorn, references using hollowed elder branches as a furnace. Elderflowers are native to Northern Africa, Europe, and Central and Western Asia, however they can also be found in North America. Elderflowers have been used since ancient times for their medicinal uses, as well as in mythology. Did you know that during the Middle Ages, the leaves of the elderflower plant were placed on doors to ward off and protect from demons and other evil spirits?
This perennial plant usually reaches a height of anywhere from almost ten feet to over twenty six feet tall. The leaves of the plant are pinnate and have serrated edges, with each leaf growing anywhere from 2 to almost 12 inches long. Elderflowers are white or cream in color. They grow in flat clusters, on separate branches from the leaves. There are also elderberries that grow in drooping bunches once the flowers have bloomed. These berries can vary in color from purple to black.
Elderflowers can be used in many different products and industries. While most well known for their medicinal purposes, they can also be used for skin care, culinary purposes, bath and body products, candle making, soap making, and even for hair care. Common bath and body products that can include elderflowers are soaps, lotions, creams, ointments, aftershaves, bath bombs, facial toners, bath teas, and natural herbal water recipes. Did you know that branches of the elderflower plant can be used to make musical instruments? In Slovakia, the branches are used to make the koncovka, fujara, and other flute-like instruments.
Like any other plant, the elderflower plant has its own specific conditions needed in which to grow properly. It is adaptable to almost any soil type, and can grow very well in very wet soils, however this plant is not drought tolerant. The best soil type to grow the elderflower plant in is well-drained loamy soil. This plant prefers to be in areas with full sun exposure, however it can still thrive in areas with only partial exposure. It can also thrive in areas with almost all pH levels. The elderflower plant is most commonly found near farms and homesteads.
This plant should be first planted early in the spring time. When planted in rows, each row should be about 13 to 16 feet apart, to give each plant enough room to grow. The plant should flower throughout the summer, and the actual elderberries will begin to form between August and September. The berries form once the plant is finished flowering and will take about two weeks to fully ripen. There may not be very many berries in the plants’ first year, however the second year after being planted should yield a much better crop. The flowers and berries of the plant are the only parts that should be harvested as the branches and leaves can be poisonous.
There are some pests and diseases that can affect the elderflower plant. Valley elderberry longhorn beetles can be found around the plant. The females can lay their eggs in the bark and once the larvae hatch, they will burrow into the stems. Birds are also a major pest and will eat the berries. This plant is susceptible to diseases such as the tomato ringspot virus, leaf spotting, root rot, thread blight, verticillium, powdery mildew, and stem and twig cankers.
Uses in Industries
There are many culinary uses for the elderflower plant. The berries and flowers should not be eaten raw, but they can be used for many cooked dishes. The berries can be used as an ingredient for jellies, pies, sauces, jams, and many different desserts. The berries can also be used to make a variety of alcoholic beverages including wine and beer. There is even an elderberry syrup that can be made and used for pancakes. The flowers of the plant can be covered in batter and made into fritters, and can also be used to make elderberry tea. In Germany, the flowers and berries are used to make yogurt. Elderberries can even be used as an ingredient for ketchup.
Bath and Body Products
Elderflowers can be used in many different industries and products. Besides their wide variety of culinary uses, they can also be used for skin care, hair care, bath and body products, medicinal purposes, soap making and candle making. Elderflowers bring many anti-inflammatory properties to soaps, and can be a beautiful natural decoration for candles.
Common bath and body products that can include elderflowers are lotions, ointments, creams, bath bombs, aftershaves, bath teas, facial toners, and natural herbal water recipes.
Your skin can greatly benefit from elderflower use. The flowers work to heal burns and bruises, improve the complexion, even the skin tone, prevent wrinkles, and ease sunburn. They also work to balance excess facial oils, stop break outs, lift dirt and oils out of the pores, and they also work to reduce any inflammation. It is even believed that elderflowers can help to fade freckles.
When used for hair care, elderflowers work to help make the hair soft and silky, and they also work to detangle and hydrate the hair.
There are many wonderful medicinal benefits to using elderflowers. They contain many important vitamins and nutrients including Vitamin A, B1, B2, B3, B6, C, and potassium. Elderflowers also have many anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, antiviral, antioxidant, and antibacterial properties. Did you know that elderflowers can be used to induce sweating?
In traditional Chinese medicine, elder was dissolved in wine and used to treat rheumatism and many traumatic injuries.
Elderflowers can be used as a diuretic, working as a laxative and helping to relieve constipation. They can also be used to help increase urine production.
Elderflowers contain many powerful antioxidants. These antioxidants work to protect the body from free radicals. These can damage cell production which can cause many problems, including increasing the risk of cancer.
Tea made from elderflowers works to help purify the blood, while an elderflower infusion can be used as treatment for colds, the flu, fevers, and even sore and inflamed eyes.
These flowers can even help to strengthen the mucus membranes of the respiratory tract. This helps to increase allergy resistance as well as reducing symptoms of hay fever.
There are many other conditions that can be treated using elderflowers including catarrh, swine flu, diabetes, bronchitis, laryngitis, shortness of breath, reducing blood sugar levels, stomach aches, diarrhea, toothaches, urinary tract infections, asthma, reduce phlegm, and they can even be used to stop bleeding.
In some areas, elder trees are considered sacred to the ancient vegetation goddess, Hylde Moer. It was believed that if an elder tree was ever cut down, that a spirit known as the “Elder Mother” would be released and take revenge on whoever cut down the tree. The tree could only be safely cut down while chanting a rhyme specifically for the Elder Mother.
In Denmark, the Hylde Moer was said to preside over the realm of the fairies. It was said that around the time of the summer solstice, that by hiding in a grove of elder trees, you would be able to see fairies.
Legend also has it that Judas Iscariot who betrayed Jesus was hung from gallows made of elder. It is also said that the cross Jesus was crucified on was made of elder. Because of this, baby cradles are never made of elder.
Nature’s Garden sells elderflowers for external use only. We do not sell them as a food item. The information above talks about how great elderflowers are for many industries, however we only sell them for external use. We provide this data for educational purposes only. Nothing in this article is to be construed as medical advice. Please consult your doctor before using this product or any of this information for treatment purposes.