Harnessing the Healing Legacy of Elderberries

Harnessing the Healing Legacy of Elderberries

I was curious about when the first time elderberries were mentioned as being used medicinally in history and came across some pretty cool facts.

Let’s nerd out on plants for a minute, shall we? 
Interestingly, Hippocrates, the father of medicine, regarded the elder tree as his ‘medicine chest’ around 400 BCE and German physician Michael Ettmüller, who lived in the 1600’s referred to the elderberry bush as ‘the medicine chest of the country people’ (Krawitz et al., 2011) (A Modern Herbal | Elder, n.d.).

One of the earliest recorded uses of the Elderberry Bush is in ‘The Anatomy of Elder’ by Dr Martin Blochwich, which was published in 1644. Of course this intrigued me to see if this book is still available and wouldn’t you know it, it’s on kindle for $2.99 and available in hardcover…starting at $100…maybe something fun to hunt for one day!

The word ‘elder’ originally stems from the Anglo-Saxon word ‘aeld’ which translates into ‘fire, as the hollow stems from ‘young branches’ were often used to stoke fires (A Modern Herbal | Elder, n.d.). 
A representation of Elder (right) in a copy of the Greek text of Dioscorides, De materia medica: manuscript now Napoli, Biblioteca Nazionale, MS ex Vindobonensis Graecus 1, 6th/7th century, possibly Southern Italy, the so-called Dioscorides Neapolitanus, f. 20 recto (Herbs in History: Elderberry, n.d.).

There is a ton of lore around the plant throughout time and cultures as well including Denmark, Russia, and the Czech Republic and in addition, the plant has long standing magical properties as well, in particular in regards to offering protection, blessings, astral travel, and often mentioned in rituals of renewal (Howard, 2020) (Moone, 2022).

For me, this is one of the fun parts of the herbalism path. There is a history to these plants that we work with…they have been our friends in many lifetimes…our ancestors knew them well and when we work with them, we carry their lessons and energy with us.

On a practical level, I am most interested in helping pass along the knowledge that elderberries can help us stay healthy and ward off the flu and other pathogens. 

One study demonstrated that liquid elderberry extract was an effective non toxic antimicrobial alternative when treating upper respiratory tract infections; and furthermore had antiviral properties that impeded the development of the flu (Krawitz et al., 2011). Another study showed that when Elderberry is used within 48 hours of the onset of the influenza A or B virus, it shortens the duration of flu symptoms by an average of four days (Tiralongo et al., 2016).

Elderberry syrup is typically made with other antimicrobial, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and immune supportive herbs such as echinacea, thyme, ginger, cloves, and cinnamon. These herbs also happen to make the syrup quite delicious and a welcome component of your healing arsenal not only for adults but for children as well. 


In lieu of making the syrup version, I created ‘Well-derberry Tea’ for those of us who have just enough time and attention to brew a cup or two of tea every night to help keep our immune systems robust and ready to handle whatever comes our way. In addition, in the Winter Wellness Guide, there is a recipe to make your own Elderberry Syrup right at home. I don’t tout that one is better than the other, the important thing is to know what you will be consistent with…only you know that <3.

Thank you for nerding out with me on plants and wishing you the most beautiful rest of your day.

Cheers to your divine soul and to your health <3



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