Updated: Jun 15, 2021
There is hardly a plant more mysterious or misunderstood as the Elder. It is steeped in age old lore regarding witches and spirits, but some light ought to be shed on this incredible flowering plant.
Take regard that the plant is known as "toxic" in the western world. However ancient wisdom shows that all poisons are cures in proper doses.
Unsurprisingly, little to no scientific research has been published on the Elder plant. However it has been written about and utilized for millennia for many medicinal uses, as well as ceremonial.
If you would like more in depth methods of using the Elder for healing purposes, there are great books on the subject.
The bark, roots, leaves, flowers, and berries have can be used in countless ways, and I would like to just touch on a few of the most important.
Flowers can be steeped in hot water to make a soothing tea for fighting colds and flus, anti-inflammation, constipation, even diabetes.
Flowers only bloom for about three weeks, so you can pick and dry them if you want to save them for later use.
Berries are slightly toxic raw but can easily be made safe by turning them into a versatile syrup by boiling together water, sugar, and the elderberries.
You can use this syrup as a topping, a flavoring, a medicine. In my opinion this is the best use of the plant.
Cultivating elder bushes can be done by planting bare rootstock, rooted cuttings, or by sowing seeds in late fall. It is important to protect young plants, but as they get older they tend not be grazed as much by wildlife.
They will grow in full to part sun, and grow best in soil that is slightly acidic, and rich in organic matter. They prefer to stay consistently moist, so areas near streams or ponds are ideal. Underplanting trees works well for Elder bushes.
Now, I do have to express my own superstition here, as I believe a plants are intelligent and powerful beings in their own right. Elder bushes are special in this regard. If you are to harvest these incredible plants, be sure to ask it's spirit for permission, and give thanks afterwards. There is a lot of folklore as well as many personal accounts of people being punished or rewarded depending on their energy towards the Elder. This is why they have gained such a notoriety in folklore and mythology.
Elder plants are endlessly useful, and that is why I recommend researching or experimenting a little on your own. They are typically hardy to USDA zone 3, will grow at high elevations, and help increase biodiversity in birds and other wildlife. It should be apparent the potential importance of growing Elder on a High Altitiude Homestead. (That's almost punny.)