11 Sep Elderflower tea: a pre-historic healing medicine
A pre-historic healing medicine! Well this doesn’t sound very relevant or scientific.
Amazingly, in studies in 2006, an extract from the elderberry plant was proven to be effective against the H5N1 strain of avian flu. This fascinating plant has been helping humans heal for millennia whilst also delighting our nose and our taste buds.
What is Elderflower
Elderflower, Black Elderberry, European Elderberry, European Elder or just Elder, initially classified in the honeysuckle family was reclassified as an Adoxaceae, a small collection of flowering plants called the moschatel family.
Sambucus Yes, Sambuca, the alcohol, takes it’s name from this plant, although Sambuca as we know it is not made from Elderflower but coffee. Sambucus translates as “gift from the gods”.
Uses of Elderflower tea in Herbalism
There have been lots of uses of Elderflower across history but chronologically, we have to begin our story in Pre-historic Europe, before 3000BC with the black elder varietal. When Scientists talk about pre-history, this is often before the Ancient Egyptians where documentation of history is incomplete. Human settlements first emerged between 48,000 to 15,000 years ago in Europe and sites have been found in Italy and Switzerland showing evidence that prehistoric man managed to cultivate the elderflower tree, whilst we are uncertain for what use and precisely what time.
There are recipes for elderflower based medications dating back to Ancient Egypt where around approximately 3500BC, bodies have been unearthed alongside the elderflower tincture.
In Ancient Greece, Hippocrates, the ancient Greek remembered affectionately as the “father of medicine” described the elderflower plant as his “medicine chest” due to it’s success in treating so many illnesses.
Black elder returns into literature in France during 1651 alongside evidence of its use across Northern Africa and Asia to ward away evil and prevent illness and health issues.
Native Americans also discovered their indigenous elderberry known as Sambucus canadensis or American Elder, similar to black elder in terms of its flavour and healing properties where Native Americans used the plant to treat fevers.
American elder remains relatively unknown in contrast to Black elder where we have well established usages allow extensive use and rich documentation. American elder is in effect treated as one with Black Elder but it is noteworthy that American Elder is a distinct plant with significant differences and room for much more study.
Renowned British herbalist Maude Grieve wrote in 1930’s about elderflower and its use as “one of the best preventatives known against the advance of influenza and the ill-effects of a chill” alongside other glowing regales of its curing properties. Ripe elderberries were once known as “Englishman’s grape” and was often made into elderflower wine where the copious pollen contains whey and yeast that allows for natural fermentation alongside the delicious taste.
Got the sniffles? Elderflower tea is the answer!
1. Fighting Flu and infection
Elderflower is a diuretic, laxative, antispetic, antiviral and also has anti-inflammatory properties. The flowers are known for their high antioxidant content and Vitamin C which is great for boosting your immune system. Elderflower also helps fighting flu and respiratory disturbances by encouraging water to leave the body, helping you to “sweat it out”.
“Compounds from elderberries can directly inhibit viral entry and replication in human cells, alongside strengthening the Immune system. What our study has shown is that the common elderberry has a potent direct antiviral effect against the flu virus,” said Dr Golnoosh Torabian.
2. Runny nose and allergies
Elderflower contain tannins that create astringent action, helping to dry up runny eyes and runny noses. This in turn is a lifesaver to prevent what I call “red nose syndrome” due to overblowing of your and eyes. Elderflower also works to reduce inflammation and irritation.
3. MRSA, H5N1 and Antiseptic
Research conducted in Ireland showed that elderflower also was impressively effective in combatting various hospital pathogens such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA)1. This and other studies such as the aforementioned 1995 study where in Hadassah, studies showed how Elderflower can be effective against human, swine and avian flu strains.
As elderflowers taste so good and has so many benefits it’s easy to ignore how the tea makes you feel. Elderflower is often used in situations to calm or relax. Elderflowers have relaxing nervine properties, which support the nervous system through stressful periods. It can help to soothe nerves and anxiety and may assist in reducing symptoms of depression.
5. Healthy Skin and Joints
The flowers contain flavanoids, of which, perhaps most importantly is quercetin which helps to reduce oxidative stress in the body. This assists protecting the skin, joints and blood vessels from damage. It is commonly used in skin creams and is often recommended for sufferers of arthritis.
Elderflower can help to reduce cholesterol and blood sugar levels in the body. The flavonoid quercetin contained in elderflower was found to reduce cholesterol levels and work in a similar manner to insulin on the body.
If you’d like to try some elderflower tea, check out our teapro Herbalism box!
How to Brew Elderflower
Take 1 or 2 teaspoons of Elderflower and place into our glass infuser
Pour in boiling water
(The flavour and components will concentrate over time. Some recommend 15mins. Experiment and have fun)
OPTIONAL: add honey or lemon juice for flavour
(do not use refined sugars or it will damage the components in the tea)
What did we experience?
The smell of elderflower is wonderfully familiar and yet if you have not enjoyed elderflower tea before, you are about to rediscover your love of this incredible plant. The aroma of elderflower is like wet dew and your nose in turn will open to its charming sweet smell. Once cooled down, you will feel incredibly calm as you sip at what seems to last a lifetime. Things slow down and you feel incredibly tranquil, great for relieving stress.
As elderflower might work like insulin to lower blood sugar, be cautious around scheduled surgeries and if diabetic.
If you are concerned about your reaction or would like to find out whether elderflower tea is right for you please consult your doctor.
If you’re interested in other herbal teas and their benefits, check out our article on Damiana – an ancient love potion!