Respect Your Elders

Respect Your Elders

As a professional drummer I had experienced some plant medicines. But it wasn’t until 1978 when I got together with my life partner, Jane Richmond, that I started learning about and using herbal medicine for my health and well being.

rosemary with lavender

In 1984 I was able to further my study of herbal medicine with Rosemary Gladstar, a world famous herbalist and teacher who instilled in me an appreciation for the spirit of plants.

One assignment was to sit with a plant and attempt to interact with its spirit, which I was actually able to do.
Since then I have connected with many plant spirits and come to rely on them for the support they offer.

Many folks are aware of the vibrational benefits of flower essences and homeopathy, but few actually interact directly with the vibrational plant beings themselves.
And although we may view plants as the landscape of the movie in which we are the main characters, plants are in fact, conscious interactive beings who have been on the planet for 390 million years.

To put this in perspective

Earth is estimated to be 4.54 billion years old.
The modern form of humans evolved 300,000 years ago. Human civilizations started forming around 6,000 years ago. So we are the new kids on the block so to speak and can benefit greatly from interaction with the ancient ones.

elder tree

A plant spirit story

I played in a band at one time with a few friends, one of which was a bit of an alcoholic and drug addict. He moved to the big Island of Hawaii and there studied with a shaman who transformed him with the aid of Ayahuasca, a shamanic brew.

When he came back, he was a different person and he invited me to join him in a ceremony that involved Ayahuasca.

We ingested the “medicine” and hiked to a private lake where we were to hold the ceremony.
Just before we arrived at the lake we came upon Elder, a plant I had connected with. I had the feeling that something may be amiss with the ceremony and told my friend to proceed to the lake and that I would catch up with him.

I beseeched the spirit of Elder to protect me in my endeavor and felt its assurance it would do so.

What ensued at the lake was something quite bizarre. My “friend” had apparently made a pact with a spirit to possess my body and become his minion.
I understandably became afraid as he attempted to work his spell. Then spirit of Elder completely surrounded me in a protective field and let me know no harm would come to me.

Gratified and relaxed, I was able to journey with the Ayahuasca and had an amazing experience.
Upon leaving I thanked the spirit of Elder for its protection.

Looking back on it, I have a bit of trouble believing that actually happened. But it did…

I wrote another article about an encounter with the spirit of Manzanilla, our local chamomile.


The elder plant, Sambucus spp., also has a long history as an herbal remedy.

The elder of commerce is generally black elder, Sambucus nigra. The local elder in San Diego is Sambucus mexicana, the blue elder.

Elderberries fight viral infections such as the Flu.
And while elderberry may not prevent the a viral infection, it may be an effective treatment option if you do become infected. Research shows the use of elderberry could shorten the duration of flu by about three to four days, along with lessening symptom severity if taken within the first 24 hours of having the flu.

It reduces the duration of colds due to its high vitamin A and C content.
A 2016 research article published in Nutrients found a significant reduction of cold duration and severity in air travelers who started using elderberry ten days before air travel until four to five days after arriving overseas experienced, on average, a two-day shorter duration of the cold and also noticed a reduction in cold symptoms.

Elder supports skin health due to its high anthocyanin content, the pigment responsible for elderberries’ vibrant color.
Anthocyanins have been shown to combat the internal consequences of natural aging, improving skin tone and glow.
The high content of Vitamin A and C helps maintain moisture in the skin and its integrity.

Elder Reduces Inflammation

The high anthocyanin and vitamins A and C content also help in the fight against cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.

Elderberry Syrup Recipe

While elderberry syrup is available for purchase, you can also prepare it yourself.
3 ½ cups cold water
1 cup dried elderberries
1 tablespoon fresh ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon cloves
1 cup raw honey
Add water, elderberries, ginger, cinnamon, and cloves in a medium saucepan.
Bring to a boil then cover and reduce to a simmer 45 minutes to an hour, or until the liquid has reduced to almost half. Remove saucepan from heat and allow to cool.
Carefully mash the berries then pour syrup through a strainer into a large bowl.
When the syrup is completely cooled, add the honey and stir well.
Pour into a sealable jar and store in the fridge for up to three weeks.


Elder as food

The leaves and uncooked berries are slightly toxic, but once cooked the fruits can be used in pies and jam. Elderberry wine, elderflower cordial and dried elderflowers are all still available in shops. A fine elderflower champagne can be made using the yeasts present in the blossoms. Dipped in batter the flowers make excellent fritters.

Elder Flowers

An infusion of elder flowers has been used in the treatment of upset stomachs, fevers, sore throats, colds and flu.

elder flowers

Musical Elder

The genus name, Sambucus derives from the Greek Sambuke which refers to any number of musical instruments including flutes and slide whistles made by hollowing out the soft pithy core of the branches. The natives of San Diego hollowed out pieces of large branches to make a rhythm instrument used by beating two together.

Elder in Mythology 

In common with other trees with white blossoms, such as hawthorn and rowan, the elder is steeped in Faery- and Goddess-centered mythology. Like rowan, people saw elder as being a protective tree. It was auspicious if it was growing near one’s dwelling, especially if it had seeded itself there. If the rowan’s place was at the front of the house, the elder’s was at the back door; people believed it kept evil spirits from entering the home.

NOTICE: The bark, leaves, and seeds of the elder plant are toxic and should be completely avoided. You can use both the flowers and berries in the elder plant when properly prepared but avoid all leaves, sticks, and roots.



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