European Elder Tree, Elderberry
The medicinal herb European Elder as an alternative herbal remedy for skin conditions – European elder is a tree native to Europe and parts of Asia and Africa, and it also grows in the United States. There are several different types of elder, such as American elder, but European elder is the type most often used as a supplement.Common Names–European elder, black elder, elder, elderberry, elder flower, sambucus
Latin Names–Sambucus nigra
It is a deciduous shrub or small tree growing to 4–6 m (rarely to 10 m) tall. The bark, light grey when young, changes to a coarse grey outer bark with lengthwise furrowing. The leaves are arranged in opposite pairs, 10–30 cm long, pinnate with five to seven (rarely nine) leaflets, the leaflets 5–12 cm long and 3–5 cm broad, with a serrated margin. The hermaphrodite flowers are borne in large corymbs 10–25 cm diameter in mid summer, the individual flowers white, 5–6 mm diameter, with five petals; they are pollinated by flies. The fruit is a dark purple to black berry 3–5 mm diameter, produced in drooping clusters in the late autumn; they are an important food for many fruit-eating birds, notably Blackcaps. (source: wikipedia)
What European Elder Tree Is Used For
- Parts of the elder tree–such as the berries and flowers–have long been used for pain, swelling, infections, coughs, and skin conditions. *Today, elderberry and elder flower are used for flu, colds, fevers, constipation, and sinus infections.
How European Elder Tree, Elderberry Is Used
- The dried flowers (elder flower) and the cooked blue/black berries (elderberry) of the European elder tree are used in teas, liquid extracts, and capsules.
The dark blue/purple berries can be eaten when fully ripe but are mildly poisonous in their unripe state. All green parts of the plant are poisonous, containing cyanogenic glycosides (Vedel & Lange 1960). The berries are edible after cooking and can be used to make jam, jelly, chutney and Pontack sauce.
The flowerheads are commonly used in infusions, giving a very common refreshing drink in Northern Europe and Balkans. Commercially these are sold as elderflower cordial, etc. In Europe, the flowers are made into a syrup or cordial (in Romanian: Socată, in Swedish: fläder(blom)saft), which is diluted with water before drinking. The popularity of this traditional drink has recently encouraged some commercial soft drink producers to introduce elderflower-flavoured drinks (Fanta Shokata, Freaky Fläder). The flowers can also be dipped into a light batter and then fried to make elderflower fritters. In Scandinavia and Germany, soup made from the elder berry (e.g. the German Fliederbeersuppe) is a traditional meal.
Both flowers and berries can be made into elderberry wine, and in Hungary an elderberry brandy is made that requires 50 kg of fruit to produce 1 litre of brandy. In south-western Sweden, it is traditional to make a snaps liqueur flavoured with elderflower. Elderflowers are also used in liqueurs such as St. Germain and a mildly alcoholic sparkling elderflower ‘champagne’. In Beerse, Belgium, a variety of Jenever called Beers Vlierke is made from the berries.
- source: wikipedia
What the Science Says about European Elder Tree, Elderberry
- Although some small studies show that elderberry may relieve flu symptoms, the evidence is not strong enough to support this use of the berry. *A few studies have suggested that a product containing elder flower and other herbs can help treat sinus infections when used with antibiotics, but further research is needed to confirm any benefit.
- No reliable information is available on the effectiveness of elderberry and elder flower for other uses.
- According to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), elderberry may help ease pain, swelling, infection, cough, skin conditions, flu, cold, fever, constipation and sinus infections. The University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC) says there are few side effects associated with short-term use of elderberry. The Food and Drug Administration does not regulate elderberry; the National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommends consulting a physician prior to taking elderberry.
Side Effects and Cautions of European Elder Tree, Elderberry
- Uncooked or unripe elderberries are toxic and can cause nausea, vomiting, or severe diarrhea. Only the blue/black berries of elder are edible. *Because of elder flower’s possible diuretic effects, use caution if taking it with drugs that increase urination.
- Tell your health care providers about any complementary and alternative practices you use. Give them a full picture of what you do to manage your health. This helps to ensure coordinated and safe care.
Folklore, Superstition, Legends and tales about magic referring to the Elder Tree
- Source verbatim from: www.answers.com
Many superstitions and legends are associated with the elder tree and shrub (genus Sambucus). In some cultures, it is identified with the tree on which Judas hanged himself as well as with the wood used for the Cross. In some parts of Scotland and Wales, it was believed that the dwarf elder grew only on ground that had been soaked in blood. Elder was not used for a child’s cradle because it could cause the child to pine or be harried by fairies. In Germany it was considered unlucky to bring an elder branch into a house, because it might also bring ghosts, or, in England, the Devil himself.
However, elder was also believed to protect against evil, and it was thought that wherever it grew witches were powerless. In England gardens were sometimes protected by having elder trees planted at the entrance, or in hedges around the garden. In some parts of the United States, an elder stick was burned on the fire at Christmas Eve to reveal witches, sorcerers, and other evil wishers in the neighborhood. In the Tyrol, it was believed that an elder stick cut on St. John’s Eve (June 23) would detect witchcraft.
Many old gardens in Britain retained into the twentieth century some of the protective elder trees. The folklorist James Napier recalled: “In my boyhood, I remember that my brothers, sisters, and myself were warned against breaking a twig or branch from the elder hedge which surrounded my grandfather’s garden. We were told at the time as a reason for this prohibition, that it was poisonous; but we discovered afterwards that there was another reason, viz., that it was unlucky to break off even a small twig from a bourtree bush [old name for elder].”
In some parts of Europe, this superstition was so strong that before pruning the elder, the gardener would say, “Elder, elder may I cut thy branches?” If no response was heard, it was considered that permission had been given, and then, after spitting three times, the pruner began his cutting. Another writer claimed that elderwood formed a portion of the fuel used in burning human bodies as protection against evil influences, and drivers of funeral hearses had their whip handles made of elder for a similar reason.
In some parts of Scotland, people would not put a piece of elderwood into the fire. Napier observed one instance where “pieces of this wood were lying around unused when the neighbourhood was in great straits for firewood; but none would use it, and when asked why? the answer was: ‘We don’t know, but folks say it is not lucky to burn the bourtree.”‘
Elderberries gathered on St. John’s Eve were believed to ward off witchcraft and to bestow magic powers. If the elder was planted in the form of a cross upon a new grave and it bloomed, this was a sure sign that the soul of the dead person was happy.
Various magic powers against illness were claimed for elder. In Massachusetts, elder pulp in a bag worn around the neck was thought to cure rheumatism. Elsewhere elder was also used as an amulet, small pieces being cut up and sewn into a knot and hung around the neck or sewn in a knot in a piece of a man’s shirt. Elder was also believed to be of medicinal value for deafness, faintness, strangulation, sore throat, ravings, snake and dog bites, insomnia, melancholy, and hypochondria.
Medication Interactions of Elder berry
According to the UMMC, elderberry can react with numerous prescription medications. Elderberry has diuretic properties, and users should not combine it with other diuretics because of the risk of dehydration. Those who take diabetic medications that lower blood sugar should not take elderberry, because elderberry has blood sugar-lowering capabilities that can lead to hypoglycemia, a complication of diabetes characterized by extremely low blood sugar. Elderberry may also increase the side effects of chemotherapy drugs and interfere with the drug theophylline, an asthma medication, and immunosuppressants like prednisone.
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