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Blog - antiseptic

Elderberries are in season!

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Elderberries (Sambucus caerulea) are found in our little town of Elbe along the trails in our national forest. Since they make wonderful jams and syrups, my husband and I went foraging and picked about 15 pounds. I ended up selling 8 pounds to a customer who‘s father loves Elderberry pie. The remainder we froze to make pies, cobblers and tarts.

                                                                       Elderberries (Sambucus caerulea)                                                                          

On our farmstead we cultivate the Sambucus nigra 'Black Lace', Black Lace Elderberry which we harvested nearly 25 pounds, froze about 4 lbs for making Elderberry cough syrup and cough drops this winter, and the remainder was sun dried and packaged for my Mountain Maus Remedies customers.

                                                       Elderberries (Sambucus nigra)

The wild trees we picked from were the species Sambucus caerulea, known as “blue elderberry. These trees grow to about 30 feet high and have dark purple berries that look grayish-blue because of a light waxy coating that covers them. The flowers are white or cream in color, on umbels that are nearly flat across the top when you turn them sideways. They are not as pleasantly smelling as the Sambucus Nigra species.

     Elderberry (Sambucus caerulea) Elderberries Elderflower (Sambucus caerulea)

The Sambucus Nigra species we cultivate for its medicinal value are pruned into bushes for easy harvest. The berries are a glossy dark purple to black.The hermaphrodite flowers are borne in large, flat corymbs in late spring to mid summer, the flowers are an ivory white to light purple and are very fragrant.

                                              Elderberry (Sambucus nigra )

The common elderberry is very abundant in this area. They are everywhere! We drove down old logging trails and walked what seemed like miles to small open wild areas. Every 15-20 feet we would come upon another elderberry tree! Watching my husband climb these trees was a site to see. It was impossible to pick all the elderberries we could see. Plus, the bushes grew so tall, we could only harvest the lowest 4 or 6 feet. We made sure we left enough berries for the birds and wildlife to enjoy.

If you’re lucky enough to have elderberries growing in your area, look for them along less-traveled roads and secluded areas. Elderberries love lots of sunlight and its best not to pick them along well-traveled roads because of all the pollutants near major roadways, from exhaust, weed sprays, etc. have likely contaminated plants in those areas. A helpful note Elderberries do contain poisonous cyanic compounds contained in the stems, leaves, roots, and seeds. The berries are edible when they’re ripe and cooked. A handful of uncooked elderberries probably wont hurt you, but if you eat too many, especially on an empty stomach, you’ll likely get ill. The flowers are also edible, and have also traditionally been used to lightly flavor fritters, pancakes, scones, and cakes.

Below are some helpful tidbits of the Medicinal Sambucus Nigra that is available on my shop. This October I will start making cough drops and cough syrup (made to order). Yummm!!! Just in time for the cold and flu season. So make sure you put your order in while supplies last. 

                                       Elderberry cough drops  Elderberry cough syrup

The Sambucus Nigra berries are used for its antioxidant activity to lower cholesterol, improve vision, boost the immune system, improve heart health and for coughs, colds, flu, bacterial and viral infections and even tonsillitis.


Bioflavonoids and other proteins in the juice destroy the ability of cold and flu viruses to infect a cell. People with the flu who took elderberry juice reported less severe symptoms and felt better much faster than those who did not.

Beneficial components in Elderberries

Elderberries contain organic pigments, tannin, amino acids, carotenoids, flavonoids, sugar, rutin, viburnic acid,vitaman A and B and a large amount of vitamin C. They are also mildly laxative, a diuretic, and diaphoretic. Flavonoids, including quercetin, are believed to account for the therapeutic actions of the elderberry flowers and berries. According to test tube studies these flavonoids include anthocyanins that are powerful antioxidants and protect cells against damage.

Health Benefits of Elderberries

Elderberries were listed in the CRC Handbook of Medicinal Herbs as early as 1985, and are listed in the 2000 Mosby's Nursing Drug reference for colds, flu, yeast infections, nasal and chest congestion, and hay fever. In Israel, Hasassah's Oncology Lab has determined that elderberry stimulates the body's immune system and they are treating cancer and AIDS patients with it. The wide range of medical benefits (from flu and colds to debilitating asthma, diabetes, and weight loss) is probably due to the enhancement of each individual's immune system.

At the Bundesforschungsanstalt (try saying that 3 times in a row) research center for food in Karlsruhe, Germany, scientists conducting studies on Elderberry showed that elderberry anthocyanins enhance immune function by boosting the production of cytokines. These unique proteins act as messengers in the immune system to help regulate immune response, thus helping to defend the body against disease. Further research indicated that anthocyanins found in elderberries possess appreciably more antioxidant capacity than either vitamin E or vitamin C.

Studies at Austria's University of Graz found that elderberry extract reduces oxidation of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. Oxidation of LDL cholesterol is implicated in atherogenesis, thus contributing to cardiovascular disease.

The flowers of the Elder is often overlooked for its medicinal benefits and is most frequently used for its flavoring properties and in making various foods and beverages. Both the flowers and berries in the Elder plant can be used when properly prepared, but all leaves, sticks, and roots should be avoided.

Health Benefits of Elderflower

Elderflower has been used in traditional medicine all over the world in many different cultures due to its antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties. The most common uses are for colds and flu, sinus infections, and other respiratory disturbances. As a supplement, elderflower also has diuretic and laxative properties and is helpful in relieving occasional constipation. Elderflower has antibacterial and antiviral properties and may also help alleviate some allergies and boost the functioning of the immune system. Topically, elderflower helps to reduce pain and swelling in joints due to some forms of arthritis and is used to stop bleeding. As an oral rinse, elderflower can be used for its antiseptic properties as a mouthwash and gargle. Elderflower also reduces blood sugar levels, very similar to the way insulin works.

Elderflower against MSRA

Research in Ireland showed that elderflower extract was effective in killing many common hospital pathogens, including methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA)1. This study gave scientific proof of elderflower's antibacterial properties against most gram negative and gram positive bacteria tested that align with traditional medicine uses of the past. Further study of elderflower components showed the potential for antiviral and anti-inflammatory benefits as well.

Active Ingredients in Elderflower

Elderflower is rich in bioflavonoids, mostly flavones and flavonols, that are most commonly known for their antioxidant. anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. The most abundant flavonols in elderflower are quercetin, isoquercitrin and anthocyanins, which have antiviral properties as well. Elderflower also contains chlorogenic acids, such as cinnamic acid, which may help with allergies, regulate blood glucose levels and have a laxative effect on the body. Triterpenoids, especially β-amyrin, erythrodiol, and oleanolic acid, are also found in elderflower. These triterpenoids offer a variety of health benefits including analgesic, anti-inflammatory, and anti-cancer effects.

Remember flu season is upon us, so get your elderberry cough drops and cough syrup before my supplies run out. I also have other cold remedies in teas and tinctures.

If you would like to make your own Elderberry cough syrup here's my recipe.

You Will Need:


  1. Put all the ingredients except the honey into a pot and bring it to a boil.
  2. Reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes.
  3. Squish the mixture through a strainer and let cool.
  4. Once cool, mix in your raw honey.

How to Use:

This will last 2-3 months in the fridge. Take a tablespoon every day to prevent colds and flus. If you get sick you can take a teaspoon every 2-3 hours while sick.

This is about it for this weeks foraging, I will squeak at you next week with a new entry.