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Herbal Grimoire


Bay Laurel | Belladonna | Catnip | Cinnamon | Elder | Holly | Lavender | Lemon Balm | Mandrake | Mugwort | Rosemary | Roses | Sage | Valarian | Violet | Woodruff | Yarrow

ELDER: Sambucus Nigra, or Sambucus Camadensis

OTHER NAMES: Black elder, Pipe tree, Bore tree, Bour tree, Hylan tree, Eldrum, Judas tree, Sweet elder, Battree, Alhuren

Gender: Female
Planet: Venus
Element: Water
Dieties: Venus and Holda
Powers: Protection, Prosperity, Exorcism, Healing

The elder is steeped in history and folklore. The word Elder comes from the Anglo-Saxon word "Aeld". Aeld ment fire. The inside of the stem, called the "pith" could be easily removed and the hollow tubes used for blowing up a fire. It was also called a pipe tree because when the pith was removed the hollow tube could be made into a pipe of flute. In keeping with this musical association, the botanical name is thought to derive from a triangular harp-like stringed instrument called the sambuca. Some modern day Italians still make a primitive pipe called a sompanga from the branches of the tree. Elder is a Druidic plant of Midsummer. A "Dryad" or elder mother is said to live in the tree; she will haunt anyone who cuts down her wood. Permission must be asked, and an offering must be made before cutting the tree. Stand or sleep under an elder on midsummer eve to see The King of The Faries and his retinue pass by. The flowers are used in wish fulfillment spells. The leaves, flowers and berries are strewn on a person, place, or thing to bless it. In the mid 14th century it was a common belief that Judas was hanged from an elder tree. It was also thought that having an elder tree in the garden kept away evile spirits and witches. The tree would also bring portection and prosperity. Along with all of this elder was used for funeral purposes. Green elder branches were burried in the ground with the person to portect the dead.

A member of the honeysuckel family, the elder is a hardy tree with deciduous leaves. The tree has umbrella-like clusters of white sented flowers in summer followed by bunches of black to dark purple berries. It will grow well in full sun and partial shade, and moist netural to alkaline, well drained soil. Grows well in zones 5 to 9. They can be grown by greenwood cuttings in early summer and by hardwood cuttings in winter. The leaves are picked in summer and prepared fresh. Bark is stripped in late winter before new leaves appear or in autumn before leaves change color, and dried for decoctions. Fully opened flowers are collected and dried whole. Flowers are then stripped off for infusions, floral water, liquid extracts, ointments and tinctures. Fruits are harvested when ripe, seperated from stalks and used for juice or dried for use in decoctions, syrups and tinctures.

People with kindey or liver diseases should never use. Fresh leaves and berries are harmful if eaten fresh off the tree. Do not use elder at all if you are pregnant or breast feeding.

Internally, elder has been used for centuries in treating colds, influenza, sinusitis, rheumatic complaints, constipation, and arthritic conditions. Externally ti has been used for minor burns, sore eyes, irritated or inflamed skin, mouth ulcers and minor injuries. When a cold is on it's way, drinking a hot tea made from elder will induce sweating and this boosts the bodys viral killing ability to help fight off a cold. Due to the contence of viburnic acid, this will induce sweating which is usefull in cases like these. Before modern medicine, elder was known almost as a cure all. Be careful with this plant!! Never eat any part of it raw. It will have a toxic effect on the body. It must always be prepared first. Elder contains cyanogenic glucocides. These substances release cyanide and an unidentified cathartic found mainly in the leaves and roots of some of it's species. Cooked berries as in pies and jellies are harmless. The flowers can be made into a tea. There is no indication that moderate consumption of this plant is harmful. The flavonoids including quercetin are believed to account for the theraputic effects of the berries and flowers. According to laboratory research an extract from the leaves combined with St. John's Wort and Soapwort inhibits the influenza virus and herpes simplex virus. According to the Druids another classic flu remedy is a mixture of elder flower, yarrow, and peppermint teas. This will promote sweating. Use 2 teaspoons of the mix per cup of water, steep for 20 minutes, and take up to 3 cups per day.

Edler's tart berries are used in jams, jellies, pies and wines. Elderberry and elderflower fritters are very popular as well. Cordials and ice cream can be made from this plant also. Elderberries are high in vitamin C. In Britain, they are sometimes gently cooked with sugar to produce "Elderberry Rob", a thick winter cordial that acts against colds, and sooths sore throats and coughs.

Elder can be used as a conditioner and hair rinse. Also as a lotion, facial toner or astringent. Infusions of elder flowers are usually gentle and kind to the skin, while having a mildly bleaching effect. They can be used in a wide range of skin preparations for the face and body. As elder is both mild and healing, the infusion is frequently used to treat skin problems like dry or sensitive skin. It may also be used to reduce freckles. Elder can be used in rinses containing the flowers to lighten and condition gray or blonde hair.

ELDERBREEY JELLY by Alan Joellenbeck
2 quarts elderberries with stems removed
2 cups water
1 box pectin
5 cups sugar

In a sauce pan simmer the elderberries in the water until the berries are soft. Strain through a cloth. Be sure you have 3 1/2 cups of juice; if not, pour alittle water through the curshed berries. Return 3 1/2 cups juice to pan. Add pectin to the juice and bring to a boil. Boil for one minute. Remove from heat, skim and pour into hot sterilized jars. Seal with hot paraffin immediately.

Plain pastry or frozen pie crust
3 cups steamed or cooked elderberries
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons flour
4 tablespoons lemon juice

Line the pie pan with the pastry crust. Pour in the berries. Mix the sugar, salt and flour and sprinkle over the berries. Sprinkle lemon juice over the berries. Cover with pie crust and crimp the edges. Place in a 350 degree oven for 1 hour.

Pick complete flower heads, wash and drain them. Holding the flower head upside down, dip into a thin pancake batter. Set the flowerhead in hot oil and cook until light brown. Remove and drain on a paper towel. Sprinkle with powdered sugar or cinnamon and enjoy.

1 cup dried elder flowers
1 cup distilled water
Simmer flowers in the water for 30 minutes. Cover and leave to cool before using as a hair rinse.

5 tablespoons elder flower infusion
5 tablespoons glycerin
3 tablespoons witch hazle
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon eau de cologne
1/2 teaspoon borax

Pour all ingredients into a bottle and shake well. Seal tightly and keep refrigerated. Shake well before use.

4 tablespoons elder flower infusion
4 tablespoons glycerin
1 tablespoon rose water
1/2 tablespoon pure lemon juice
Combine all ingredients in a bottle and shake well. Seal and keep refrigerated. Shake well before use.


10 lbs. light clover honey
1 oz. tartaric acid
8 oz. dried elderberries
1 yeast EC1118

Bring 2 gallons of water to a boil in a stainless steel or ceramic pan and remove heat source. Add tartaric acid and honey, stir genlty to disolve. Depending on how the honey was processed, there may be wax and protine substance that will collect at the surface. Gentely skim off with a screen spoon. Cover and allow to cool to 85 degrees F. Pour this into a 3 gallon carboy, add yeast and attach air lock. Allow fermentation to proceed for two days before adding elderberries. Do a quick cold water wash on the dried elderberries using a large fine screen strainer. Alot of liquid that appears brown will pass through. Put the rinsed berries in the carboy using a funnel. Rack once about 4 weeks into the fermentation discarding the elderberries.