It’s the time of elderflowers, following all the other blossoming trees in a superabundance of flowers after the hard winter. You can pick as much as you like, and still leave plenty to give a good berry crop in the autumn. The elder tree (Sambucus nigra) is practically a medicine chest all by itself: a fellow herbalist did some research and came up with 43 different uses; most medicinal, some practical and some just plain wonderful. Leaves, flowers and fruit are all valuable healing tools, but the flowers in particular are an excellent remedy for the common cold. They are warming and moisturising, helping sore throats, chest infections and blocked sinuses to resolve – and elderflower tea tastes lovely, too.

Make elderflower cordial or wine to keep for later, as well. Rub the leaves on your skin to repel midges and mosquitos. Hang branches above your door to keep away lightning and witchcraft. Even make elderflower fritters if you must, but don’t let them go to waste.


  1. More or less. Sambucus nigra (Common Elder) is the most useful medicinally, but they all share a basic character. I'm sure your house will be safe from lightning strike :-)

    — Su Sat, 11 Jun 2011

  2. I have a purple elder in my garden with beautiful sprays of pink starry flowers. Does it have the same properties as the common elder?

    — Cathie Fri, 10 Jun 2011

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