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Monday, August 27, 2012

Listen to your Elder....Elderberry Boost

It is that time of year when children and college students return to the confinement of buses, classrooms and dorms. A healthy immune system is continuously at work protecting us from the threat of invading viral, bacterial and fungal infection.

Exposure to such environmental threats on a body in a weakened state wears down our resources and we find ourselves feeling out of sorts or flat out sick. Learn how to reduce susceptibility to illness by strengthening your immune system.

One of nature's medicines is the wild elder (Sambucus species). A shrubby, unruly bush found among hedgerows, this small tree is lanky and not much to look at when not in bloom. Attempts to rid unkept landscapes of this shrub are often in vain as it easily resprouts even after a hard pruning.

Every June this versatile herb is beautiful as it is covered with large, saucer-shaped off-white flowers. These flowers can be gathered and used as a food source such as flower fritters, a wash or toner to maintain clear skin, or as a medicinal tea to clear congestion in the respiratory tract, relieve hay fever or aid in reducing fevers. Poultices for minor burns, wounds and swollen joints are made with mashed flowers wrapped in layers of cheesecloth. Elder flower water was once considered a valuable beauty aid among women to keep the face blemish and freckle free, as well as a great aid for sunburn.

The following vinegar spritz can be used as relief for overexposure to the sun as well as a skin balancing astringent if diluted with water.

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In the late summer
the flowers have turned to dark blue berries often sought after for jam, wine and syrups. If you wait too long the bushes are soon stripped clean by the birds. Don't eat these right off the bush. The fresh berries can upset your stomach. Dry or cook the berries before eating them. If you do collect your own elderberries, make sure they are the dark blue or black ones and not the red berries. The red berries belong to S. racemosa which is toxic.

Elder is a cleansing herb that improves the body's ability to flush out toxins. It increases sweating and acts both as a diuretic and laxative. Little scientific research has been done with elder's medicinal properties, but historically black elder was one of the most popular medicinal herbs throughout Europe. In North America various Indian tribes such as the Iroquois, Delaware and Cherokee used both the flowers and the berries for rheumatism, skin problems, infections, and liver problems.

Years back, elderberries were used to darken and "age" cheap port wine. It was then discovered that drinking of this wine relieved rheumatic pain and nervous system pain such as sciatica.

Strengthen your family's immune system by daily use of the following elixir or use at the first symptoms of illness. This syrup can be taken right off a spoon or added to hot water and honey as a tea. Being this syrup is honey based it should not be used by children under 1 year of age.

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So respect and listen to your elder!