Elderflowers are the part of the Eldertree that is most commonly used in contemporary herbal medicine. The flowers have a long-standing reputation as a treatment for all kinds of inflammatory and congestive conditions of the respiratory system, especially when these are accompanied by fever. An infusion can be made to treat coughs, colds and flus, asthma and hayfever. The diaphoretic action helps to reduce fevers and thus it has often proven useful in cases of measles, scarlet fever and other infections. Externally an infusion of Elderflowers can be added to the bath-water for a wonderfully refreshing bath that soothes irritable nerves and relieves itchy skin. A cool infusion can be used as an eyewash for sore or inflamed eyes. Earache may be relieved by means of a poultice made from the flowers. For this purpose a small linen bag is filled with flowers, briefly dipped in hot water and squeezed to press out any excess liquid before it is applied to the aching ear. Use elderflower to relieve an oppressive, emotional state of mind and if you feel stuck in a certain situation. It magickally calms anxieties and fears with its natural relaxing properties. Elderflower is also used to stimulate joy and aid recovery for yourself or others.
Ancient texts from Hippocrates (460 – 370BC), Dioscorides (40 – 90 AD), and Pliney the Elder (23 – 79 AD) include information about elder, indicating its longstanding value in herbal medicine.
The energetics of the flowers are bitter and slightly sweet, dry, and cooling and modern day herbalists suggest using an infusion of elder flower as a diaphoretic to induce sweating during a cold or flu.
Since Egyptian times, topical infusions of elder flowers have been used to reduce facial wrinkles and lighten freckles and age spots. A stronger infusion helped skin rashes, eczema, and measles. Infusions were also included in creams for chapped hands and added to baths for sunburns.
Flowers steeped in oil were beneficial for diaper rashes. The infusion has also been used as a hair and scalp rinse, especially when there are lesions on the scalp.
Elder flowers have an anti-inflammatory effect on the upper respiratory system when under stress from colds, flu, or sinusitis.
A traditional blend for treating respiratory complaints includes equal parts of elder flower, yarrow, and mint. Adding boneset when there is achiness is also considered helpful.
Some herbalists believe the flower infusion or tincture may be beneficial for hay fever, but only if started prior to pollen appearing. Additionally, elderflower may give relief as an expectorant when there is excess mucus. A strong infusion may be used as a gargle for sore throats, and as a compress for headaches. A cold infusion of the flowers has been used as an eye wash for inflamed eyes, for both man and dogs.