Sambucus nigra is a variety of the Elder tree native to UK, Europe, North Africa and Western Asia and has naturalised in many forested and temperate parts of the world.
They are popular ornamental shrubs, valued for their flowers and berries, both of which are popular in drinks, food and traditional medicines.
Elder has been called 'people's medicine chest' by many of the nations using its fruit, flowers and various ointments made from them.
It is best to collect the flowers when the clusters are wide open, fresh and full of pollen. Elderflowers have been used in cosmetic preparations since ancient Egypt.
They have also been made into a variety of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, even today. The flowers are used in cordials, herbal teas, carbonated drinks and Elderflower 'champagne.' Combined with Chamomile, they make a calming tea.
Infusions and soothing waters made from Elderflowers have been used to soften skin, treat acne, blemishes, rashes and sun burn. There are old recipes, which use Elderflower water to "fade freckles and wrinkles."
The herb is astringent and contains a substance called Eldrin, a Bioflavonoid also known as Rutin or vitamin P.
We use Elderflower in various forms (either raw or as a decoction, infusion and so on) whenever we want to use its soothing, softening and symbolically supernatural qualities. Mabinogion, the book of stories based on Welsh mythology and folk tales, mentions a bathing ritual using wild flowers, which was one of the inspirations for adding Elderflowers to bath products.
According to Mabinogion, the water should have elder leaves, or cowslip flowers and a few sweet scabious flowers mixed in.
We have used elder flowers and cowslips in our Ceridwen's Cauldron luxury bath melt for a soothing bath with a little bit of Welsh magic.