Driftless Indigenous Herblore: Elder Flower

Flu season last Winter: how many of you used an elderberry product? I remember so many people asking where they could get it in town because it was sold out. It’s that good, but did you know that elder FLOWER is also really helpful during flu season? And it can help with your allergy complaints now. Elder flower will help move congestion, it’s anti-viral and anti-inflammatory. It also has a calming effect on the nerves.

Elder, Sambucus nigra being the variety we use for medicine, loves to grow near wet areas as a large bush in groups in the Driftless. You’ll often see it in the ditches along the roadsides and near agricultural fields. Caution: heavy metals drain off the roadsides from our cars and chemicals run off the farm fields into the ditches. It’s best to find a patch that is away from roads. When you find a patch, be sure you are 120% certain of it’s identification. (Hemlock is just as tall, grows in wet areas and has white flowers too. Hemlock is deadly.)

Sambucus Nigra Elderberry
A lovely elder full of floral umbels in early summer.

When you collect Elder Flowers, there is no need to cut them. You can get blooms AND berries. Take both hands, one on each side of the fully flowering umbel. Gently fold the umbel in on itself and rub the two halves together over your collecting container while the umbel is still on the plant. You’ve just collected flowers and pollinated it at the same time and will still get berries. This works best when the entire umbel is in full bloom with no more buds. The flowers will fall off easily from that point.

You can enjoy a cup of elder flower tea, or, my favorite way is to make a strong elder tea and mix that with an equal part sugar, then boil a bit to make elder syrup. You can use the syrup so many ways. Dried elder flowers can be infused in honey too. I make elder flower tincture to use in combination with other herbs for excellent flu and allergy care. For kids of all ages, syrup always goes down easier than tincture 🙂. This weekend, we enjoyed it with our waffles and blackberries. Yum. Mr. Ambroz agrees.


The information in this article is not meant to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

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