Uses of the Elderberry Flower

Elderberry trees grow from Nova Scotia to North Carolina and from British Columbia to Arizona in North America and throughout Europe, except for the northernmost mountains. Both traditional herbalists and cooks make use of every part of the elderberry, including the flowers, which grow in lacy, white, umbrella-like clusters called umbels.

Medicinal

Elderflowers contain phytochemicals, which American botanist James A. Duke calls “good viral vanquishers.” Elderberry syrup reduced the severity of flu symptoms and shortened their duration by about four days in a 2000 study published in the Journal of International Medical Research.
Germany’s Commission E, which studied research on traditional herbs in the late 1970s and early 1980s, approved the use of elderflower extracts to induce sweating for fever and treat congestion during a cold. In Germany, only herbs approved by Commission E may be sold for medicinal purposes.
Elderberry flower infusion used externally reduces inflammation, including the inflammation of hemorrhoids, Maud Grieve wrote in “A Modern Herbal.” The University of Maryland Medical Center’s database on complementary medicine notes that elderberry may have anti-inflammatory properties.

Cosmetic

“A Modern Herbal” gives recipes for using elderflowers in teas, infusions, lotions and ointments. Elderflower water keeps the skin white, soft and free of acne, according to Grieve. Elderflowers added to bath water soften the skin and make “a most refreshing bath,” Grieve wrote. Ointment made with equal parts lard and flowers helps heal chapped hands and can be used as a face cream.

Culinary

Elderberries can be used in wine, cordials and other drinks. Elderflower champagne, made of flowers, sugar, lemons, white vinegar and water, takes just two weeks to ferment. The flowers can be infused in vinegar for vinaigrette or boiled with sugar and reduced to a syrup that, when mixed with carbonated water, makes a refreshing soft drink. Frozen elderflower flower syrup becomes sorbet. You can find the recipe at the Pacific School of Herbal Medicine website.

Fresh elderberry flowers, carefully separated from their stems, add flavor and color to green salads. The flower clusters, dipped in batter and deep fried, make elderberry flower fritters, similar to squash blossom fritters.

About this Author

Since 2001, Deb Powers has been using the knowledge collected over fifty years to write how-to guides and informational articles about a wide variety of subjects. Deb has ghost-written more than a dozen informational e-books on subjects ranging from financial advice to bullying prevention. Her poetry has appeared in “The Astrophysicist\’s Tango Partner Speaks”, “The Ballard Street Poetry Journal” and “The November 3rd Club”.