Last Updated on September 20, 2021
Elderflower tea (or elderberry flower tea or elder blossom tea if you prefer) is a delicious, lightly floral tea you can make with either fresh or dried elderflowers. Here’s what to know about making elderflower tea and the benefits of elderflower tea.
WHY MAKE ELDERFLOWER TEA?
You’ve probably heard a good deal about the benefits of elderberries by now, but elderflowers — the blossoms that precede elderberries — have much to recommend them as well. Here’s an overview of elderflower as well as numerous elderflower recipes. You’ll find details on the benefits of elderflower tea in the next section.
The primary reason to make elderflower tea is that tastes incredible, like a cup of springtime. And it’s readily available to anyone with an elderberry tree or shrub growing nearby.
Like other yummy and medicinal teas you can forage — including pine needle tea, spruce tea, elderberry tea, mulberry tree leaf tea, dandelion tea, and nettle leaf tea, just to name a few — elderberry flowers are not only free for the picking, they’re chock-full of healthy plant compounds.
Here are loads more edible flowers to try if that sort of thing is your cup of tea! Punning aside, they make not only delicious teas, but tasty additions to salads and dessert recipes.
BENEFITS OF ELDERFLOWER TEA
Historically, elderflowers were considered more medicinally useful than the berries they become. Here’s more on the benefits of elderberries and uses for elderberry if you’d like to know more about this increasingly popular medicinal berry. And of course, elderberry tea is another delicious brew to consider making often.
Elderflower tea has been a go-to herbal remedy for fevers and colds for centuries. Rich in antioxidants, elderberry flower tea is anti-inflammatory and is considered especially useful for alleviating respiratory inflammation.
A tea brewed from elderflower, yarrow, and peppermint is a traditional combination replicated in Gypsy Cold Care Tea by Traditional Medicinals, a company founded by renowned herbalist Rosemary Gladstar. She recommends elderflower tea for its diaphoretic (sweat-inducing) properties, making it helpful for dealing with fevers.
Elderflower tea is a great herbal remedy for coughs and also may soothe frayed nerves.
Traditionally used for diabetes, elderflower is being researched for its effect on insulin resistance as well as its potential use for Parkinson’s disease, breast cancer, and controlling blood sugar and cholesterol.
An infusion of elderflower can also be used externally as an eyewash, or as a compress to help with headaches or injuries.
If you’re as fascinated by plant medicine as I am, check out the fantastic herbal courses offered by The Herbal Academy. Here’s a list of the courses they’re currently enrolling.
WHERE TO GET ELDER BLOSSOMS FOR ELDERFLOWER TEA
You can forage elder blossoms for elderflower tea in late spring and early summer. Here’s what to know about identifying elderberry so you make sure you’re taking blossoms from the correct plant. There are poisonous plants that people who don’t look carefully could mistake for elderflower, so please consult a good foraging guide before harvesting your elderflowers! (These are my favorite foraging books.)
Some herbalists use the blossoms from red elderberry (Sambucus racemosa) interchangeably with those from black elderberry. Red elderberry flowers a month earlier than black elderberry, so if you’re looking to extend the elderflower season, this might be something worth exploring.
You can also grow your own elderflowers, which makes harvesting them easier still. Here’s everything you need to know about growing elderberry and elderflower.
There are so many other medicinal plants you can grow! Here’s more on starting a medicinal herb garden if you’d like to cultivate more homegrown remedies.
If you don’t have elderflowers growing near you, you can buy dried elderflowers. Be forewarned if you buy dried elder blossoms that some companies aren’t overly careful with their de-stemming process and leave lots of little bits of stem in the bag with the flowers. There’s some disagreement about whether the tiny stems are OK to eat, and it may depend on how sensitive you are to the compounds in elder plants that cause stomach upset called cyanogenic glycosides.
Even if you tolerate them, they can add a bitter flavor to your elderberry flower tea. I lean on the side of caution and remove them if I’m using purchased nigra flowers. If you have canadensis flowers instead (what you’ll mainly find growing in North America), the compounds should be far less of an issue, according to this new study published in the journal Molecules.
