Plant Description Medical Properties Dosage
Caution & Interaction Efficacy Studies & Other Clinical Data Helpful Links

Latin (botanical) name: Sambucus nigra

Common names: Black Elder, Black-Berried Elder, Pipe Tree, Common Elder, Bore Tree, Boor Tree, Ellhorn, Ellanwood

Plant Description: The Elder is common throughout most of Europe. It grows in hedgerows and woods throughout northern temperate regions, generally in moist, shady places and among underbrush. It is a shrubby tree, 10-30 feet high. The bark is light brown near the bottom of the stem, grayish higher up, and stippled with warts. The leaves are opposite and odd-pinnate, while the leaflets ovate, acuminate, finely serrated and dark green. In June and July, Black Elder grows cymes of white to yellow flowers which develop into berries that turn from green to red-brown to shiny black.

Interesting Historical Notes: A fragrant, flowering tree, Elderberry gets its name from the Anglo-Saxon word "aeld" meaning "fire." Inside young elder branches is a hollow tube or pipe. Presumably, these tubes were once used to blow on a fire in order to encourage the flames. The elder has a rich background of cultural superstitions. The Russians believed that elder trees ward off evil spirits. It was considered good luck to plant a tree near your home. Sicilians thought that elder wood branches could kill snakes and drive away thieves. Elderberry was first discovered by the Egyptians who found that applying its flowers to the skin improved the complexion and healed burns. Many early Indian tribes made tea from elderberry for its effectiveness in preventing colds and relieving toothaches. The British, in the 17th century, often drank homemade elderberry wine believing it to prolong life and cure the common cold.

Medicinal Properties &Uses: Elderberry extract is generally used topically for infections, inflammations of the skin, and swelling. The action of Elderberry extract is that it prevents viral hemagglutinin, or the process of the invading cells using their spike-like projections to introduce its enzyme into healthy cell membranes. The viral enzyme is also neutralized in the presence of elderberry extract. It can be made into tea and used to sooth sore throats, speed recovery from cold and flu, and relieve respiratory distress. The flowers are infused for fevers, eruptive skin conditions such as measles and severe bronchial and lung problems. The flowering tops tone the mucous linings of the nose and throat, increasing their resistance to infection. They are often prescribed for chronic congestion, allergies, ear infections, and candidiasis. Elder flowers are a mild astringent and used help relieve eczema, psoriasis, and acne. Raw berries have laxative and diuretic properties. Elder berries contain a considerable amount of vitamins A, B and C and are one of the richest sources of anthocyanins. Anthocyanins stimulate the body's immune response by promoting the production of lympocytes that act as a second line of defense against foreign cells. The berries also contain flavonoids, sugar, tannins, carotenoids and amino acids which assist in relief from sore throats and common colds.

Dosage: 20-40 drops in water or juice, 2-3 times daily, or as needed.

Cautions & Interactions: Keep out of reach of children.

Efficacy Studies & Other Clinical Data:
  • A Flu Remedy's New Horizons
  • A 1993 placebo-controlled, double-blind study on Sambucal, a standardized extract of elderberry, was carried out in Israel with very interesting results. The extract inhibited hemagglutination and replication of several strains of influenza. In the elderberry-treated group, 93.3% experienced significant relief, including the absence of fever, within 2 days The control group had an improvement of 91.7% of the subjects, but it took 4-5 days longer. There is no synthetic "cure" for influenza type A and B available with such a degree of efficacy.
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Disclaimer (U.S. Only): These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. These products are not intended to diagnose, cure, treat, or prevent any disease.