Spring is beginning to showing its beauty in the Greek countryside. Even though transportation between prefectures is not allowed and some areas are still in the ‘deep red’ alert zone due to the coronavirus, short tours in the forests near the towns where people live or inside parks within its boundaries are feasible. There you can collect many herbs and fruits for the whole year.
One perfect example is Sambucus nigra, or the elder tree. Hiking near Greek rivers and streams, you can find this big fluffy tree with white flowers in an umbrella-like shape. Besides providing nice shade for your picnic, it can offer you flowers or fruits to use in many ways.
The elder tree is one of the rare examples of a plant whose use is still the same from ancient times until today. From Theophrastus and Dioscorides to the coronavirus era, Sambucus flowers and fruit are still the King when it comes to relieving sore throats and dry coughs. The dried flowers can help you relieve, fever, asthma, and even toothaches! The flowers contain potassium nitrate, essential oils, tannins and terpenes and the fresh fruit has vitamin C and many other vitamins, acids, sugars, and essential oils.
If you dry the flowers you can use them in many ways. A simple use is as an herbal tea for your throat. A teaspoon in a cup of tea for five minutes is enough. Honey is a good addition also, but elder is already a ‘sweet herb’. If you don’t wish to drink it, you can make a gargle mouthwash as an antiseptic for coughs and toothaches. Also, you can make a syrup: two lemons in slices, 30 elderflower blossoms, 1 kg of sugar, 20 g of citric acid, 1 liter of water. Boil them all together for five minutes. Let it sit for 48 hours and then stir it. Then boil it again in order to prepare it for airtight containers or jars. Keep it in the fridge for two months. Serve in a ratio of 1:8 (or in a different ratio … depending your preference) with soda water and add some ice cubes, lemon slices, and mint leaves! An easier way is to directly freeze elder cubes for summer days! Enjoy!
* The above is not medical advice but mere suggestions for improving your diet. Before reach herbal use you should consult your doctor, especially those who have health issues, are pregnant or are under the age of 6.
Evropi-Sofia Dalampira, PhD Agricultural Economics, MSc Botany-Biology