A Home Grown Medicine Chest with Elderberry

Tonielle Christensen Blog, Health & Spiritual wellbeing

A Home Grown Medicine Chest with Elderberry

About the Author

Tonielle Christensen

Tonielle is a designer focused on improving the wellbeing of people and landscapes to generate abundance and efficiency.


This is one of the super star plants that every home gardener should have. Not only is it exceptionally easy to grow, but it is ornamental in its appearance with white lace stars upon a delicate umbel, and yet is extremely useful, from the root to bark, leaf, flower and berry.

"Roots of tree where used from dropsy, kidney ailments and stimulate the lymphatic system.

Bark from mature tree branches was powdered and infused to use on skin itches, rashes, ring worm and eye diseases. Flowers were valued for coughs, colds, respiratory infections, induce sweating, arthritic pain and for the nervous system. Berries were used for anaemia, sore throats, coughs, and tonsillitis, and as a laxative." - Isabel Shepard (Australian Herbalist)

I love this plant. Many people regard it as the premier plant of herbal remedies for colds and flu - as an immune strengthener. As a child, the creamy white laced flowers intrigued me, with tiny stars and sweetly perfumed. I never actually sighted the the shiny dark-purple berries, as they were quickly snipped by my grandmother as she habitually trimmed these dainty lace displays when the flowers started falling off. For years, I passed this tree at the base from her front door, without the inkling of what medicine stood before me. Interestingly enough, I had always suffered hay fever allergies and this plant was able to help.

One day, a neighbor asked if he could harvest the flowers to make Elderberry cordial. My ears pricked up. There and then, i took a cutting and from that day on, this healing plant has been by my side, willingly propagated and shared to anyone that takes an interest.

At my last garden in Kuranda, I had a rather healthy Elderberry planted along a 'hugel culture' garden bed along the swale that captures laundry grey water runoff. Another grew near our front door in a much dryer location. It fruits and flowers at the same time, so purple and white add colour and attracts many birds; especially the sun birds who adore the them.

It is spring and my new garden in Koah is buzzing with bees. The flowers are starting to fruit which has been long waited because the stash of fruits in the freezer was used for the jam session I made for all the lovely people who donated money towards my crowd funding campaign to do a permaculture teacher training course.

There is a long history of folk remedies for use and although I could write an essay on the spiritual and folk storiessurrounding this plant, I would rather share some of the practical and medicinal uses.

Every part of this tree is used. Known as a holy tree capable of restoring health and aid to longevity.

What are easy ways to utilise the Elderberry tree growing in your garden?

Firsty, do not use during pregnancy or lactation.

Simply eat the dark-purple berries to increase the production of red blood cells, to aid circulation and strengthen blood capillaries.

It is rich in vitamin C, so enjoy as a health tonic and to help absorb iron in your diet. At the first symtoms of cold for flu, make a cup tea.

Medicinal Elderberry Tea

Equal parts of Elderberry Flower, Peppermint (Mentha piperita) and Yarrow (Achillea millefollum), which makes the body perspire and sweat it out. At a pinch of Cayenne pepper and honey to sweeten for extra potency. Make extra tea and gargle for sore throats.

To cleanse the kidneys and purify the blood:

Make a decoction with 1 tbs of flowers and 1 1/2 cups of water, simmer for 5 minutes. Take for 2-3 weeks, one hour before breakfast.

Culinary Elderberry Jam and Cordial

Make jam with equal parts berries to sugar and apple pectin to thicken if you like thick jam. It is easier to freeze the berries as they ripen. Filling a bag until it is full and enough to make a few jars at a time. When the berries are frozen, they are easy to separate from the umbrel of the flower by pulling a fork through from stem to the berry. Boil the berries for 20 minutes and blend before adding sugar over heat in a deep set saucepan. Delicious on toast - especially when you feel a tickle in your throat.

Make cordial with the white flowers by boiling an umbrell of flowers for a few minutes with some lemon or lime juice and then add honey to sweeten if desired.

Cough Syrup

Boil elderberries for 20 minutes until soft and the juice is extracted, with a dark purple liquid appearance. Strain and separate the warm juice to return to low heat and stir in equal parts honey. Cool and refrigerate, pouring 15mls to slowly sip to relieve a sore or itchy throat.

Medicine never tasted better!

Flutes and Pipes

Traditionally, the Elderberry was used to make a flute instrument, carved with the stems due to its hollow center. It was and still is a favourable choice to make a smoking pipe with for those inclined to do some bush craft. Why not toke on some Passionflower or Mugwort that grows abundantly in a tropical garden for a mild herbal high rather than buying tobacco?

"Recent scientific research found elderberries to have powerful flavonoids, known to inhibit the ability of the flu virus to enter the cells and infect the body, Value Elderberry as a strong immune strengthening herb."

Check out the pharmacy next time you are near one and see the range of Elderberry products they have for immune boosting response. Then get a tree and plant it, for a home grown medicine chest!



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