“We do not inherit the Earth from our Ancestors, we borrow it from our Children.”~ Ancient Indian Proverb

“Honor the sacred.
Honor the Earth, our Mother.
Honor the Elders.
Honor all with whom we
share the Earth:-
Four-leggeds, two-leggeds,
winged ones,
Swimmers, crawlers,
plant and rock people.
Walk in balance and beauty.”
~Native American Elder

Two Vital Native American Medicinal Trees~

Slippery Elm:

Also called Indian Elm and Moose Elm among other things, Slippery Elm is an important medium sized tree, well known for centuries to many a youngster who chewed its aromatic, alluring, and mucilaginous bark and twigs. In Appalachia, some people still soak the bark of this tree in warm water to make a soothing agent for skin injuries and wounds.  The Indians mashed the bark and used the pulp for gunshot wounds and to ease the painful removal of the lead.  Tea brewed from the roots was given to pregnant women at the time of birth.  The slipperiness of the bark, sap, and juice was used by midwives to ease the birth itself by applying it topically to the birth canal and infant’s head.

One to two ounces of the inner bark were steeped in two cups of water for an hour or more, then strained and used for many medical needs including digestive troubles.  For the sick, the powdered and easily digestible bark from the inner layer was flavored with honey or maple syrup and eaten as a strengthening gruel.~

“There is always music amongst the trees in the garden, but our hearts must be very quiet to hear it.”~Minnie Aumonier


It’s also known as American Elder, Black Elder, and Tree of Music to give a few of its many names.  There are different varieties, some that grow no larger than brushy shrubs while others obtain the height of huge trees.  Native Americans used the long, straight, hollowed stems that became woody with age for arrows.  They pushed all the soft and poisonous pith out of the stems with hot sticks.  Indians also bored holes in them to make flutes which gave Elder its name ‘tree of music.’  Hunters lured elk closer with elderberry whistles.   I referred to this in my American historical romance Red Birds Song.

The fruit was believed to have a cooling, gentle, laxative and urine increasing effect.  Elderberry wine was thought to be a tonic.  The berries are said to aid arthritis.  The juice simmered until thick was used as a cough syrup and for colds.  The rest of the medicinal was used with great caution and some parts avoided entirely.  The inner bark of elder stems and the roots were generally regarded as too dangerous to experiment with, however women drank very small amounts of elderberry bark tea for bad menstrual cramps, to ease the pain of labor and help the child along.  I used a potent dose of elderberry bark tea in Through the Fire.

*Indians and settlers believed that small amounts of potentially poisonous plants could be beneficial under certain circumstances to stimulate the body to heal or maybe because it was fighting off the poison.  Native Americans shared their vast storehouse of knowledge regarding herbal treatments with colonists who used these remedies in combination with those lauded cures they brought with them from The Old World to The New World.

“A fool sees not the same tree that a wise man sees.”~William Blake

Elderberry: Also a profoundly vital plant in the Old World.

From Rodale’s Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs:

One of the human race’s earliest plant companions (found in Stone Age sites) the elderberry has developed reputations for great powers of good…as well as great powers of evil.  In some parts of the world, no prudent carpenter would make a cradle of elderberry wood for fear of bringing harm to the baby.

The elderflower has been involved in human history for centuries, and one story suggests that it takes its name from a unique medicinal dimension. The generic name Sambucus may come from the Greek Sambuke, a musical instrument made from elderberry wood.   For centuries the plant has had the reputation of healing the body, but in elderberry’s golden age, it made music to heal the spirit.

During its long association with humanity, the elderberry’s traditions have become an incredible jumble of conflicting currents.  It provided the wood for Christ’s cross; it was the home of the goddess Freya.  If seen in a dream, it meant illness was on the way; it was such a healthful plant that seventeenth century herbalist John Evelyn called it a remedy ‘against all infirmities whatever.’  It would ward off witches if gathered on the last day of April and put up on the windows and doors of houses; it was very attractive to witches and thus should be avoided after dark.

Elderberries worked their way into every aspect of living from dyeing hair black to showing berries just at the right time to signal the beginning of wheat sowing. Shakespeare had something to say about it.  One of his characters called it ‘the stinking elder.’  The Shakers used it as a medicinal.  The wood of the old stems, hard and fine grained, was prized by the makers of mathematical instruments.  The list could go on and on for pages; elderberries stand in our gardens as old friends.~

“Stand still. The trees ahead and bush beside you are not lost.”~Albert Einstein

“When all the trees have been cut down,
when all the animals have been hunted,
when all the waters are polluted,
when all the air is unsafe to breathe,
only then will you discover you cannot eat money.”

~Cree Prophecy

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