Origins and history
The Elder Tree is found throughout Europe, Asia, North Africa, and has been naturalized in the United States.
The word Elder comes from the Anglo-saxon word aeld meaning 'fire'. The tree has been called 'the medicine chest of the common people' and has been used in traditional folk medicine for centuries. The generic name Sambucus occurs in the writings of Pliny, and is adapted from the Greek word Sambuca, 'an ancient musical instrument made from the wood of the tree'.
Egyptians discovered that applying its flowers improved the complexion
The Greeks used a tea from the root as a laxative
In the 17th century the British often drank home made wine and cordials that were thought to prolong life and cure the common cold
Many early Indian tribes used Elder berries in teas and other beverages and the flowers for medicinal purposes
Gypsies used Elder flowers as an eyewash
Tradition: This herb has a long history dating beyond the stone ages:
Judas was thought to have hanged himself from an Elder Tree
In the Middle Ages it was thought that the Elder tree was home to witches (in Denmark a 'dryad') and that cutting down the tree would bring on the wrath of those residing in the branches
Shakespeare refers to it as a 'symbol of grief'.
An old custom among gypsies forbids them from using its wood in their fires
The Russians and the English believe that Elder trees ward off evil spirits
It is considered good luck to plant a tree near your home as the Elder will offer protection to the dwellers
Sicilians think that sticks of Elder wood can kill serpents and drive away thieves
It is used at weddings to bring good luck to the newlyweds