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Elderberry is widespread throughout Europe. The healing powers of the elder bush have been known since ancient times. Mainly the blossoms and berries of the black elder (Sambucus nigra) are increasingly being used as a special natural remedy. Due to their ingredients, elderflowers are included in many medicinal preparations. They are also used fresh or dried as elderflower tea. The flowers can be harvested and processed in spring. Here are a few tips.
In spring, the white flowers appear in flat, plate-like umbels with their characteristic sweetish, aromatic fragrance. You can see them from afar. They are mainly used to make tea. They can be used fresh or dried. When dried, they can be stored for a longer period of time.
tip: Caution, leaves and stems of the plant are incompatible and can cause gastrointestinal problems.
Elderflower tea is a traditional herbal medicinal product. There are no known side effects from the active ingredients in the flowers. Even small amounts of elderflower tea can be given to babies and toddlers if they have symptoms. However, a doctor should always be consulted regarding the dosage. Due to the interaction of the ingredients of the elderflower, elderflower tea is often used in folk medicine for:
- influenza infections
- Respiratory tract infections, such as laryngitis
- sinus infection
- Fever, chills, cough and runny nose
- Bronchitis, for example to increase the formation of bronchial secretions
- bloating and stomach cramps
- rheumatism and gout
- depression and anxiety
- Bladder infections and to stimulate kidney activity
- bad body odor
- the detoxification of the body
But not only can elderberry tea provide relief, the natural remedy can do much more. The scent of the tea works well against stress and insomnia. In addition, the antioxidants contained in the tea ensure cell protection and thus contribute to strengthening the immune system.
A steam bath made from elderflower tea can work wonders for impure skin. After repeated applications, an improvement in the complexion is visible. A fifteen-minute foot bath can also be very helpful for swollen and heavy legs.
tip: Caution, large amounts of elderflower tea can quickly have a laxative effect.
Only fully ripe inflorescences are used. These must then be fully open and the plate-like, white umbels that can be seen from afar exude their characteristically sweet fragrance. Since these flowers are very sensitive, a few things should be considered when collecting them:
- Harvest from May to late June
- choose dry days
- preferably late morning or around noon
- Buds are at their most aromatic then
- only fully bloomed, white umbels
- Carefully cut off whole umbels with sharp secateurs or a knife
- choose only umbels where few insects are present
- Avoid aphids, often located on the stems of the flowers
- No harvesting of trees on busy roads due to high levels of pollution
- use a basket or wooden box for transport
- Lay out a kitchen towel on the floor to prevent the small flowers from trickling through
- Place buds loosely in containers, need to be able to breathe
- no use of plastic bags, flowers wither quickly, active ingredients are lost
- process immediately after successful harvest
tip: Please do not harvest all flower umbels from a shrub or tree. Leave some for bees, then the black berries can also be harvested in autumn and used to make juice or jam, for example.
The harvested flowers can be used both fresh and dried to brew elderberry tea. If a rich harvest has taken place, it is advisable to dry the cones. This way you can stock up for the winter. In addition, dried elderflowers have a much more intense taste compared to fresh ones. Before drying takes place, however, the flower umbels must be properly prepared:
- Remove insects and other foreign bodies from blossoms by gently tapping them
- Remove stems now or after drying
tip: Never wash 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, dab them well.
Then you can start drying the elderflowers. There are now various options here. However, it is important that there is always even heat and appropriate air circulation. A place protected from light is suitable for drying. The procedure is then as follows:
- Spread out the blossoms loosely and widely on a baking sheet lined with baking paper or kitchen paper
- Do not overlap flowers
- put in an airy place out of direct sunlight
- Turn flower umbels at intervals to avoid mold growth
Alternatively, five to six flower clusters can be tied together by the stem and then hung upside down on a line in a shady, dry spot. In both cases, drying usually takes between two and four days.
If the humidity is very high, drying can also take place in the oven. This is what the umbels are for
- also spread out on a paper-lined baking sheet
- Oven heated to 30 to 40 °C
- Sheet inserted
- Oven door left slightly open for air circulation
- Blossoms turned again and again
- after about an hour the drying process is complete
After an initial drying, there is sometimes still some residual moisture in the flowers. This can lead to mold growth. A subsequent drying is then advisable.
When the buds are completely dry, they usually fall off the stems on their own, rustling when touched. Now all stems should be carefully removed and the small flowers should be carefully crumbled if necessary.
They must always be stored away from light in dark glasses. These must also be easy to close so that the essential oils are preserved in the flowers. The oils not only give the tea its characteristic taste, but only then can they properly develop their effect on a wide variety of complaints.
Prepare elderflower tea
Elderflower tea is not only a widespread natural remedy for influenza infections, but it is also a tasty drink outside of the cold season. Honey or orange and lemon slices can be used to refine it. At the same time, the immune system can be strengthened by enjoying it.
Preparation for a cup:
- 3 to 4.5 g, about 2 to 3 teaspoons, fresh or dried flowers needed
- these are best placed in a tea infuser or filter
- scald with 250 ml of no longer boiling water
- Cover and leave to stand for 5 to 10 minutes
- If necessary, strain the tea afterwards
Elderflower tea can also be used as an inhalation steam bath for sinus infections or a persistent cough. Four tablespoons of elderflower are poured with boiling water and then the steam is inhaled for ten minutes. It is best to place a towel over your head and vessel.
tip: Although no side effects are known, you should not exceed a daily dose of 12 to 15 g, i.e. about four cups, of elderflower tea. Otherwise it can have a laxative effect.