What’s an elderberry?
Elderberries are small, dark berries that grow in clusters on elder trees (also called elderberry bushes). Elderberry bushes are a hardy plant growing native in many climates, often in the moist soil along roadsides and streams. They’re fast-growing and typically grow quite large and full, with compound leaves and tightly clustered bunches of tiny white flowers in late spring, followed by clusters of berries in late summer.
Sambucus canadensis, (the shrub’s scientific name) has traditionally been used to make jams, jellies, syrups, and wines for home and family use. Although native to much of North America, this plant has only recently been studied as a marketable crop for family farmers. Sales of locally-made elderberry juices and jellies are strong and growing as word of the health benefits of the berry spread. Consumer demand for natural and organic food and health products created renewed interest in elderberry, but this interest has rapidly spread to retiring baby boomers and mainstream consumers seeking natural health benefits and improved diets.
The shrub has a long history as folk remedy with multiple health benefits for its users. Elderberries have been utilized for generations, with even the founder of modern medicine, Hippocrates, prescribing its benefits by referring to the elderberry as the “medicine chest.”