Republic of Tea also sells a bagged elderflower tea.
WHAT DOES ELDERFLOWER TEA TASTE LIKE?
If you’ve never made a tea with fresh flowers, you might be wondering, what does elderflower tea taste like? That’s actually a more complicated question than you might imagine.
If you forage fresh elderflowers in North America, you’ll likely have a very different tasting tea than if you buy dried elderflowers imported from Europe. Elderberry flower tea made from fresh flowers will taste different than tea made from dried ones, and the type of elderberry grown in Europe (Sambucus nigra) has a distinct lychee flavor that American elderberry (Sambucus canadensis) does not.
I’d describe the flavor of fresh elderflower tea made from Sambucus canadensis blossoms as lightly floral, perhaps a little grassy. Elderflower tea made from dried flowers has what I’d describe as a toastier or earthier note, far less bright than tea made with fresh elder blossoms.
DO YOU USE FRESH OR DRIED FLOWERS FOR ELDER BLOSSOM TEA?
Both fresh and dried elderflowers work for elderflower tea, though the flavor will be different, and herbalists note that fresh flowers can be harder on the stomach.
Chemical analysis of the fresh and dried flowers found that the concentration of polyphenols is higher in fresh elderflowers than in dried. Researchers connected with the University of Missouri are experimenting with freezing fresh flowers for use in elderflower products.
But since we’ll want elderflower tea during cold and flu season, and fresh elderflowers are nowhere to be found in the dead of winter, dried elder blossoms are often what we’ll use in elderflower tea.
HARVESTING ELDERFLOWERS FOR ELDERBERRY FLOWER TEA
Always be sure you’re foraging in an area that hasn’t been treated with chemicals and where you have permission to collect elderflowers before picking.
Use a good foraging guide to determine that you’ve got the right plant, and not a poisonous lookalike.
Elderflower Harvesting Tips
1. When to forage elderflowers: Harvest your elderflowers early in the morning for best flavor. Avoid collecting elderflowers after a heavy rain, or the pollen that gives elderflower tea its signature flavor will likely have been washed away.
2. Which flowers to harvest: Choose umbels where most of the elderberry blossoms have opened and are creamy white rather than browning. Snip off the entire umbel with a pruning shears or sharp scissors rather than trying to remove individual blossoms.
Remember that if you harvest the elderberry blossoms, you won’t get elderberries. Experts I spoke to recommended harvesting the flowers from the lower branches, which will help discourage spotted-wing drosophila (SWD) from infesting your berry crop.
3. Removing bugs: Speaking of insects, bugs absolutely love elderflowers, so it’s a good idea to give your umbels a little shake before they go in your container. Open the container outdoors when you return home to let any stragglers loose.
But don’t rinse those elderflowers, or you’ll be washing away much of what gives them their flavor and medicinal properties.
Storing and Drying Elderflowers
Fresh elderflowers wilt and brown quite quickly, so it’s helpful to bring an insulated bag with some freeze packs on your foraging expedition. Place the elderflowers you collect in a container inside your cooler bag, and they should still be fresh and fragrant when you arrive home with them.
When you get your elderflowers home, it’s time to make elderflower tea! Those umbels you won’t use right away can last about a day in a container or paper bag in the refrigerator. Any elderflowers you won’t use in that time should be dried for future elderflower tea making.
When elderflower tea is used for illness, it’s typically the dried elder blossoms that are called for, so putting aside some dried elderflowers means you’ll be prepared should illness strike.
To dry elderflowers: Leave elderflowers on their stems and place whole umbels on a drying screen. If your climate is very dry, you might get away with laying them on a clean dishtowel, but the elderflower grower I spoke with recommended screens to encourage air movement.
When your elderflowers have dried, you can gently shake or pull them off their stems. They should store in an airtight jar for up to one year.
Here’s more on preserving herbs if you want to enjoy your foraged and homegrown herbs all year round.
