Last year, I gained new perspectives on plants. Ever since I began studying herbal medicine, I have had a feeling that there is more to plants than just leaves, branches, fruits and roots. I went to study with Nathaniel Hughes in England, who teaches Intuitive Herbalism. He has opened a door to plants for me. The perspective that plants are living beings in themselves with a character, mind and spirit as we do. We got introduced to plants, everyday plants that you may pass as you walk to work or in your backyard. It amazed me how I didn't notice them or realize how they were even present. In the Intuitive Herbalism course, Nathaniel showed us how to slow down to "plant speed." We humans move at such high speeds that we are not aware of other beings that may move and live at a slower pace. Humans use speech as a way of communication and don't realize that maybe other beings on the planet actually are communicating to us and each other in other ways.
This brings me back to Elder. Have you ever noticed how this plant blossoms at this time of year and perfumes the air with a mild sweet cooling scent? I noticed too that she, I experience Elder as a female being, is often hidden at other times of the year and right at the cusp of summer, she pops her head out beside the tram tracks, on the side of a walking path or even in the corner where the compost sits in the garden, like white fire shining in the newly summer sunlight. I experience her as a being of transition, like on a path or at the transition of spring into summer. Interestingly, this is one of the effects of Elder flower on our human body. It helps to cool fevers, which is in one perspective, a space of being in between worlds. In his book "Intuitive Herbalism," Nathaniel writes,
"The Elder mother is a creature of ancient folklore with many healing gifts for us. Perhaps the greatest among them is the power to lift us into fever, take us into timeless delirium and see us through. She offers an entrance to our underworld where we may see the causes in spirit of our illness and purge them through our sweat."
Whenever anyone in my family has a fever, we often drink the Elder flower syrup throughout the process. Previously, I imagined it only to be hydrating and cooling but this new perspective, that Nathaniel Hughes has given me, sure awakens my interest to explore further. So next time you or someone in your family has a fever, try drinking lots of Elder flower syrup, sleep and let the healing process begin.
Of course, Elder also has berries that ripen in autumn, which are helpful in clearing phlegm conditions. I have a friend who makes them into syrup and jams, but I haven't yet experimented with the berries. If you haven't tried making your own Elder Flower Syrup, try it. It's easy. Here's a recipe I've used for a while.
Elder Flower Syrup
10 sprigs or more of Elder flower
1 L water
1 kg sugar
2 lemons, grate the rind for more citrus flavor
20 g citric acid (optional)
Soak the flowers in the water overnight with lemons. Heat fluid with sugar (and citric acid) until melted. Strain liquid of the blossoms, lemon or insects. Fill while hot into airtight glass bottles to keep vacuum for conservation. With citric acid, the syrup will last longer. Otherwise, refrigerate and it should last at least a month. It makes about 1.5 L syrup. Once opened, keep refrigerated.
Photo by Elaine