Scientists have found evidence in Switzerland and Italy that elderberry has been used for many different things since ancient times.

According to folklore, spirits lived in these bushes, so watch out.

In Europe the elderberry bushes are used to make musical wind pipes, but the common elderberry bushes that are found in America have been used for medicine, to make wine and dyes or eaten.

Native Americans used a tea from the inner bark as a laxative. A poultice, from the inner bark, was used to treat cuts and swollen muscles. They used a poultice from the leaves on bruises and to treat minor cuts to stop the bleeding. Early settlers used a bark tea to wash old ulcers and sores, a peppermint and bark tea mix to treat colds and cause sweating to reduce fever.

Today it is not recommended to use elderberry internally because the roots, bark, leaves and berries that aren’t ripe are toxic and are said to cause cyanide poisoning. They contain poisonous alkaloids.

The ripe berries are used to make wine and a dye. Different parts of the plant provide us with varied colored dyes. Its mature ripe berries will give a dark purple dye, the bark and the roots produce a black dye and the leaves make a green dye. When elderberry is in bloom, we can make fritters out of the blossoms and have a feast if we wish to.

This plant grows in rich moist ground from Canada south to Georgia and west to Texas. It blooms in June and July, but the fruit does not set on until August and September.



Columnist Connie Taylor may be reached at connietaylorflp@yahoo.com

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