MEET THE HERB
For me, the Elder in flower is the great harbinger of summer.
The distinct perfume of its flowers is everywhere and is the catalyst of warm summer days.
Where I lived in my little thatched cottage in Dorset, I have a snapshot memory of harvesting the creamy-white flowers on a glorious summer day and capturing the moment, and the warm energy of the flowers, in Elderflower cordial and Elderflower wine.
As a medicine, Elderflower is warming, and so can be applied to cold, congested and stagnant states, especially those of the upper respiratory system. Therefore, it has a massive role to play in Colds.
Like many herbs, its potency increases when combined with other herbs. Traditional suggestions include Yarrow and Peppermint, but I prefer to replace the Peppermint with the sweetly honey scented Linden flowers. In fact, one of the first mixtures I formulated included these three herbs….and on one of its maiden trials, stopped my Dad developing a summer cold in its tracts, literally overnight.
Elder flowers bring that gentle warmth that Culpeper said “get things moving”. Subsequently, the herb can be applied to loosen up congested mucous in the upper respiratory system as well as bring expectorant properties to clear the lower airways.
Elder flowers play a role in resolving toxic states through their diaphoretic properties, promoting a comforting perspiration that often accompanies the later stages of fever experienced in “flu” symptoms.
Elderflower has an impressive function in relieving conditions manifesting symptoms of dry skin, and is part of a formula used in one of the most sought after creams I prescribe at the Apothecary for just such states.
Another impressive combination includes Elder flowers in a tea blend I make and prescribe to relieve the symptoms of Hay fever. Hay fever is part of a deeper constitutional problem that requires a deeper investigation and a holistic approach. However, in the short term Elder flowers have a role to play in bringing short term relief.
Of course, when picking the Elder flowers it is important to keep in mind the need to leave some behind to develop on into the berries.
Again, the berries are warming, and like the flowers, can be transformed into a lovely wine, both being perfect to get you through the winter months. I had a vintage that I made in Dorset. This vintage was stored for years and when finally opened was on par with some of the best heavy Italian or Spanish reds.
The berries of Elder are used in the wine making industry. One of the most sought after berries are English Elderberries. This may be due to our climate and soil being favourable to them, or due to the fact that many grow in the hedgerows rather than on the shady edges of woods or in the woods proper. This allows the berries to ripen and develop a full flavour and sweetness.
The warming character of the berries and in combination with other warming herbs can be formulated into an Elderberry Rob. A type of beautiful fruit and spice syrup that can be taken. once daily through winter for the purpose of warding off colds. Or taken more frequently if a cold has already taken hold. Part of the power of the berries lies in their vitamin C content.
I have formulated my own Elderberry Rob that has gained many favourable comments. It is part of my daily winter regimen through the winter months….encapsulating the power and memories of warm summer days.
The Green Man