PRECAUTIONS WITH ELDERFLOWER TEA
**Elderflower plants may contain compounds considered toxic. Eat only the flowers and cooked berries, NOT the stems or leaves.**
- Elderflower tea is not recommended for pregnant or nursing women.
- If you’re taking diabetes medication, consult a doctor before consuming elder blossom tea.
- Consume elderberry flower tea in moderation to avoid stomach upset.
- Stop drinking elderflower tea at least two weeks prior to surgery as it may interfere with blood clotting.
I get so many questions about how to use elder blossoms and elderberry that I wrote a short downloadable guide to using elderflowers and elderberries safely and effectively. Get yours by filling in the form here.
HOW TO MAKE ELDERFLOWER TEA
Making elderflower tea couldn’t be simpler. It involves just elder blossoms and water, and sweetener if preferred. I recommend trying elderflower tea unsweetened to see if you like it. Its delicate flavor is delightful on its own, and most of us consume too much sugar anyhow.
If using fresh elderberry blossoms, the flowers from one average-size umbel should be about enough for a couple cups of tea. If using dried elderflowers, we use 2-3 teaspoons per cup of water.
Exact measurements aren’t very important with simple herbal tea recipes like these, and you can let flavor be your guide. If you find an infusion too weak, use more herb next time, or if it’s too strong, simply dilute with more water.
Put elderflowers in an infuser cup or teapot and cover with freshly boiled filtered water and allow to steep at least ten minutes, preferably longer.
Then breathe in the lovely floral aroma and enjoy a delicious cup of elderflower tea!
- 2 tablespoons dried elderflowers (or about 1/4 cup de-stemmed fresh elder blossoms)
- 16 ounces boiling water
- In an infuser cup or teapot, add elderflowers and cover with boiling water.
- Steep at least ten 10 minutes, longer if possible.
- Sweeten if desired.
To make a stronger infusion for acute situations, double or triple the amount of elderflower and steep for several hours or overnight. To serve, warm the cool elderflower tea by diluting with a little hot water. Drink throughout the day to alleviate cold symptoms.
Serving Size:1 cup
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 0Total Fat: 0gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 9mgCarbohydrates: 0gFiber: 0gSugar: 0gProtein: 0g
Nutritional information was auto-generated based on serving size, number of servings, and typical information for the ingredients listed. To obtain the most accurate representation of the nutritional information in a given recipe, please calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients and amounts used, using your preferred nutrition calculator. Under no circumstances shall this website or author be responsible for any loss or damage resulting for your reliance on the given nutritional information. You are solely responsible for ensuring that any nutritional information provided is accurate and complete.
TIPS FOR MAKING ELDERFLOWER TEA
- Your tea will taste best and be gentlest on your stomach if you take care to remove all bits of stem. If there’s a lot of stem in your purchased bag of elderflowers, you might want to consider buying from someone else, as picking them out is tedious and time-consuming.
- Herbalist Matthew Wood cautions that fresh elderflowers may be harder on the stomach, so use dried flowers if that’s a concern.
- Use filtered water so your healthy elderflower tea doesn’t contain some of the hundreds of chemical contaminants in most water supplies. Here’s more on why you should always filter drinking water.
Foods and drinks made from flowers are so much fun! Here are some other edible and medicinal flowers to know:
I hope you love this easy elderflower tea recipe!
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Disclaimer: I’m a health & green living enthusiast, not a medical professional. Content on this website is intended for informational purposes only and is not meant to provide personalized medical advice. I draw on numerous sources, some of which are linked above. Please consult them for more information and a licensed professional for personalized recommendations.
Susannah is a proud garden geek and energy nerd who loves healthy food and natural remedies. Her work has appeared in Mother Earth Living, Ensia, Northern Gardener, Sierra, and on numerous websites. Her first book, Everything Elderberry, released in September 2020 and has been a #1 new release in holistic medicine, naturopathy, herb gardening, and other categories. Find out more and grab your copy here.