Small tree with fissured bark, growing to 65 ft (20 m). Has notched oval leaves and male and female catkins.
Habitat & Cultivation
Alder is native to Europe, Asia, and North Africa. It thrives in damp places and along riverbanks. The bark and leaves are gathered in spring.
Alder contains lignans, tannin (10–20%), emodin (an anthraquinone), and glycosides.
History & Folklore
Water-resistant, alder was used in the construction of Venice. Wooster Beech (1794–1868), founder of the Eclectic healing movement, used a decoction of the bark to “purify the blood.”
Medicinal Actions & Uses
Alder is most often used as a mouthwash and gargle for tooth, gum, and throat problems. The drying action of a decoction of the bark helps to contract the mucous membranes and reduce inflammation. A decoction may also be used to staunch internal or external bleeding, and to heal wounds. It is also used as a wash for scabies. In Spain, alder leaves are smoothed and placed on the soles of the feet to relieve aching. Leaves are used to help reduce breast engorgement in nursing mothers.