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These plants, funghi and insect illustrations
are part of my botanical oracle deck

Sambucus nigra | Elder

Updated: Jun 4

Sambucus nigra, elder bush, is a flowering plant in the Adoxaceae family. It is native to Europe and North America and is well-known for its clusters of small, dark purple to black berries, which are used in culinary and traditional medicinal applications. Elderberries have a rich history of folklore and have been valued for their potential health benefits.

Botanical information:

  • Sambucus nigra belongs to the Adoxaceae family.

  • The plant can grow up to 30 feet tall and has dark green, pinnate leaves that are about 6-12 inches long with 5-7 leaflets.

  • Elderberry produces small, white or cream-colored flowers in large, flat-topped clusters in late spring or early summer, which are followed by small, dark purple to black berries in the fall.

Medicinal Properties:

  • Immune Support:Antioxidant Rich: Elderberries are high in antioxidants, particularly flavonoids, which may contribute to their immune-boosting properties. Antiviral Effects: Some studies suggest that elderberry extracts help inhibit the replication of certain viruses, including the flu.

  • Cold and Flu Relief: Symptomatic Relief: Elderberry syrup or supplements are often used to alleviate symptoms of the common cold and flu.

  • Respiratory Health:Anti-Inflammatory*: Elderberry has anti-inflammatory properties that may benefit respiratory health. Mucolytic Effects: It is believed to have mucolytic properties, helping to break down mucus.

  • Antioxidant Properties:Cardioprotective: The antioxidants in elderberries may contribute to cardiovascular health by reducing oxidative stress.

  • Rich in Nutrients:Vitamins and Minerals: Elderberries contain vitamin C, vitamin A, potassium, and other essential nutrients.

Aromatherapeutic Properties:

  • Uplifting: The sweet and fruity scent of elder essential oil can have uplifting effects, helping to improve mood and alleviate stress.

  • Calming: Inhaling the aroma may induce a sense of calm and relaxation, making it beneficial for stress relief.

  • Antioxidant Boost: The aromatherapy use of elder may provide a subtle antioxidant boost, contributing to a sense of well-being.

Magical Correspondences:

  • Elderberry is associated with the element of water, and has protective and healing properties.

  • It has the power to banish negative energies, protect against evil spirits, and bring blessings and good luck.

  • Elderberry is also associated with the goddesses Hecate, Hel, and Holda, and is said to be a potent ingredient in spells related to divination, healing, and transformation.

Elemental Correspondences:

  • Element: Water

Planetary and Astrological Correspondences:

  • Planet: Venus

  • Zodiac Sign: Cancer

Associated Deities and Traditions:

  • In European folklore, elderberry is associated with a number of traditions and beliefs, including the idea that the plant is inhabited by a spirit that can grant protection and good luck.

  • The plant is also associated with the goddess Holda, who is said to have given the elder tree its healing properties.

  • In modern pagan and Wiccan traditions, elderberry is often used in spells and rituals related to protection, healing, and divination, as well as in recipes for teas, tinctures, and other healing preparations.


Elderflower Syrup Recipe:


  1. Elderflowers: About 20 elderflower heads, freshly picked and inspected for insects.

  2. Sugar: 2 cups of granulated sugar.

  3. Water: 2 cups of water.

  4. Lemon: 1 lemon, sliced.

  5. Citric Acid (Optional)/Lemons: 1 tablespoon (helps preserve the syrup and adds tartness) or lemons to taste.


  1. Prepare the Elderflowers:

  • Gently shake the elderflower heads to remove any insects.

  • Trim excess stems, leaving mainly the flower heads.

  1. Make a Syrup Base:

  • In a saucepan, combine the sugar and water.

  • Heat over low heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves.

  • Bring to a gentle simmer and let it simmer for about 5 minutes.

  1. Infuse with Elderflowers:

  • Remove the sugar-water mixture from heat.

  • Add the elderflowers and lemon slices to the hot syrup.

  • Stir well, ensuring the flowers are fully submerged.

  1. Steeping Process:

  • Cover the saucepan and let the mixture steep for 24 to 48 hours at room temperature.

  • The longer it steeps, the more intense the elderflower flavor.

  1. Strain the Mixture:

  • After steeping, strain the syrup through a fine mesh sieve or cheesecloth into a clean bowl or jug.

  • Press down on the flowers to extract all the flavors.

  1. Optional Step: Add Citric Acid

  • If you want to extend the shelf life and add a bit of tartness, dissolve citric acid in a tablespoon of hot water and add it to the syrup. Stir well.

  1. Bottle and Store:

  • Pour the strained syrup into sterilized glass bottles or jars.

  • Store in the refrigerator. Properly stored, elderflower syrup can last for several weeks.



  1. Elderberry Syrup:

  • Ingredients: Elderberries, water, honey.

  • Preparation: Simmer elderberries in water, strain, and mix with honey. Used as a syrup for immune support.

  1. Elderberry Tea:

  • Ingredients: Dried elderberries, hot water.

  • Preparation: Steep dried elderberries in hot water for a soothing tea.

  1. Elderberry Tincture:

  • Ingredients: Dried elderberries, alcohol.

  • Preparation: Combine dried elderberries with alcohol to create a tincture.


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