Written about long ago by the Roman naturalist, Pliny the Elder (ca. 23-79 BCE), Elder flower has an extended history of use in a variety of traditional systems of medicine. In fact, its current use as a diaphoretic stems from traditional Greek medicine. From Greece, it spread to India where its same indications for use were introduced. It is still used today within Ayurvedic medicine, the ancient healing tradition of India.
Elder flower is primarily considered a diaphoretic, a herb which promotes sweating and thus a natural, gentle lowering of the body temperature. It is excellent for helping to relieve fevers associated with colds and flus, and is often combined with Yarrow and Peppermint leaf for this purpose – they are also diaphoretics.
Elder flower may best be taken as a tea when used for fevers, as this will also help ensure that dehydration (from the fever) doesn’t occur. Other preparations such as Elder berry syrup, or commercially manufactured extracts in tablet form, are also available.
Oh, and of course, there’s always that ‘medicinal’ Elder berry wine!