Elder / Sureau noir
Sambucus canadensis (Caprifoliaceae) – Elder is also known as common elder, American black elder, fever tree, pan pipes, pipe tree, sambu, and sureau.
Parts used: This article is about the berries, harvested in late autumn when they are ripe. The flowers are also used for healing purposes.
Habitat: The tree is a perennial and native to North America. Very common in eastern Ontario. There are over 30 different species of elder. A shrub or small tree, it can reach heights of between 5 – 25 feet in height. The plant prefers to grow in areas with moist soil and in areas with 40 – 100% sunlight. The tree favours open fields, transition areas and clearings in woodland areas.
Properties: Antiallergenic, anti-catarrhal, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, anti-rheumatic, antispasmodic, anti-viral, aperient, cholagogue, demulcent, depurative, diaphoretic, diuretic, expectorant, febrifuge, immune stimulant, lymphatic, nervine, relaxant, and tranquilizer.
Uses: Excellent for feverish conditions such as colds, flu, chickenpox, for upper respiratory conditions that are marked by profuse watery mucus – hayfever, sinusitis, head colds, coughs, asthma, and bronchitis. Elder berries combine particularly well with yarrow, boneset, and blue vervain for fevers. For coughs and chronic lung conditions match them with thyme, elecampane, coltsfoot, and white horehound. Aside from actively stimulating the immune system – elderberry actively inhibits the viruses ability to invade healthy cells and multiply.
Preparation/Dosage: Fresh or dried herb infusion or tincture. Easily made into syrup for colds and flu.
Safety Considerations: Red berried elders are poisonous – make sure you have the plant correctly identified. Use with caution during pregnancy – a week at a time for self-limiting conditions such as colds and flu – no worries.
1 cup dried elderberries
4 cups of water
Simmer gently over low heat for 30-40 minutes. Remove from heat, let stand overnight. Strain out the elderberries – you can do this though a sieve lined with cheesecloth, a jelly bag, or an unbleached paper coffee filter. It’s important to get all the plant material out of the liquid – otherwise it may go bad sooner rather than later.
Measure the liquid that you have remaining. Return to stove and simmer over medium heat for about a minute or so. You only want to heat it up enough so that the honey and the liquid will blend together well. For every 1 cup of elderberry liquid (the strained infusion) add 1 cup of honey and 1 tablespoon of brandy. The brandy is optional but will help preserve the syrup longer. With brandy and stored in the fridge the syrup will last up to one year. Great to take when you just feel the onset of a cold and/or to help fight off any cold you might have. The dosage would be 1 teaspoon of syrup up to eight times a day.