Elder trees line hedgerows, grow in ancient monastic infirmaries and protect sacred sites here in the West of Ireland. . Elderberries, a favorite herbal medicine of the winter season for body and spirit, give of their healing nourishment and align with the energies of the crone, the ancient wise woman who guards the door to the Underworld, to shadow and to the dark inner mysteries. As we spiral into the season of Samhain and begin to move inward, to reflect and rest, to dream and nest, elder is an ally to help us to connect to the ancient rhythms of the season.
Elder is Ruis in Irish and the letter R in the Ogham alphabet. She is known as Elder Mother and Queen of the Herbs, for good reason, as her medicine is prolific both in the spring as a flower and her berries in the autumn. When harvested and used with intention, Elder loves us to use her berries although no berries should be harvested after Samhain when tradition says we are to leave what is on the trees for the small animals, birds and fairies. It is considered unlucky to take her fruit after this time and her wood is not to be used for fuel.
There are many varieties of elder so ensure you are working with Sambus nigra which produces the dark purple berries. Elder feeds the immune system and is high in antioxidants and Vitamin C. It is safe to be taken as a preventative, in a daily tea, syrup or tincture and when used in higher doses will stimulate and activate the immune response. It will ease stubborn coughs and catarrh and helps to clear colds, flus and bronchitis. Always consult with your doctor before using herbs.
· 3 tablespoons of dried elderberries
· 2 cups of water
· ¼ cup local, raw honey
· ¼ cup Irish whiskey (optional)
Add the elderberries to the water in a pan on the hob and bring to a low simmer (decoct) for about 30 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to steep for an hour. Strain out the berries and add the honey and whiskey to the strong tea. Bottle and store in the refrigerator. Will last six months. Take one tablespoon per day as an immune tonic and higher doses at the onset of a cold or flu. Being healthy is delicious.