Elder and the Seasons of Life•
Posted on November 01 2020
I thought it fitting to focus this month on a plant that many of us know to be an ally in immune support - Elderberry (Sambucus nigra). Elderberry Syrup has been a fall and winter staple in many pantries to support us through cold and flu season. The elder has traditionally been placed at the center of the garden - standing tall and majestic—a protector. In Maia Toll's gorgeous book The Illustrated Herbiary we read that elderberry "embodies the three faces of the Goddess: Maiden in the spring, abundant with white petals; Mother in the summer, when wine-red berries adorn her branches; and Crone in autumn, when her leaves are falling away. Her yearly evolution teaches us to dance with the closely twined cycles of life, death, and rebirth."
If you are searching for Elderflowers and Elderberries, you will want to search stream banks, and places with rich soil and water runoff such as the edges of farm fields. Its gorgeous, white lacy flowers are historically used as a diaphoretic, causing sweating, which can help to reduce fevers. Wildcrafting and removing the blooms can take some patience, yet there is something so beautiful about the clumps of tiny white flowers that makes it all worthwhile.
Most people know more about the support from the berries. Harvested when they are dark purple—almost black—you need to wait long enough for them to reach that color, but not so long that our bird friends get them first. As with any wildcrafting, take only what you need, and leave the rest to the plant cycle, and the other beings who need it. The berries are loaded with vitamins A and C, beta carotene, iron, and potassium. Make sure to cook them as raw berries can cause stomach issues! Cooked, as in a syrup, the berries are an immune enhancer with anti-viral properties. Add additional herbal allies such as rose hips for extra vitamin C, or echinacea root, and you have a powerful immune support.
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