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Elderflower & Elderberry Uses

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The elder or Sambucus plant has so very much to offer us both in elderflowers and elderberries. Maximize all their uses with these easy ideas and tips.

A picture of ripe elderberries hanging from the shrub, stacked on top of text overlay stating: how to use elderberry & elderflower, stacked on top of a photo of elderflowers in bloom on leafy branches.

Learn how to prepare elderberries as well as the elderflower benefits in my interview with Susannah Shmurak, blogger behind Healthy Green Savvy and author of Everything Elderberry: How to Forage, Cultivate, and Cook with this Amazing Natural Remedy.

How to Find Elder

Elder grows in most of the world. It can be foraged or cultivated.

Like any foraging adventure – make 100% sure of your elderberry identification before ingesting either the flower or the berries.

The flowers are generally in bloom in mid-summer, the berries ready to harvest in late summer, early fall. This will vary by location. Ask around in your area from other foragers or gardeners.

Elderflower in bloom on leafy branches.

If foraging feels out of the realm of possibility and you don’t have it in your garden or know someone who does, it is possible to buy dried elderberries.

Elderflower too can be purchased dried but isn’t often as tasty as fresh.

Safety Issues

When ingesting elder, we only want to use the flowers or berries. Do not ingest stem, roots, bark, or leaves.

Ripe elderberries hanging from the bush.

While it is unlikely to kill someone, ingesting the bark or leaves can cause great stomach upset. Again, only the flowers and berries should be used internally.

There is a lot of myth and uncertainty around elderberries and their safety. In her book, Susannah goes into great depth around the history of elderberries, as well as examines scientific studies and more to assure us all that we can safely use the flowers and berries.

The book everything elderberry sitting on a picnic table with fresh leaves and elderberries surrounding it.

It is deeply fascinating and worth educating ourselves in order to not perpetuate falsehoods or ignore something useful to our homes because of some untruth passed on from someone else.

As with anything – talk to your health care provider before using any herbal remedy and avoid if allergic. Pregnant and nursing women should also avoid.

Elder in the Apothecary

Elderberries are known and revered for their ability to stimulate an immune response which helps us fight those colds and flus.

Elderflowers are often used to help cool fevers – it does this often by encouraging the body to sweat.

Topically, elderflowers are used on the skin to soothe and soften.

An open jar of elderberry syrup sitting on a floral placemat with a spoon, surrounded by fresh elderberries.

Elderberry syrup is easy to make and quite a tasty medicine to take at that. I make it and can it for easy shelf-stable storage.

Use elderberry syrup to make gummies in fun shapes and perhaps make the medicine go down easier.

A tincture made from the fresh or dried berries is also easy to make and store.

Make a tea or liquor from the elderflowers for easy use at home.

Elderflowers can also be used in salves for softer skin.

Elder as a Food Source

Elderberries seem to be an old-fashioned food source these days. We tend to opt for sweeter berries more often, but elderberries are indeed edible and delicious in a number of different ways.

2 open jars of elderberry jelly on table surrounded by fresh elderberries, leaves, and coffee cups.

Use them as part of a very simple make-ahead breakfast in these elderberry overnight oats.

Elderberry jelly is tasty and provides a bit of that immune boost to your morning toast too!

Combine elderberries with chocolate for a dessert torte you can feel good about serving.

Give your breakfast muffins a delightful flavor by adding elderflowers.

Make a fizzy and refreshing drink with this elderflower kombucha.

Get creative and try using them in your favorite berry or floral recipes!

Do pick yourself up a copy of Everything Elderberry so that you can learn more and be inspired with its amazing collection of recipes and remedies.

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Beja Williams

Thursday 14th of October 2021

Can you make a jam with the blossom, I live in Central Florida and make jams with elderberry & blackberry. But would like to try a light flower jam Ty

Kathie Lapcevic

Monday 18th of October 2021

You can make a jelly by making a tea from the flowers and then adding sugar, pectin, etc. You need a lot of sugar because it's so very low acid.


Thursday 17th of September 2020

My mom made a tea with the fresh flowers and it was to help with fever. I love the flavor of the berries also. Thank you for this post!