Elderberry is widespread throughout Europe. The healing powers of the elder bush have been known since ancient times. Today, it is mainly the blossoms and berries of the black elderberry (Sambucus nigra) that are increasingly being used again as a special natural remedy. Due to their ingredients, elderberry blossoms are contained in many medicinal preparations. They are also used fresh or dried as elderflower tea. The flowers can be harvested and prepared in spring. Here are some tips on how to do this.
In spring, the white flowers appear in flat, plate-like umbels with their characteristic sweet aromatic fragrance. They are visible from far away. They are mainly used for making tea. They are used fresh or dried. In the dried state, they can be stored for a longer period of time.
Tip: Caution, leaves and stems of the plant are incompatible and can cause gastrointestinal disorders.
Elderflower tea is a traditional herbal medicine. No side effects are known from the active ingredients of the flowers. Thus, even small amounts of elderflower tea can be administered to infants and young children in case of discomfort. However, the dosage should always be discussed with a doctor. Due to the interaction of the ingredients of elderflowers, in folk medicine elderflower tea is often used for:
- flu-like infections
- infections of the respiratory tract, for example laryngitis
- fever, chills, coughs and colds
- bronchitis, for example, to increase the production of bronchial secretions
- flatulence and stomach cramps
- rheumatism and gout
- Depression and anxiety
- bladder infections and to stimulate kidney activity
- bad body odor
- purification of the body
However, elderberry tea can provide relief not only in these cases, but the natural remedy can do much more. The scent of the tea works well against stress and sleep disorders. In addition, the antioxidants contained in the tea provide cell protection and thus contribute to strengthening the immune system.
In case of impure skin, a steam bath made of elderflower tea can do wonders. After several applications, an improvement in the skin’s appearance is visible. A fifteen-minute foot bath can also be very helpful for swollen and heavy legs.
Tip: Be careful, larger ingested amounts of elderflower tea can quickly have a laxative effect.
Only fully ripe inflorescences are used. These must then be fully open and in the process the plate-like, white umbels visible from afar exude their characteristic sweet fragrance. Since these flowers are very sensitive, some things should be taken into account when collecting:
- harvest from May to the end of June
- choose dry days
- best late in the morning or around midday
- flowers are most aromatic then
- only fully bloomed, white umbels
- carefully cut off whole cones with sharp garden shears or knife
- choose only cones where there are few insects
- avoid aphids, which are often on the stem of the flowers
- do not harvest from trees near busy roads, because of high pollutant load
- use basket or wooden box for transport
- lay out kitchen towel on the floor, prevents the small blossoms from trickling through
- place blossoms loosely in containers, must be able to breathe
- do not use plastic bags, flowers wilt quickly, active ingredients are lost
- process immediately after successful harvest
Tip: Please do not harvest all the flower umbels from a bush or tree. Leave some for bees, then in autumn the black berries can also be harvested and used to make juice or jam, for example.
The harvested flowers can be used both fresh and dried for brewing elderberry tea. If an abundant harvest has taken place, it is advisable to dry the cones. In this way, a supply can be created for the winter. In addition, dried elderflowers are much more intense in flavor compared to fresh. Before drying, however, the flower umbels must be properly prepared:
- Remove insects and other foreign matter from blossoms by lightly tapping them.
- Remove stems now or after drying
Tip: Never wash the flower umbels, as this will result in the loss of aromatic substances and make drying more difficult. If the flowers are still a little damp, then dab well.
Then you can start drying the elderflowers. There are now various possibilities for this. However, it is important that there is always an even heat and appropriate air circulation. A place protected from light is suitable for drying. It is then proceeded as follows:
- Spread the blossoms out loosely on a tray lined with baking paper or kitchen paper, for example.
- Do not overlap the flowers
- place in an airy place without sunlight
- turn the flowers over at intervals to prevent the formation of mold.
Alternatively, five to six flower umbels can be tied together at the stem and then hung upside down on a line in a shady, dry place. In either case, drying usually takes between two and four days.
If there is very high humidity, drying can also be done in the oven. For this purpose the cones are
- spread out on a baking tray lined with paper.
- Heat the oven to 30 to 40 °C
- Sheet inserted
- Oven door left slightly open for air circulation
- Turn the flowers over and over again
- after about one hour the drying process is finished
After initial drying, there may still be some residual moisture in the blossoms. This can lead to mold growth. It is then advisable to dry them again.
When the flowers are completely dry, they usually fall off the stems by themselves and rustle when touched. All stems should then be carefully removed and the small flowers carefully crumbled if necessary.
The storage must always be protected from light in dark jars. These must also be well sealed so that the essential oils in the flowers are preserved. The oils not only give the tea its characteristic taste, but can also only then properly unfold their effect on a wide variety of ailments.
Preparing elderflower tea
Elderflower tea is not only a widespread natural remedy for flu-like infections, but it is also a tasty drink outside the cold season. Honey or orange and lemon slices can be used to refine the taste. At the same time, drinking it can strengthen the body’s defenses.
Preparation for one cup:
- 3 to 4.5 g, about 2 to 3 teaspoons, fresh or dried flowers needed
- put them into a tea infuser or filter
- pour 250 ml of not boiling water over it
- let steep covered for 5 to 10 minutes
- if necessary strain the tea afterwards
In case of sinusitis or stuck cough, elderflower tea can also be used as an inhalation steam bath. For this purpose, four tablespoons of elderflower are poured over boiling water and then the steam is inhaled for ten minutes. It is best to put a towel over the head and the vessel.
Tip: Although no side effects are known, you should not exceed a daily dose of 12 to 15 g, that is, about four cups, elderflower tea. It can otherwise have a laxative effect.