Elder | Elderberry | Elder Flower

Elder, Elderberry, Elder Flower

Sambucus nigra Caprifoliaceae Also called Elderberry

A Nativc oif Europc and North america, the deciduous elder tree can grow as tall as 10m. Large flat clusters small creamy.flowers bloom in May , filling theáhedgerows !l'ith a s!l'cctly pungcllt scent. They are .followed by small , black berries .filled with dark purplc juice.

Parts used

  • Flowers. berries and inner bark
  • The flowersáare picked in late spring, when in full bloom.
  • They are dried and used to make infusions and decoction.
  • The bernes ~rp picked when ripe in early autumn.
  • The fresh inner bark. revealed when the blackish outer coating is peeled away, is less frequently used.


Elderflower contains tannins, potassium, mucilage. phenols and flavonoids. The bark contains sambucine. an alkaloid-like substance. The berries. often used in syrups. jams and wines, are rich in anthocyan ins. folic acid and vitamins A and C. They also contain flavonoids and cyanidin glucosides. which are poisonous in large doses.

Medicinal uses

Elderflowers and berries are expectorant and also promote sweating. thus helping to reduce high temperatures, and to rid the body of toxins. These combined effects make elder a good choice for treating colds and flu.

In 1990 Bulgarian scientists found elderflowers to have antiviral action against herpes simplex type I(the virus responsible for causing cold sores) and influenza types A and B. And recent clinical evidence from Israel also showed elderberry extract effectively inhibiting various strains of flu virus. If taken early enough in infection. elder can greatly improve recovery times from influenza.

A French study published in 1983 found that elderflower preparations were diuretic. The berries are known to be mildly laxative. An elderflower decoction makes a good anti-inflammatory mouthwash or gargle for swollen painful gums and sore throats.

The roots appear to be insecticidal - badgers rub their bodies vigorously against them to kill lice infestations in their fur, and it is possible that a decoction used topically might help to eradicate an infestation of head lice.


  • Do not eat raw fruit: it can cause nausea and vomiting,
  • Do not use elder if pregnant or breastfeeding.
  • Excessive or prolonged causes excess potassium loss via the urine. . To date, there are no reported adverse side effects, despite the presence of small amounts of cyanidin glucosides.


For internal use

TO TREAT influenza, colds, catarrh

INFUSION Put 2-5g dried flowers into a cup of boiling water. Infuse for 5-10 minutes and strain. Drink at least three cups a day.

TINCTURE (1:5 in 25% alcohol) Take 20 drops in a glass of water, three times a day after meals.

For external use

TO TREAT sore throat, inflamed gums (gingivitis) or mouth DECOCTION Put 50g flowers into 1 litre boiling water.Boil for 5 minutes, then leave to cool. Use as a gargle or mouthwash four to six times a day, particularly after meals.



Elder likes a rich damp soil and a sunny or lightly shaded location.


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