"Elder" comes from the Anglo-saxon 'aeld', meaning fire, because the hollow stems were used to blow air into the centre of a hearth. It was thought that if you burned elder wood you would see the Devil, but if you planted elder by your house it would keep the Devil away.
The foliage was used to keep flies away and branches were often hung around dairies. There are still those who believe a rub down with elder leaves will keep the dreaded Scottish midge at bay. Good luck with that!
Elder trees were the sources of many coloured dyes used historically to make lushly-patterned Harris Tweed. Blue and purple from the berries; yellow and green from the leaves; grey and black from the bark.
Vitamin and nutrient packed as they are, the berries have long had a health-boosting reputation.
But can they really get rid of colds and flu? I like medicinal claims to have some science behind them.
A little online research reveals those making the boldest claims for elderberry extract are usually linked to selling it. But more sober and impartial scientific voices seem convinced there is evidence elderberry has antiviral properties - and might knock a few days off the duration of symptoms even if not offering total prevention or cure. Given elderberry syrup won’t hurt and tastes great -that’s good enough for me!