“He causeth the grass to grow for the cattle and the herb for the service of man that he may bring forth food out the earth.” Psalm 104: 14 

Many people have encountered an elderberry shrub or a small tree on their homestead, country property, or even in their backyard. Mine began when I purchased a new home several years ago that has an American elderberry shrubby tree  (Sambucus canadensis). It blooms in early spring, flowers in June and July producing  loads of magnificent reddish-purple berries that ripen in mid to late August. A little bit of research led to discovering some terrific recipes to try.

The Flowers – The flowers contain the flavonoid glycosides rutin and quercetin, the cyanogenic glycoside sambunigrin, essential oil, mucilage, tannins, and organic acids. These substances are principally diaphoretic, and a flower infusion is used to treat colds and other respiratory infections and mild nervous disorders.

The tea of the flowers is an excellent remedy for twitching eyelids and inflammation of the eyes. Made into an ointment, the elder is valuable in burns, scalds, and all skin diseases. The tea is stimulating, a good tonic, and a good blood purifier. It increases the flow of urine, is cooling, and is good for the building up the system. It’s also very useful in liver and kidney diseases. In skin diseases, the sores should be washed with the tea, and the tea taken internally. The tea helps with for headaches due to colds, palsy, and rheumatism. It is somewhat laxative and wonderful for dropsy as well as constipation.  Interestingly it also makes an excellent poultice for tumours and various swellings.

The Fruits – The fruits contain organic pigments (anthocyanins), amino acids, sugar, rutin and a large amount of vitamin C (when fresh).  The fruits are small, glossy black, edible drupes borne on red stalks. The berries should never be eaten raw. Raw elderberries are known to be toxic, as the seeds contain a cyanide-inducing glycoside, which can cause a buildup of cyanide in the body and make you quite ill. 

The dry berries made into tea are an excellent remedy for cholera and diarrhea. It can be taken freely without harm. It is good for influenza combined with peppermint. The elderberry helps boost the immune system and prevents illness.

Recipe for Elderberry Juice

  • 4 cups fresh elderberries (cleaned well) (if you use dried berries add 6 cups)
  • 1-2 cups of water (adjust accordingly)
  • 1-2 tsp lemon juice
  • Sweetener (stevia, date sugar, maple syrup, honey, or date puree put through a sieve, or whatever your preference is.

1. Add berries, lemon juice, and water to a pot and cook down to a juice.

2. Mash the elderberries and strain.

3. Return to pot and simmer for about 20 minutes.

4. Add sweetener according to taste.

5. Pour into a mason jar and refrigerate. It will keep for 3 months.

UsageChild: 1 tsp/day as prevention, 1 tsp/hr while sick when awake.

              Adult:   1 Tbs /day, 1 Tbs /hr when sick 

The elderberry helps boost the immune system and prevents illness.

Recipe for Elderberry Syrup, Jelly, Jam

  • 1 cup elderberries (dried 2 cups)
  • 6 cup water (or less depending on how thick you want or how juicy the berries are)
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 8 cloves  (whole)
  • 1 cup raw honey (add last) or another sweetener

1. Meticulously clean the berries. 

2. Bring the elderberries and water to a boil, along with the spices. Optional: gently crush them down.

3. Simmer for 45 minutes.

4. Put the mixture through a cheesecloth /strainer, this will give you the liquid juice.

5. Add the honey into the warm berry juice.

Tip 1 – If making jelly, jam, or syrup, there are two options: 1) add desired amount of Agar Agar towards the end of step 2, and dissolve in boiling mixture, allowing to thicken as it cools. Or 2) Add desired amount of Clear Jel or Surejel to cold water, and add to the boiling juice. It will thicken as it boils. 

Tip 2 – Use the discarded crushed berries as compost (without the sweetener) or refrigerate in a plastic bag and use as a poultice.

Tip 3When processing for canning, the Water Bath Method works great at 10 lbs steam and pressure at  5 minutes. The jars seal quickly even before taking out of the canner, especially when using smaller ½-pint jars.  When cooled they thicken to a nice spread.