Elder Berries (Sambucus nigra)
Sambucus nigra, the name of the plant that produces Elder berries, is a large deciduous shrub that bears dark black berries. It hails from Europe, and also originates from southwest Asia and northwest Africa. The plant produces flowers in the summer, and the fruit comes on in the late fall months of the year. The small dark berries hang in clusters off the large shrub, and are attractive to birds who flock to the plants for late season food.
People have been using the elder herb for thousands of years for food, medicine, and tools. It has a rich folklore and has long been associated with the fairy worlds, death, and rebirth. It is still highly revered today as one of our most powerful herbs for colds and influenza.*
Botanical Name: Sambucus nigra
Other Names: Common Black Elder, Canadian Black Elderberry, American Elderberry
The genus was formerly placed in the honeysuckle family, Caprifoliaceae, but was reclassified as Adoxaceae due to genetic and morphological comparisons to plants in the genus Adoxa.
Taste: Tart, Tangy, Bitter
Energy: Cool, Dry
Part Used: Fruit, Berries
Make a tincture: Tinctures are also called extracts. This same process is used to make real vanilla extract. Alcohol tinctures are the most common type and the easiest to make.
Detailed instructions for making a tincture can be found HERE!
As Food: The cooked berries are commonly eaten in pies and jams. The juice can be fermented into wine. Do not use plant parts when making juice. The berries are actually better cooked.
Prepare as a syrup: Below are two of several recipes for making Elderberry syrup.
- 1 cup dried elderberries
- 4 cups water
- 6 whole cloves
- 2 Tbsp fresh grated ginger
- 2 Cinnamon Sticks
- 2 cups raw honey
Step 1: Place all ingredients except for the honey in a saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil and simmer for 30 minutes.
Step 2: Strain the mixture. I place a piece of cheese cloth inside a fine mesh strainer and squeeze as much juice as I can from the cheesecloth.
Step 3: Add the honey to the juice and stir until mixed well.
Step 4: Place syrup in a glass jar and refrigerate to use daily. You may also can or freeze the syrup for later use.
As a preventative, 1 TBS per day for an adult and 1 tsp per day for a child.
When feeling sick, 1 TBS per hour for an adult, 1 tsp per hour for a child.
Homemade Elderberry Syrup
- 3.5 cups cold water
- 2 cups organic dried elderberries
- 1 tablespoon fresh or dried organic ginger root
- 1 teaspoon organic cinnamon powder or 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 cup raw honey
- Pour water into a saucepan and add elderberries, ginger and cinnamon.
- Bring mixture to a boil.
- Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for about 40–45 minutes or until the liquid has reduced by about half.
- Remove from heat and mash the berries.
- Pour through a strainer or cheesecloth into a glass bowl. If you use a cheesecloth, make sure to squeeze out the juice.
- Add honey and stir until well-combined.
- Bottle final product in a sterilized glass container.
Special Note: For children under age 1, substitute another natural sweetener like maple syrup instead of using honey. You should not give infants and children under 1 year of age honey, or baby cereals containing honey, because of the danger of infant botulism.
Prepare as a tea: Below is just one of many recipes for making Elderberry tea.
- 16 ounces filtered water
- 2 Tbsp dried elderberries
- ¼ tsp cinnamon powder or 1 cinnamon stick
- ½ tsp turmeric powder
- 1 tsp raw honey (optional)
- Put water and elderberries into a small saucepan.
- Add turmeric and cinnamon.
- Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for about 15 minutes. This infusion process helps draw out the beneficial properties of the elderberries.
- Remove from heat and let cool for about 5 minutes.
- Finally, strain through a fine mesh strainer and pour into individual mugs.
- Stir in raw honey if using.
For iced tea, pour into a mason jar and allow to cool, then refrigerate for up to 1 week. Serve over ice if desired.
- Keep out of reach of children.
*This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
Always consult your health care professional before using any herbal supplement.