Alder Medicine

Sometimes we take ordinary things for granted. I think there is something in our DNA, or maybe it’s our capitalist society, that makes us believe that if something is rare, then it must be more valuable. I think this belief can cause suffering. I know it definitely causes me to miss many of blessings that I am being showered with on a daily basis.

The Alder tree is a perfect example of this phenomenon. When I go out into the wilderness, I am instantly dismissive of the Alders, because they are everywhere around here (as they are in almost all wet climates). However, this often over-looked tree is an amazing source of medicine and healing for us humans and even for the earth itself.

The Adler tree is what’s known as a “pioneer species”. Pioneer species are the first plants to grow in ecosystems that have been decimated. In doing so they begin creating conditions that foster a healthy, diverse ecosystem. In short, Alders show up to heal the land. That is not something to be taken lightly, especially in this day and age.

Alders heal the land in various ways. One of the ways is through something called nitrogen fixation. As you may know, nitrogen is a vital nutrient for plants. Alder has an amazing and unique ability to take nitrogen from the air and fix it into the soil, where it can then be broken down into a useable form by soil bacteria, and then acts as nourishment for the entire ecosystem. This is a huge deal since nitrogen is often in short supply in ecosystems, and because the amount of nitrogen in the soil is directly correlated with the amount of life that the ecosystem can sustain.

With it’s ability to fix nitrogen in this way, Alder helps to heal and transform the land and the water it grows in and around. As a medicine, Alder also helps to heal and transform our inner ecology in some pretty remarkable ways.

Alder could be thought of as “river medicine” – and, in fact, it often grows in watery, marshy, and boggy areas. In true form, Alder has an affinity for the “waters” of our bodies; blood, lymph, digestive fluids, bile, and urine, to name a few. It has the ability to clean, transform and nourish these ‘waters’ and get things flowing when they are sluggish or boggy.

More specifically, Alder is fantastic at moving sluggish lymph fluid, which is an incredibly important fluid in your body. Lymph, by the way, is the unsung hero of the body. It nourishes all of your tissues, detoxifies all of your tissues, and plays a vital role in your immunity. It also helps keep the balance of fluids in your body where it needs to be. Your lymph is SO important!

Alder also keeps our digestive fluids flowing. These include things like bile and enzymes, which are key for breaking down any and every thing that you consume, but especially for breaking down fats and proteins.

Alder also cleans the blood, which means that the two most important blood filtering organs in your body; the liver and the kidneys, are both supported by Alder.

Spiritually and emotionally, the ‘waters’ of the body are connected to our emotional experince. Many herbalists (myself included) feel that Alder can help us to feel and then release old, toxic, sluggish or stagnant emotions.

Alder is also broadly anti-microbial, which means anti-fungal, anti-viral AND anti-bacterial!


(I can’t believe I just wrote Yowzah. Yowzah.)

Anyway, Alder’s affinity for the lymph coupled with it’s broad anti-microbial capabilities mean that it’s a boon the immune system. It’s actually a great remedy for all kinds of infections, and can also be great for someone with general hypo-immunity. Hypo immunity is characterized by getting sick a lot, and/or having a cold or flu or some kind of infection that just keeps hangin’ on…

As if that weren’t enough, Alder is also anti-inflammatory. It can soothe inflammation that comes along with various infections, as well as the inflammation that comes from injuries.

Speaking of injuries, this wonderful tree is also great for pain relief. It can be used topically and/or internally.

There are lots of ways to “take” Alder, as there are with most herbs. Here are some suggestions:


An Alder bath is great for relieving pain, reducing inflammation, moving lymph and treating skin infections of any kind. Try making some Alder bath tea with the leaves and small twigs.


You can put alder in a salve just as you would any other herb. Try it for sprains, strains, and skin infections.


Alder can be taken internally to reap any of the benefits listed above.

Infused Honey:

This is great for digestion, and nipping viruses and infections of any kind, especially in the case of a persistent sore throat.

Plant Spirit Healing:

Try connecting with the spirit of this amazing plant the next time you meditate, or schedule a session with me and I’ll help you!

If you live in a wet climate like I do, then you probably see Alder trees on a regular basis. Maybe like me, your tendency is to pass them by; maybe they have become so ordinary that you don’t even see them any more. Perhaps it’s time for us to look with new eyes, and to be open to fact that extraordinary gifts are all around us, woven into the fabric of our every day lives.



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