The elder tree can be confusing – both with its names and its properties. So, let’s go over the elderberry vs elderflower benefits, risks, and preparation recipes. We’ll take a look at what the difference is between these two terms, whether and how you should consume elderberries and elderflowers, and what to watch out for.
Elderberry Vs Elderflower – What’s The Difference?
In short, the Elderberry tree (Sambucus nigra) – or just Elder tree – is a tree that produces both fruits and flowers, like most other trees. The fruits are called elderberries while the flowers – are elderflowers.
Things become even more confusing when you consider the various other subspecies and related species of the elder tree such as the dwarf elder (Sambucus ebulus) and others. However, here we’ll strictly be talking about the Elder tree and its berries and flowers.
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What Are The Elderberry Vs Elderflower Benefits?
The benefits of elderberries and elderflowers are quite similar as they more or less bring the same vitamins and minerals to the table, albeit in different quantities.
The big plus of elderberries is how chock-full they are of antioxidants. Even that alone earns them the monicker of a superfood but they also have lots of vitamins A, B6, and C, as well as iron, potassium, and plenty of fiber. All this is why they are often used to make wine, jam, juice, syrups, and other beverages.
Removing the seeds of the berries is important, however, as is cooking the berries – for reasons we’ll explain below.
The minerals and vitamins of elderflowers are similar to those of elderberries but the flower is used in different ways. When it comes to beverages, elderflowers are mostly used for additional flavor. However, where they really shine is as a component in numerous types of medicine – both modern and traditional. In that way, elderflowers can be used for any of the following:
- The common cold
- Flu (influenza)
- Treating bronchitis by reducing the swelling of the main airways in the lung
- Reducing the swelling of the nasal cavities and sinuses
- Helping with laryngitis by reducing the swelling in the voice box
- Rheumatoid arthritis (RA)
- Clearing sore eyes
- And many others
In most cases, however, the elderflowers are used in combination with other ingredients such as cowslip flower, verbena, gentian root, sorrel, and others.
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Elderberry Vs Elderflower Health Risks
Both elderberries and elderflowers pose the same risks – of indigestion, nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting. That’s because many parts of the elder tree are toxic and produce cyanide. This means that consuming the tree’s seeds (that are in the berries), leaves, stems, and roots can lead to a bad digestive experience.
The way to avoid that is to:
- Avoid the toxic parts of the elder tree by always cleaning the berries and flowers of any seeds, leaves, etc.
- Always cook the berries and the flowers to get rid of any cyanide
- While there is no officially prescribed amount of elderberry/flower one should take a day, it’s generally advisable not to take too much
How Can You Prepare Elderberries Or Elderflowers? – Elderberry Vs Elderflower Benefits
Both elderberries and elderflowers should always be cooked and they should never be eaten raw. Even if you know you’ve removed all the seeds of the berry, you should still cook it to make sure that you’re not eating any cyanide. The cooking usually takes the form of just boiling the berry or the flowers in a syrup although recipes can vary. What’s important is that you always cook the elderberry and elderflowers.
In Conclusion, What Are The Elderberry Vs Elderflower Benefits, And Are They Worth It?
The fruits and flowers of the elder tree have lots of health benefits recognized by both modern and traditional medicine. And while you should be careful how you consume them, when taken in the appropriate dose and prepared right, they can be very useful for a whole host of health problems.
Are elderberries the same as elderflower?
No and yes. Elderberries are the fruits of the elder (or elderberry) tree whereas elderflowers are the flowers of that same elderberry tree. It can be a bit confusing especially when you consider the fact that there is a herbaceous species of elder. Those herbaceous elders aren’t called “elderflowers”, however, but dwarf elderberry as well as dwarf elder, danewort, danesblood, dane weed, and a few other names. So, elderflowers are just the flowers of the elderberry tree and not a different plant altogether.
Does elderflower have any health benefits?
The elderberry flower has many health benefits including its properties as a powerful antioxidant and the presence of vitamins A, B6, and C, iron, potassium, and other minerals. That being said, the elderberry fruits are richer in all those same ingredients which is why they are usually used for jams, syrups, wines, and juices, whereas elderflowers are mostly used for additional flavor as well as a component in various types of medicine.
What are the side effects of elderflower?
The possible side effects of consuming elderflower are largely dependent on the amount you’ve eaten and how you’ve prepared it. Generally speaking, the seeds, leaves, stems, and roots of the elderberry plant are considered toxic so if you’ve taken any of them together with the elderflower, you can expect side effects such as digestive system upset, nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting. An allergic skin reaction such as a rash is also possible. That’s because of the cyanide-producing properties of the parts of the tree we mentioned. Cooking does remove this chemical but large enough quantities consumed too quickly can still lead to digestive distress.
Who should not take elderberry?
Both the flowers and berries of elderberry are ill-advised for children, pregnant women, and nursing mothers. This isn’t because of some known and dangerous side-effects – there don’t seem to be much of those – but because there also isn’t much data collected about it as of today. We know that certain parts of the elderberry plant can produce cyanide and lead to digestive distress, however, which is why caution is advised with babies and kids.