Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Wondrous Elderberry

Don't ever take more from a plant than you need,
they enjoy having life as much as we do."
-Gypsy Wisdom

In preparation for our  recent herbal medicine making class, we went out on a few treks around our neighborhood to see what plants we could use for our concoctions.  The discovery of several prolific elder trees was a marvelous surprise.  The timing was perfect as they were laden with fruit.    Just in time for the coming winter, we  harvested baskets and bags of the ripe berries.  Our native elder tree here in California is Sambucus Mexicana.  We usually spot this tree along creeks, but not always.  One of the trees we just harvested from is on a hillside high above a creek, among a grove of Bay trees.  

fresh ripe elderberries
dried elderberries
There are so many interesting ways you can extract the medicinal constituents from sister elder's fruit.  Many people like to make syrups, wine, or dry the berries for later use in teas.  In some cultures elderberries are fermented into special drinks or porridge. I know a friend who likes to add handfuls of elderberries to her kombucha batches which gives the fermented drink a lovely color and taste. My preferred method of making herbal medicine is to make a glycerin tincture, and elderberries makes a glycerite that is effective, palatable, and strikingly beautiful.

Due to it's strong anti-oxidant properties, elderberry is known most widely as an immune booster.  It helps protect against colds and flu and acts as an anti-bacterial and anti-viral in the body. Elderberry is also useful in aiding the respiratory system, coughs, and tonsillitis. It is high in calcium, vitamin C and amino acids.

To make a fresh plant glycerite, harvest some elderberries.  Wash and take the time to remove as much of the stem as possible.

Put the berries into a clean glass container leaving a couple of inches head space   Mash the berries well then add sufficient food grade vegetable glycerin to cover the herb.  Stir to release air bubbles and add more glycerin as needed to fully cover herb.  Agitate 2x daily for  a minimum of 14 days.  (The longer you let it sit the better.)  Strain well, press, and store in glass jars.  More glycerin can be added after pressing and straining to improve preservation.  The shelf life will be 1-3 years.  

Check out this video by Mountain Rose Herbs on how to make elderberry syrup.  If you have never made an herbal syrup you will be pleasantly surprised at how simple it is.  Enjoy and happy autumn!



  1. Stumbled across you while searching for a picture of a medicine wheel garden to stick on Pinterest. Love the blog. You're doing most of the stuff I'd be doing if I had more energy, more land, and less Oklahoma heat to contend with.

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