Gathering and Using Elderflowers to Make Lotions for Beautiful Skin and Healing Salves
Elderflowers have been used since time immemorial for medicinal, culinary, and cosmetic purposes. The fresh flowers used to be beaten into pancakes and muffins to give them a more delicate texture, and the fresh or dried flowers were given as a tea for pulmonary affections, fevers, and eruptive disease, such as measles. The flowers were also made into ointments for burns, chapped hands, and chilblains.
But elderflowers are almost without equal for their value in face creams and for the old-time application for beautiful skin, elderflower water.
In A Modern Herbal, Maude Grieve tells us that, “Elderflower Water in our great-grandmothers’ days was a household word for clearing the complexion of freckles and sunburn, and keeping it a good condition. Every lady’s toilet table possessed a bottle of the liquid, and she relied on this to keep her skin fair and white and free from blemishes, and it has not lost its reputation.” Grieve recommended that, for skin eruptions on the face, “It is a good plan to use a mixture composed of Elder Flower Water with glycerin and borax, and apply it night and morning.”
HOW TO RECOGNIZE ELDER
One of the wonderful things about elderflowers is that they can be gathered from the fields and roadsides when they bloom, usually in June, and used to make beautifying elderflower water or face cream.
Once you learn to recognize the elder, you will notice it everywhere in the fields and along roadsides—especially when it is in bloom. Elder is a large woody shrub, likely to be six or eight feet tall, and in bloom it is covered with large flat-topped clusters of tiny creamy white fragrant flowers. The only other plant that produces a similar looking flower cluster at the same time is the wild carrot, Queen Anne’s Lace. There should be little difficulty in telling them apart, as Queen Anne’s Lace is an herbaceous plant that is rarely more than three feet tall. Elder has large pinnate leaves, and Queen Anne’s Lace has delicate, feathery, “carrot” foliage.
In ideal conditions elderflower clusters may be as big as dinner plates, though they are more likely to be five or six inches across.
HOW TO GATHER AND PREPARE THE FLOWERS
To gather the flowers, simply break off the clusters and toss them in a paper grocery sack. The single stem that supports the cluster will usually break off easily.
Once you are back home, you will need to remove the flowers from the stems. While this seems like a daunting task, there is an easy way to do this quickly.
Most clusters have a single stem from which five other stems branch. Take hold of the single stem and, holding the cluster upside-down, fold the flower clusters on the branching stems together and roll them between your hands over a large bowl. The flowers will rub off quickly and fall into the bowl. Individual flowers consist of five tiny petals joined together in a circle with an empty center.
HOW TO MAKE ELDERFLOWER WATER
Put the detached petals in a mason jar or other heat-proof container and pour boiling water over them to cover. Cover the container and let stand until cooled. Then strain off the liquid through a coffee filter and put the liquid in a corked bottle or jar with a lid.
The resulting liquid will have a beautiful brilliant yellow color.
The next thing you will notice is that the resulting liquid does not have a particularly pleasant fragrance. The product needs to be stored for about two weeks in the refrigerator for the fragrance to develop, and should not be used until this change has taken place.
COSMETIC PRODUCTS MADE WITH ELDERFLOWER WATER
There are several cosmetic preparations you can make with elderflower water, but the simplest way to use is to apply the liquid to the skin with cotton balls, morning and evening after cleansing the skin, or after you’ve been out in the sun. (For more info on homemade cosmetic products, see: http://blueheron.hubpages.com/hub/Cure-Acne-Have-Beautiful-Skin.)
Elderflower water works to beautify the skin mainly by quickly healing skin damage, such as from exposure to the sun, and so soothe inflammation. Elderflower water is the key to tanning without skin damage.
Elderflower vinegar is a fine skin cleanser. I use it after facial cleansing with homemade face cream, to remove any residue of the cream. This is made by mixing elderflower water with equal parts apple cider vinegar. Apple cider vinegar, besides being excellent for dissolving skin oils (including the facial cleansing cream), is a powerful healer in itself. Elderflower vinegar is also a good application for sunburn. This and other flower vinegars can take the place of chemical deodorants, too, by using cotton balls soaked in flower vinegar to clean perspiration and oils from the underarms. I think this works better than the all-natural deodorants found in health-food stores.
Facial cleansing cream made with elderflower water. Elderflower water can be incorporated into your homemade facial cleansing cream.
To make elderflower facial cleansing cream:
½ cup fine cosmetic oil, such as coconut oil or almond oil
2 tablespoons liquid lecithin
½ cup elderflower water
Thoroughly combine the oil with the liquid lecithin. If you are using coconut oil, you may need to melt it in a saucepan to combine with the lecithin.
When the oil/lecithin mixture is at room temperature (no warmer than lukewarm), add the elderflower water a little at a time, while beating with an electric mixer.
The elderflower water and oil will quickly incorporate into a lovely cream. A few drops of essential oil may be added for fragrance, if desired.
The finished cream should be stored in the refrigerator and spooned out a teaspoon or so at a time for use as a cleansing cream or hand and body lotion.
Grieve tells us that a similar preparation was used as a dressing for wounds, burns, and scalds—and was so much used for wounded horses during WWI that the Blue Cross made a special appeal for supplies. The preparation Grieve describes was made simply by heating the flowers in lard until they became crisp, and straining.
It is a good plan to use the facial cream to cleanse the skin, then use elderflower vinegar to remove the residue of the cream, and finish with an application of plain elderflower water or rosewater.
These wonderful all-natural cosmetic and healing preparations are easily made from the lovely flowers growing in fields and along roads—and they’re free!