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.