Elderberry In New Zealand - Where You Can Find It And How To Harvest It

Late summer is when we harvest elderberries. The wonderful thing about wild harvesting is that you get to see the magic of nature at work first-hand. In March, the seasons start to change and so does your susceptibility to sickness. But nature has got your back. The berry that does wonders for supporting a robust immune response just so happens to become ripe when we need them most. Amazing huh!


We wild harvest elderberries in New Zealand from the Taieri plains,
which is just on the outskirts of Dunedin and slightly more sheltered from the coastal conditions. This is a hot spot for wild elderberry trees! Harvesting elderberries is a time-consuming job - selectively picking, de-stemming, then processing and production but it is so worth it for the huge benefits this plant gives us.

Sam, Ged, Ruth and Skye selectively picking the best bunches for harvest.

The Benefits Of Elderberry

The elder tree has been used across many countries traditionally for centuries. It has been used in parts of Asia, all through Europe and also Africa and America. Part of the reason it is so popular is due to its massive antiviral effect. It is also high in antioxidants due to its deep purple colour and also its anthocyanin properties. 

Elderberry-Sambucus nigra

Elderberry (Sambucus nigra) has been used to help with winter ills and chills and symptoms of common cold. It helps protect the respiratory tract from infections and supports the body’s immunity. We love this berry and use it in our Immunity Tonic as well as in our Elderberry Switchel.


Helping Support A Robust Immune Response

Elder is an amazing tree that naturally supports you throughout the whole year. In the summer the elderflower helps with traditional hay fever symptoms and in the winter the elderberries are used as a preventative against ills and chills. Elderberries are rich in flavonoids, antioxidants, vitamins A and C and have been well researched for their anti viral actions.

Zakey-Rones (et al. 2004) ran a clinical trial using oral elderberry syrup for treating influenza A and B infections. Symptoms were relieved on average 4 days earlier and use of rescue medication was significantly less in those receiving elderberry extract compared with placebo. Therefore they concluded elderberry extract seems to ‘offer an efficient, safe and cost-effective treatment for influenza.’ You can read about this study here.

🌿Related: New to herbal medicine? Read this.

Your nose and throat are part of your first line of defence. Often if you ingest or breathe in a germ your body can try and get rid of it via coughing, when you blow your nose or in your saliva. If it does settle in or get further into your body that is when the bigger immune system response happens.

Research has shown that taking elderberry preventatively helps prevent viruses from attaching to the cells of the nose and throat, which stops it settling in and allows your body to digest or expel the virus without our bodies becoming infected. Smart huh!


When Are Elderberries Ready To Pick?

You may recognise elderberry trees around your area, whether in wild places of simply in your neighbours backyard, they are much more common in the south island and are considered a noxious weed. Typically elderberry is harvested late summer and we often see an abundance of elderberry growing roadside, however we never wild harvest close to roads as road pollution can contaminate the berries. But the seeing all the berries is still pretty magical.


 How To Harvest Elderberries

When harvesting look for deep purple berries, they grow together in a cluster so it is important that all the berries are ripe as the green ones can be toxic. Pick them before the birds get to them (and if you are not able to process them straight away you can freeze them). The berries are amazing but you cannot eat them fresh, they must be cooked before use, as in their fresh form they do hold some toxins.


AdviceUse as directed. Discontinue if any irritation arises. If symptoms persist see your health care professional. 

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