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Radical Botany- Red and Blue Elderberry Skillshare

The Red berried plant is much more easy to find than the blue or black berried plant. It is found in swampy lowlands and hilly uplands of Western Cascadia. I find it growing in several-year-old clearcuts. Birds and other wildlife love the berry on this plant and will often drop the seeds in their dung -helping to reseed it. It is only slightly useful to humans: great for Elderberry wine. Unless handled with care- great way to get a huge stomach ache.
Red Elderberry
Red Elderberry
Blessings from the sun. It is warm today and a good day for skillsharing.

I hope that you will join in the discussion

Elderberry - Red and Blue

I grew up using the elderberry in several ways. My family made jam and jelly and later as an adult I made elderberry wine for contributions to late fall fermenting gatherings. We did not eat the berries fresh as I was told they were poisonous. In fact we used gloves to harvest the berries. The berries had to be cooked to take out the poisonous quality. I was told that they would not kill you only make you very sick. I knew that some people also used the blue or black elderberry in a fruit leather or survival food called pemmican. Pemmican is a combination of protein, fat and wild berries.

Native names: (reference: Erna Gunther (1))
Quinault - K'we'lap = bark of the elderberry
Skagit - tstkwik
Squaxin - t'sikwi'kwats = plant;
t'sikwik = berries

Latin name:
Red Elderberry - sambucus racemosa L.
Blue Elderberry - S. cerulean Raf.
Both are in the Huckleberry family (caorufkiuaceae)

This is bushy plant. The plant is found west of the Cascade Mountain Range throughout British Columbia, Washington and Oregon. The Red berried plant is much more easy to find that the blue or black berried plant. It is found in swampy lowlands and hilly uplands. I find it growing in several-year-old clearcuts. Birds love the berry on this plant and will often drop the seeds in their dung -helping to reseed it.

The tribes of Cascadia used both the blue and the red elderberry. The informants reported that it was much easier to find the red elderberry.

The Elderberry plant had many utility uses but was used only by master craftsmen as the plant can be poisonous (2):
- The Quinault removed the pith from the stem and inserted a plug, to make a whistle for calling Elk.
- The stem was also used for drinking straws blowguns and pipe stems
- HOWEVER, Turner (2) reports that the stems, roots and foliage of the Elderberry plant are poisonous and therefore their use for such items is not recommended.

According to Pojar and MacKinnon the berries must be cooked also. They may make you nauseated if you eat them raw.

"Red Elderberries though small and seedy, were highly important food for the peoples of the central and northern coast, although few people still use them today. They should always be cooked since the raw berries may cause nausea. They were sometimes boiled to make a sauce or cooked with the stems intact. The stems and seeds were discarded later. The berries make an excellent, tangy jelly, and some people make wine from them. But they should always be cooked for this purpose." (3)

Pojar and Mackinnon report that the stems, bark, leaves and roots, especially in fresh plants are toxic due to the presence of cyanide-producing glycosides.

Medicinal Uses: So here is the skinny. If you drink the fresh juice of the berries you will make you vomit and or have diarrhea. It is a purgative! The juice when very diluted has been used for scalds and burns. But you have to know your stuff with this plant. I do not use it for healing because it is not a plant I have much use for.

Pollinator attractor: This plant is highly attractive to as many as 50 different pollinators including bees, butterflies and other pollinating insects. The birds are highly attracted to the berries. The berries often dry on the vine and are fed upon in the winter months by hungry birds. This is an essential plant to bring out of the forest and into your yard.

1. Ethnobotany of Western Washington - The Knowledge and use of indigenous plants by Native Americans. Erna Gunther. 1945 - Revised edition 1973. University of Washington Press
2. Plants in British Columbia Indian Technology by Nancy Turner. 1979- British Columbia Provincial Museum, Victoria, Canada
3. The Plants of the Pacific Northwest coast - Washington, Oregon, British Columbia, and Alaska -Jim Pojar and Andy Mackinnon et al. 1994 - Lone Pine Publishing - Vancouver, British Columbia.

See you in the deep woods


homepage: homepage: http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/radicalbotany/

Thank you for the skillshare 07.Jul.2010 13:34


Glad to have Radical Botany back. I wondered about Elderberries. I heard different things about these berries. Don't eat them...do eat them. Wanted to try and make some elderberry wine this year. Any good recipes?

Good research available on the web 07.Jul.2010 13:44


There is some good research available on the internet to show that Elderberry is a powerful anti-oxidant. Go here for one study from Purdue:


medicinal values

"Elderberry fruits are an excellent source of anthocyanins, vitamins A and C and a good source of calcium, iron and vitamin B6 (Table 1). They also contain sterols, tannins, and essential oils (Anon. 2005) and can readily be considered a healthy food. But more evidence is needed to really sustain any claim relative to their medicinal value.

Folk Medicine

In folk medicine, elder berries have been used for their diaphoretic, laxative and diuretic properties (Uncini Manganelli et al. 2005; Merica et al. 2006) and to treat various illnesses such as stomach ache, sinus congestion, constipation, diarrhea, sore throat, common cold, and rheumatism (Novelli 2003; Uncini Manganelli et al. 2005). The flowers are said to have diaphoretic, anti-catarrhal, expectorant, circulatory stimulant, diuretic, and topical anti-inflammatory actions (Merica et al. 2006). Some of these properties seem justified since elderberry fruits contain tannins and viburnic acid, both known to have a positive effect on diarrhea, nasal congestion, and to improve respiration (Novelli 2003). Leaves and inner bark have also been used for their purgative, emetic, diuretic, laxative, topical emollient, expectorant, and diaphoretic action (Merica et al. 2006).

Indirect Evidence for Health Benefits

Elderberry medicinal potential comes from its antioxidant potential, a property shared by numerous phytochemicals. The human body is constantly under attack and uses free radicals to protect itself. Such mechanism can however lead to cascade effects that can be detrimental to the cells and even lead to cancer. Our body uses antioxidants from plant origins to neutralize harmful free radicals and elderberry total antioxidant capacity is one of the highest of all the small fruits. In one study including the black elder (Fig. 2), this species came third for its antioxidant capacity as measured with the FRAP method (Halvorsen et al. 2002). Using the ORAC technique to measure the antioxidant potential of various small fruits, Wu et al. (2004a,b) showed that the American elder had a much higher potential than cranberry and blueberry, two fruits praised for their high antioxidant capacity (Fig. 3). Such a high antioxidant potential in American elder berries has been confirmed in our laboratory (unpubl. data).

Polyphenols. Different definitions are proposed but despite the fact that they vary somehow, they all agree on the prevalence of these chemicals in plants. Many are however prudent when conferring medicinal properties to polyphenols. This reflects to some extent conflicting results found in the literature, a problem associated with the abundance of phenolic compounds found in nature.

Indeed, the polyphenolic profile of fruit juices, including elderberry, can be quite complex (Schwarz et al. 2001; Bermúdez-Soto and Tomás-Barberán 2004; Proestos et al. 2005) containing an array of compounds of which many are anthocyanins (Sanchez-Moreno et al. 2003). Other relatively common polyphenols are: flavonols, hydroxycinnamic acid derivatives, and flavan-3-ols. Elderberry juice is rich in total phenolics, anthocyanins, and flavonols; all theses chemicals were shown to be highly correlated with their antioxidant capacity."

keep teaching and sharing 07.Jul.2010 13:59


We gotta learn these plants if we are going to survive. we have to remember that these plants were what allowed us to survive for thousands of years. Why don't more of us know this? Because then we would not be dependent on Mcdonalds and all the shit food that is killing us.