Jun 042008

As you can see from the links at the bottom of this post, I’ve written quite a lot about the wondrous Alder tree and its medicinal multifacetedness. I’ve included the links to my posts below in order to provide a cohesive summary of the Alder’s nature, tendencies and my experiences with it. If you do a search for Alder in the search box on the left, you’ll discover even more posts that include Alder, including my experiences using it with cellulitis, UTIs and other tidbits.

Alder (Alnus spp.) has become one of my top ten herbs, the ones I always have on hand and think of first for any ailment. It’s usefulness is almost overwhelming at times, so as to make one think “when should I NOT use this plant?” 😀

Having a range of actions extending from alterative to lymphatic to pain reliever/blood mover to astringent to powerful anti-bacterial agent, there’s a reason this tree has been considered an overall tonic by many indigenous tribes. When it comes down it though, the medicine is all about the transformation and nourishment of the body’s vital fluids, whether through lymph, blood, bile, digestive fluids, urine etc

It’s not a yin tonic, it doesn’t add to the fluids, nor does it simply move or contain them; rather, it improves/transforms the quality of the fluids. I believe it has something in common with Redroot in this regard but with broader application. At one point I was quite sure that Alder was a cooling herb, but am less sure now. Considering its stimulating effect upon much of the body, I wonder if it’s not closer to neutral.

It teams up very well with Oregon Grape Root for constipation (or constipation rotating with diarrhea) with poor protein/fat digestion and accompanying skin disorders. This is usually a pattern of sluggish liver and deficient kidneys that cause the body to fall into in overall sluggish state where the fluids are NOT being transformed and waste is not being removed properly from the body. Alder and Oregon Grape Root will help. If there’s significant adrenal involvement, add some Nettles to the picture.

This same pattern of sluggishness leading to inflammation and buildup of waste products also has a tendency to result in chronic infections in the body. The tissues get boggy and soft and can’t move wastes out of themselves any more. Time for some Alder! Often Spanish Needles (Bidens spp) is a nice combo here, especially for chronic infections of the mucus membranes.

My current favorite Alder preparation is a lard based salve of fresh Alder leaves and twigs, which Shawna also writes about here. Check out her insights into the profound pain-relieving properties of the tree. I couldn’t agree more! And really, take a look at the first picture up above that shows what happens when the bears and elk get at the tree and then tell me this isn’t a wound and blood remedy!

And of course we mustn’t forget that the Alder is a bear medicine. In a literal sense, the bears love this tree — they climb it, mark it and nibble on it. On another level, Alder (and bears) belongs to the water element, to the deep within where primal transformation takes place.

Related Posts:

Alder: Tree of Transformation & Healing

Alder as Alterative & Lymphatic

Alder Pain Salve

Alder & Headache

Further Notes on Preparation, Efficacy & History of Alder

  5 Responses to “Archetypal Transformer of Fluids: A Summary of Alder Posts & Uses”

  1. Oh thankyouthankyou for putting this all together. I can’t WAIT to get a headache,lol.
    Have you noticed a deep affinity between your alder trees and willow trees? All of mine grow in sisterly fashion next to each other, and I wonder about that as I think important insight can be gained by what grows by each other, kind of how you can gain insight from a friends/companions one has…….
    You know its interesting about the bears and bark thing- I always watch my goats in the woods to see what plants and trees really get them really excited. Usually I try to hold off on woods walking for extended time with them in early spring before much is green because they will eat bark like crazy……but even in high summer when there is plenty to eat they always want to eat the bark of the alder. I always have to keep walking past it and spend my time with it without them, they just cannot resist it. The only thing that saves the trees really is the fact that many of them grow on the edge of the pond and they *hate* getting their feet wet, lol


  2. You’re welcome!

    The Alders here actually tend to grow on the other side of the river from Willows. Not always, mind you, but generally the Alders prefer cooler spots while the Willow and Cottonwoods like the warmer areas. The Alders tend to grow in colonies here, often in association with Wild Rose, Monkeyflower, Box Elder Maples and sometimes Grape Vines or Oregon Grape Root as well. It also grows with the Reeds and other in-water plants, although, they too, often prefer the sunnier side of the river. Being in a narrow canyon split east to west creates some interesting plant relationship dynamics dependent on the light flow.

    That’s funny about the goats… I’ve always been really glad that the cows that sometimes get loose down the canyon really don’t like the Alders, they’d rather shred the willows.

    I DO tend to use Alder with Cottonwood though, very often in liniments and salves and sometimes in digestive tonics. I have to say that I don’t really use Willow that much, and tend to use Cottonwood where most people would use Willow (unless it’s an issue specifically connected to the bladder, which is where Willow rules).

  3. Another thank you, you have such an incredibly useful set of knowledge and I’m ever grateful at the generosity with which you share it! We have a huge alder in my own back yard and they are abundant throughout my area. We might actually cut our big one down at some point because they are known to fall over once they get so many years old and this one is old and too close to our house, and also where I want to expand our garden, and we heat our home with firewood so many reasons. I wonder if I shopuld try to find a local herbalist who would appreciate a ~huge~ bunch of alder twigs and leaves etc for their use.

  4. I was looking up Alder today, as I saw a few, and realised, I know a good bit about plants, but not so much trees, and the Alder is one that has started to intrigue me. It dawned on me today that it has catkins – like a Hazel, but, whilst we eat the hazel nuts, we don’t seem to partake of the Alder Cones. Is there any edible value to them? Could they be pickled when green, like walnuts? (or am I just “off the wall”?)

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