sambucus nigra

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Used in herbal medicine since Hippocrates. Grows to 30 ft tall (10m) Very popular in the health food industry. The berries don't taste great, but they can be used in smoothies or juiced. They are a no-care plant. The flowers and berry fruits are edible, the rest is too toxic for most people. Only eat ripe berries and flowers. Never eat bark, leaves or unripe berries. Pointy folded leaves, opposite, 5-9 at a time, white 5- petal flowers in umbrella clusters, which later become black or blue shiny berries, which can be eaten raw or cooked when ripe. Some people get nauseous after eating them (cooked or raw) so a rumor started they were poisonous. They aren’t. Depends on the person and how healthy they are. Some say cooking the berries makes them less toxic. But one thing is agreed among almost everyone- elderberries contain lots of great medicinal power. They’ve been used historically for everything from arthritis to asthma to colds, flu, yeast, nasal congestion, hay fever, tonsillitis, infections, and now anti-aging because of the anthocyanins they contain.. Good for flu and viruses because it stimulates immune system while enhancing white blood cell activity and inhibit viral replication. The little creamy white flowers and ripe berry fruits are edible (cooked), the rest is toxic. Do not eat the leaves and twigs, which smell bad when crushed. The dark purple, blue or black berries have 3 seeds and taste funky when ripe, but taste better when dried. Bark tea used as external wash for skin problems. Red elderberries MUST be cooked first, they are more toxic and taste terrible. Sometimes they grow next to each other, so be careful not to confuse elderberry plants with poison or water hemlock, which have multi-umbrella flower clusters, elderberry has one. Water hemlock leaves are smaller and the plant stems are hollow (elderberry stems are pithy). Water hemlock is a herb-like plant while elderberry is a heavy duty bush.
Edible Plant Guide © 2012 Markus Rothkranz
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