Nature is called Mother Nature for a reason. She provides, nurtures, and loves us through sickness and health. Depending on where you reside you will begin to notice changes in the air, bounty ready to be harvested, or animals changing behaviors with the next seasonal change. When we turn our attention to our bounties ready to be harvested, we should look beyond what we planted in our gardens ourselves. Let's look at what Mother Nature has provided in what we call the wilderness. Lets look at one of her gifts, Sambucu nigra.
Sambucus nigra may not sound familiar to many of us. But here are some of the common names used to identify her, Black Elder, Common Elder, Pipe Tree, Bore Tree, Bour Tree, Hylder, Hylantree, Eldrum, Ellhorn, Hollinder, Sureau, Elderberry. The common names come from different regions and centuries. The Elder’s history has lore contributions from the fourteen century, Anglo-Saxons, Low Saxon, German, and French.
Sambucus nigra has a very interesting history and lore surrounding her. First mention of Sambucus nigra dates back to the Fourteenth Century with the Anglo-Saxons. The word Elder is derived from the Anglo-Saxon word aeld. Aeld means 'fire' and the Anglo-Saxon's used the young stems to blow on a fire. With this being the initial use, as the tree was discovered by different societies, the name changed to match the occupation the tree served. The tree was also referenced by Shakespeare, in Cymbeline, as a symbol of grief due to the pungent smell attributed to the plant. He also referenced this plant in Love's Labor Lost by Biron stating "Judas was hanged on an elder." This is referencing the Mediaevalist belief that 'Juda was hanged on an Elder'. Sambucus history is vast so if you're interested, check out our references to take a deeper look. Now let looks further into the parts used, bark, leaves, flower, and berries.
Not only is Sambucus used for making musical instruments, toys, like the pop gun, tools, etc. It is also used medicianally. The inner bark from young trees collected in Autumn can be dried and used as a purgative. Using the inner bark dates back to Hippocrates. It can also be used as a diuretic, relieve asthmatic symptoms and croup in is diluted state processed by Homeopathic procedure. The leaves can be used fresh or dried when collected in June and July. It can be made into an ointment for bruses, sprains, and chilblains. The flowers can be used dried or fresh externally and internally. The flowers can be enjoyed internally as a tea, infused water, cordial, salad dressing, and infused vinegar. While externally, it can be infused in oil and made into a lotion. The flowers have been reported to ease pain. The final part is the berries. Many of us are familar with using the berries in a syrup for ailments of cold and flu. The berries can also be used for wine making and often used by wineries who use a lower quality of grapes. The berries are used to give the purple/red color to the wine made with the low quality grapes. The berries can also be used to make jam, chutney, and ketchup but this must be made from juicing the berries only. The seeds and the roots of Sambucus are poisonous.
Now that we have covered Sambucus nigra, next week we will share a spotlight product that includes the medicinal properties and benefits of Sambucus. Until next time.
Commons.wikimedia.org. 2021. File:150 Sambucus nigra L.jpg - Wikimedia Commons. [online] Available at: <https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:150_Sambucus_nigra_L.jpg> [Accessed 16 September 2021].
Grieve, M., 1971. A Modern Herbal. Dover Publication, pp.265-278.
Shakespeare, W., Wells, S., Taylor, G. and Salmon, V., 1986. William Shakespeare, the complete works. Oxford: Clarendon press, pp.307-335.