The Essential Herbal

The Essential Herbal

Elizabeth Whelan

Look around you. At the trees, bushes, berries, grasses and weeds. Do you see tinctures, poultices, salves, plasters, and teas that can help you sleep, digest, love, nurse babies, calm nerves, cool heartburn, quiet coughs, ease sore muscles, tend sprains, and tame your headaches? I didn’t. But this cookbook, The Essential Herbal for Natural Health, beautifully crafted and written by year-round Holly Bellebuono, will help you see, cook and concoct from what’s right in front of you. And this is a pure delight.


Elderberries are fantastic for supporting your immune system, both long term and acute. They can also help with coughs, colds, flus, and fevers.

Elderberry trees like boggy soil, so to harvest them wear sturdy rubber boots, and canvas pants or jeans. Wading through the swampiness, you’ll come across briars as well.

Ask for permission before heading out to private lands. Check with public landholders such as the Land Bank and Sheriff’s Meadow about their guidelines for foraging.

If you hope to harvest, bring a large paper bag to collect the entire fruiting head, the whole umbel of little berries. Fill up the bag. When you get home, press all of the berries (including stems) into a glass mason jar, smashing them with a long handled spoon. Proceed with the recipe.

Expect Island elderberries to be ripe in September and October.