How I use herbs - Elderflower

by Liz Beavis

I haven't written a "how I use herbs" post for a while, but my herb garden is still growing in the shade of the carport and increasing in number of herbs (although some have also unfortunately died, but I will start them again).  Our local produce share has been a great source of herb cuttings and I've had to talk myself out of taking more home as I really can't increase the number of pots in my garden until I get something more permanent organised.

I was given a small elderflower plant at the produce share a few months ago and I have been growing it up until its ready to plant out.  I thought I better find out more about its preferred growing conditions and medicinal uses before I decide where to put it.  There are several varieties of Elder (genus: Sambucus), and as usual I don’t know which one I have, but they all look to be fairly similar and when I see the colour of the berries, that might help to identify it.  I think from the fact that it was a sucker from a larger plant, it must be the American Elder Sambucus canadensis which is apparently more common in Australia than the European Elder Sambucus nigra, which tends to form a single trunk.  All of this is good to know before I plant it somewhere!

There is also considerable European folklore around elder, including a belief that chopping down a tree would release the Elder Mother.  Another reason to pant carefully for those who are superstitious!  


Eight Acres - how I use Elderflower herb


How to Grow Elderberry

The plant can grow into a large bushy tree  and is also used as a hedge plant.  It spreads by growing suckers around the base (the plant I received was a sucker from a larger plant).  It can also be propagated from cuttings or seed.  It grows in full sun, but it also doesn’t mind shade.  I can see from having it grow in a pot so far that it uses a lot of water, so my main issue when I plant it out will be keeping the soil moist enough until it can establish deep roots.

How to Use Elderberry

  • The flowers can be made into a syrup or cordial, they can also be dried - used for coughs, colds and flu, to reduce fever.  Can also help with hayfever.
  • The berries (cooked) can also be made into a syrup or dried.  The anthocyanins (purple compounds in the berries) have been shown to reduce symptoms of flu by anti-viral action.  They are also rich in vitamin C.
  • Externally, a tea from elderflowers can be used to sooth the skin
  • The leaves can be infused in water, or oils to make a salve, which is used for soothing or healing skin.
  • In some elder species all parts are poisonous is eaten raw, apart from the flowers.  The berries are ok if they are cooked.  As I don't know for sure which species I have, I will be cooking the berries.

My plant is currently flowering, so I'm looking forward to making use of some of the flowers, but I'll leave some to form berries as well.  I'm keen to plant it where it can grow up to shade the dog yard and its free to spread along the fence line into a hedge/shrub.  If it gets huge, at least its very useful! 

 Have you grown Elderberry?  How do you use it? 

These are the books I use to research herbs:




Previous herb posts on Eight Acres: 

How I use herbs - aloe vera
How I use herbs - arrowroot
How I use herbs - basil
How I use herbs - borage
How I use herbs - brahmi
How I use herbs - chervil
How I use herbs - chickweed
How I use herbs - chilli
How I use herbs - comfrey
How I use herbs - coriander
How I use herbs - dill
How I use herbs - feverfew
How I use herbs - ginger, galangal, tumeric
How I use herbs - gotu kola
How I use herbs - herb robert
How I use herbs - lavender
How I use herbs - lemon balm
How I use herbs - lemongrass
How I use herbs - lucerne
How I use herbs - marigold, calendula, winter taragon
How I use herbs - mint, peppermint, spearmint
How I use herbs - mother of herbs
How I use herbs - nasturtium
How I use herbs - neem oil
How I use herbs - nettles
How I use herbs - oregano, majoram
How I use herbs - parsley
How I use herbs - purslane
How I use herbs - rosemary, thyme
How I use herbs - rue, tansy, wormwood
How I use herbs - soapwort
How I use herbs - sweet violet
How I use herbs - winter savory
How I use herbs - yarrow

1 comment

  • Pauline

    I would love to be able to grow Elderberry but doubt that I can in Tropical although if I can find a plant I might give it a go. I love the flavour of the cordials. Good luck with the move. Pauline

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

eBook - Make Your Own Natural Soap
from $12.00
eBook - Our Experience with House Cows
from $12.00
eBook - A Beginner's Guide to Backyard Chickens and Chicken Tractors
from $12.00
eBook - Advanced Natural Soapmaking Techniques
from $12.00
eBook - Grow Your Own Vegetables
from $12.00