By Karen McCarthy with additions by Stephanie Karlovits

Elder Flowers Defined

Elder Flowers, also called European elder, have a long history of use in traditional German medicine. They have antioxidant properties and an antiviral effect, which is why they’re still popularly used to help fight off colds and flu. Elder flowers can be brewed as an herbal tea. Elder Flowers are most popular in the food scene because of its delightful flavor. Catch it in unique cocktails or in health-food store beverages. Although the “it” flavor right now, using Elder Flower as a tea for its health benefits short-term (4-6 weeks) boasts many advantages throughout the Fall and Winter seasons.

Antioxidant Content

Elder contains Vitamin C, which is important for the health of your skin, blood vessels, tendons and ligaments. It also contains a flavonoid called quercetin, a powerful antioxidant. Its high antioxidant content makes elder flower tea beneficial for protecting your body from oxidative stress, which can lead to common chronic diseases, including heart disease, cancer and diabetes.

Flu-Fighting Ability

A study published in the “Online Journal of Pharmacology and PharmacoKinetics” in 2009 found that elder flower extract is very effective in treating flu symptoms. Participants experiencing three or more flu symptoms were given four doses daily of elder flower extract at 175 milligrams, while others were given a placebo. After just two days, 28 percent of the elder flower group were no longer experiencing symptoms and 60 percent had significantly less severe symptoms, while the placebo group showed no improvements in symptom prevalence or severity. Despite these promising findings, the benefits of drinking elder flower tea have not been confirmed.

Cholesterol-Fighting Ability

A study published in the “European Journal of Clinical Nutrition” in 2004 found that elderberry juice lowered total cholesterol and triglyceride levels in young adults after two weeks of daily doses. Elder flowers themselves have not been studied for their effect on cholesterol, but they do contain quercetin, which was found to reduce cholesterol levels in test tube studies. More research is needed to determine whether drinking elder flower tea improves cholesterol levels.

Herbal Solutions to Modern World Challenges

As much as we avoid talking about bowel movements and our personal digestion let’s take note of some important points here. Bowel movements that reflect either periods of constipation and/or periods of diarrhea equates to poor digestion and assimilation of nutrients. When this occurs we are simply not receiving the benefits of the food we are eating. One way to assist with this is through the use of elder flower tea. It is mostly beneficial for constipation. Other uses that help us in the modern world are for any inflammation, nasal congestion or coughing. So, sit back, put on the kettle and enjoy!

Consumption Notes

Consume elder flower tea as part of a short-term defense for cold and flu season. Long-term consumption safety has not been determined. The berries of the elder plant are used as medicine, but they are toxic when consumed raw. The bark, leaves and seeds of the elder plant are toxic and should be completely avoided. Elder flower may have a diuretic effect and enhance the effect of other diuretics, whether natural or pharmaceutical. Consult with your doctor if you’re taking any medications, as they could interact with elder flowers. Avoid elder flower tea if you’re pregnant or breast-feeding.