MISSOURI GIRL EATS WEEDS
Wed, 08/26/2020 - 11:38am admin
Ann J. Hines PhD
Long summer days now memories
For leaves are turning now.
A tapestry of pastel hues,
Adorning twig and bough.
Still the elderberry though
Hangs ripe upon the bush,
A final flourish, a luscious gift,
Before winter's coming hush.
Although I fight to hang on to the feel of the summer season, the cool mornings and return to school ineluctably turn my mind to lovely thoughts of fall. It is just at this season that it is time to look for ripe elderberries. Although you can harvest the delicate white flower heads to make a tea, I can never bring myself to use them for this lesser purpose when I know the immense healing power that will be fully manifested in the deep colored berries.
Its healing powers have been renowned for centuries. In ancient Egypt, it was used for healing burns. In ancient Greece, Hippocrates, the father of medicine, described elderberry as a medicine chest. Pliny the Elder, a Roman naval officer, mentions elderberry as a remedy for bloodshot eyes, skin conditions, and stomach complaints in his book. Nicholas Culpeper in his work “The Complete Herbal” described how elderflower water could be used as a beauty aide to dye hair, soften skin, lighten freckles and soothe sunburn. Various Native American tribes used elderberry for a dye as well as for medicine and for food, drying them for the winter season and for use in pemmican.
One of elderberry’s most well-known attributes is its ability to fight flu. It has been tested and found effective against H5N1 Avian flu, Influenza A and B, as well as MRSA and the bacteria that causes upper respiratory infections. Much of elderberry’s beneficial properties are due to its phytronutrient properties, the anthocyanidin compounds, which are antiviral. Black elderberries contain five times as much anthocyanins as blueberries! These beneficial phytochemicals stimulate cytokines, which help the body regulate immunity. Elderberries also contain flavenoids with strong antioxidant properties, such as quercetin, the benefits of which were discussed in last week’s column about Chicken of the Woods. Elderberry’s adaptogenic traits and ability to increase the body’s infection-fighting compounds is being studied for cancer, arthritis, AIDS, bronchitis, sinusitis, and even the common cold. Its well-established reputation for preventing illness, lessening symptoms, and shortening the duration of an illness make it worth the effort to gather!
Elderberry is high in vitamins A, C and fiber. While you can use the berries to make jelly or syrup just like any other fruit, it would be a waste to use it in such a common manner. But it does make the most delicious-tasting medicine! To prepare them, you’ll need to cook the berries first. All parts of the plant, including, to a lesser extent, the berries, contain a cyanide-inducing glycoside. Eat too many, and you can have a toxic buildup and become ill. You can make a tea or tincture, but the syrup tastes so much better! Stock your freezer or larder now and be ready for the winter flu season!