I see a maiden in a white flowing dress. She is adorned in a crown of flowers with hues of pinks, blues, and purples. On her arm is a basket and in her hand is a flute-like instrument. The sounds that come forth are light and airy, sweet and enticing, joyous and magical. She calls to me of worlds unknown and promises a reprieve from the illusion of time. This to me is Elderberry and this is what my mind conjures up when I sit beneath an Elderberry tree or nestle up close to smell her sweet blossoms.
Elderberry is an indigenous shrub to North America but it can very much look like a tree.
There are many stories about the uses of this tree that range from beauty and magic in European Folklore to sorrow and hardship in its appearance in the Bible. The wood of this tree is hard on the outside and soft on the inside making it ideal for hollowing into instruments. In European traditions, it is believed that the music of the Elderberry instruments or even the tree itself acts as a gateway to the Faerie realm.
The smooth, soft bark is inviting to touch making it an easy tree to get close to and work with. The beautiful white flowers appear in June and her deep blue berries in August or September. The flowers and berries arrive in large clusters and a nourished tree can produce up to 15 pounds of fruit. The fruit is delicate and must be harvested by hand.
You will want to take care not to crush the elderberries themselves until use to preserve their quality and potent healing potential.
There are some varieties with red berries, they are not as palatable as the dark berries and must ALWAYS be cooked before eaten. If harvesting the darker berries, you can dry them, make gummies, add to baked goods, create syrups, jams, and even wine. This tree is revered by many bird species as well as mammals. I love to keep them in mind and leave plenty for them and for the tree to self-seed when I harvest.
The most common parts worked with are the flowers and the berries when making food or medicines. If you harvest the flowers you will not get any berries from where you took flowers, so be sure to keep that in mind when picking and leave some flowers to create berries to ensure your tree self-seeds. The berries are very rich in vitamin C, potassium, and phosphorus, and have been known to help shorten cold and flu symptoms when taken upon the first symptom and are also known to help reduce inflammation.
The elderberry flowers make an amazing calming aid for irritated and twitching eyes.
Turning the flowers into a tea and applying as an external wash to the eyes or skin can bring healing and calm to the area. Although the leaves are toxic to ingest they are an amazing ally for homemade insecticide and can be used on plants to treat powdery mildew. For anyone who grows squash, this is a huge asset!
If you want to look at this plant through a spiritual lens, (cause ya know I love where spirituality and science intersect) we can look at this plant and its ability to support our eyes and our hearts. From a spiritual lens, our heart chakra is where we hold grief and sadness which energetically can manifest as sickness in the lungs.
Elderberry can get into our lungs through its sweetness opening our hearts to lightness and possibilities. As our hearts open we are able to see the beauty in all things. Healing our eyes from the irritations of what we have seen, healing our hearts from the pain that we have endured, with Elderberry we learn to believe anything is possible if we stay open to receive.
When I don’t have any of my own berries some products I love to use are Senses of The Soul Magical Child Elixir or Thrive Immune Tea. You definitely don’t need to be an herbalist to dabble with this berry, a love of being in the kitchen and playing with jams or syrups can take you to great places. I love having it on hand as one of the yummiest ways to boost the immune system of my son or just to help my adult heart feel like a child again!
Whether you dare to carve a flute, bake some of her berries, or dry flowers for tea, this tree is sure to boost your mind, body, and soul!
*Always check with your doctor before trying a new plant and remember that they are medicine. The information provided here is for interest only, and no outcome is guaranteed. Nothing on this website should be taken as medical or legal advice. Please use herbs responsibly.*
Samatha Orthlieb – Opening the Senses of The Soul
Rosemary Gladstar – The Science and Art of Herbalism
Rosealee De La Foret – Wild Remedies
Alma Hutchens – A Handbook of Native American Herbs