How to Use Elderberries and Elder Flowers |

How to Use Elderberries and Elder Flowers

Katie October 3, 2012
Image by UGArdener

It’s that time of year again. Kids are back in school, immune systems may be down and germs are spreading like crazy. I have a few stand-by herbs that I always turn to when I’m feeling sick or have been around sick people. Echinacea is my favorite herb to use when I feel a cold coming on but elder is a close second.

Elder is a short shrubby tree. It ranges from about 5 to 12 feet. The stems have small wart like bumps, with a slight purple tinge. The larger branches are smooth. The leaves have tiny ridges all the way around. The tiny creamy white flowers grow in large clutters and bloom from June to July depending on where you live. The blooms turn into small purplish/black berries. The elder likes moister climates but I’ve seen it thrive in droughts and drier climates as well.

The most familiar types of Elder in North America are Sambucus cabadensus (American) and S. nigra (Europe) (Caprifoliaceae). Common names are Elderberry, Black Elder, Common Elder, Pipe Tree and Bore Tree.

Elder is an amazing herb with many different uses. Each part actually has a different purpose. In the Middle Ages people used and revered every part of the plant. Now the most common part used is the berry. Flowers and leaves may be used as well. The bark was once used but is now thought to have too drastic of an effect on people. Depending on what you read you may see them used, I would not advise doing so.

What is Elder Good For?

 The Berries

  • Immune Boosting
  • Flu
  • Constipation
  • Colds

The Flowers

 The Leaves

  • Bruises
  • Frostbite
  • Sprains

How do I use it?


Image by:JacobWhittaker


Elderberries can be used in a verity of ways. My grandma used to make the best elderberry jelly. In days gone by it was common to make elderberry wine. Hum, I might have to try that sometime. The most widely known use for elderberries is to make them into medicinal syrup. Only use black elderberries, when green the berries are potentially toxic. Caution should also be used when eating the berries raw. Elderberries contain a bitter alkaloid and glycoside that may change into cyanide; for this reason casino online it is always best to cook them. 

What makes elderberries so great is their immune boosting properties. If you start taking elderberry as soon as you first start feeling sick it will help wipe out the illness in no time.

Forget getting the flu shot, take elderberry syrup instead. According to Prescription for Herbal Healing, “a clinical study of elderberry found that it cured 90 percent of flu infections within seventy-two hours. In the same trial, patients receiving a placebo needed six days.”

You can spend up to $15 for 4oz if you buy it or you can make it yourself for a fraction of the cost!

Do you want to learn to make your own? Elderberry Syrup is obviously a well used remedy by MAH writers; you have a few different versions to choose from. I”m sharing one version with you today. 

Elderberry Syrup

2 cups fresh elderberries, 1 cup dried
¼ cup fresh, grated ginger
2 cinnamon sticks
¼ cup cloves
4 cups water
1 cup raw honey

Simmer in a pot for two hours. Strain through a colander lined with a cheesecloth, Twist the cloth and squeeze to get all the precious liquid out.

Return to the saucepan and heat until warm. Turn off the burner; pour in the raw honey, stirring gently until dissolved.

Store in quart jar in the fridge. It should be good for at least three months.


When sick:
Children: 1 tsp every hour
Adults: 1 TBS every hour

As a daily booster during cold season:
Children: 1 tsp once a day
Adults:  1 TBS once a day

Elderberry Syrup by others in the Modern Alternative Writters:


Elder bush
Image by:Milos

The Flowers

Elder flowers are best used when made into an herbal infusion. Drinking a cup of warm elderflower infusion can be used to reduce fevers, relieve allergies, constipation and rheumatism. For every cup of water use 1 to 2 tsp of dried elderflower, for fresh 2 to 4 tsp. Add to a cup of boiling water and steep for 10 to 15 minutes. You can drink it up to 4 times a day, for children give them 1/2 a cup and babies 1/4 a cup.

The Leaves

Elder leaves can be used to make a salve. Plants that combine well with the leaves are plantain leaves, St. John’s Worth and wormwood. I have never made a salve with elder leaves; I just know that it can be done.

Do you need  more inspiration for using elder? Try these ideas?

Cold and Flu Tea

Immune System Boost
Fever Reducing Tea

Elderberry Komucha
Alergy Tea

Do you have any favorite elder remedies?




This is the writings of:

Katie is a dorm “mama” to 16 amazing girls ages 5 to 18 at a home and school for the Deaf in Baja California, Mexico. She is happiest in the kitchen creating nourishing meals and home remedies or outside with at least one of her girls at her side. She grew up using herbal supplements but didn’t discover the joy of making her own until 2008. Katie is passionate about real food, herbs and simple living. You can find her blogging about all these things and more on her blog, Mexican Wildflower where she is living simply by God’s grace.MexicanWildflower
  1. What about for infants? Since there is honey in this you can’t give it to them. I’m sure some will go through my breastmilk but is there any other way to make it? I’m guessing with sugar but I of course don’t want to go that route..


  2. Hi, I bought some dried at my local co-op. The berries were not all black…some were tan or brown. Is this concerning??


  3. Thanks for sharing this post on elderberries and elderflower uses. For the mamas concerned about giving honey to babies: You can also give them just pure juice. It tastes great–not too sweet but not bitter at all, either.


  4. […] Elderberry syrup is a natural and delicious way to boost immunity. At approximately $3 to upwards of $6 per ounce, store-bought elderberry syrup is convenient, but not easy on the wallet. Making your own syrup costs pennies compared to pre-made and it’s so easy to make. Just follow the recipe below! To learn more about elderberry and it’s properties look here. […]


  5. […] is one amazing herb. It ranks up there with my all time favorite herbs like echinaeca and elderberries. Keep reading to find out why plantain is one of my must have herbs for my medicine chest for all […]


  6. […] Immune boosting – Works to boost the immune system – works well in Elderberry Syrup. […]


  7. […] of herbs that I use, elderberry is always near the top of that list. Last year I wrote a post about the many uses of elder. Despite the elderberries’ fame, you can use the flowers, berries, leaves and bark as well. I […]


  8. […] Elderberries are one of my favorite herbs to use for treating colds and flu’s. They are full of immune boosting properties that straighten your body to fight off the illness. Elderberries are combined with other herbs to give the syrup an added boost! Unlike many homemade remedies this tastes good! The raw honey is full of beneficial bacterias that heal and sooth the throat. […]


  9. […] The Many Uses of Elder by Modern Alternative Health […]


  10. […] plantain is one amazing herb. It ranks up there with my all time favorite herbs like echinaeca and elderberries. Keep reading to find out why plantain is one of my must have herbs for my medicine chest for all […]


  11. […] The Many Uses of Elder […]


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Hi, I’m Kate.  I love medical freedom, sharing natural remedies, developing real food recipes, and gentle parenting. My goal is to teach you how to live your life free from Big Pharma, Big Food, and Big Government by learning about herbs, cooking, and sustainable practices.

I’m the author of Natural Remedies for Kids and the owner and lead herbalist at EarthleyI hope you’ll join me on the journey to a free and healthy life!

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