Botanical: Sambucus nigra
Family: Adoxaceae (moschatel) - formerly Caprifoliaceae (honeysuckle)
Other common names: Black Elder, Boor Tree, Ellanwood, Elder, Ellhorn, European Elder, Pipe Tree, German Elder, Bountry, Englishman's Grape, Black-berried European Elder, Elder Bush
"Elder be the Lady's tree,
burn it not - or cursed you'll be."
(Ancient rhyme from the pagan belief that held
the Elder tree sacred to the Moon Goddess.)
Loaded with vitamins A, B and C, Elderberry stimulates the immune system and protects against free radicals that attack healthy cells. At the very first sign of a cold or flu virus, a regimen of Elderberry should help alleviate the symptoms within seventy-two hours.
The information presented herein by Herbal Extracts Plus is intended for educational purposes only. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, cure, treat or prevent disease. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.
Elderberry is a deciduous, perennial, large shrub (or small tree) that reaches a height and spread of about fifteen feet, but occasionally rising to forty feet. The Elder tree is native to Europe but has been naturalized in the Americas. The leaves are opposite, pinnate with five-to-nine serrate-edged leaflets. They bear large clusters of small white or cream-colored flowers in the late spring and are followed by clusters of small bluish or black berries. Some Elderberry species have lifespans between eighty and one hundred years. The Elder tree prefers rich, moist soil and is usually found in heavily forested areas and on rocky slopes in the temperate and subtropical regions of both hemispheres. The common American Elder (Sambucus canadensis) is native to North America, where Native Americans used it medicinally and in their diets; and its European relative (Sambucus nigra) - both species bearing blue-black berries - have been used in the same manner for thousands of years. The berries provide a very valuable food resource for many birds and butterflies and, of course, herbal medicine. Evidence of its cultivation may be found at Stone Age village sites in Switzerland and Italy. In ancient times, the Elder tree was believed to have mystical properties and was considered good luck. Having an Elder tree near the home was thought to bring happy marriages, prosperity and healthy children. The spirits that lived within the tree protected against disease, evil spirits and all common ailments. In the Middle Ages, everyone knew that cutting down an Elder tree would incur the wrath of the witches who called it home, and it was even bad luck to make furniture from its wood. The Elder tree was once called "the medicine chest of the country people," and for centuries the tree was a popular Gypsy remedy for colds, influenza and neuralgia. The leaves were touted by European herbalists to be pain relieving and to promote healing of injuries when applied as a poultice. American Choctaw Indians used Elder to cure migraine headaches and burns, and Native American herbalists widely used the plant for infections, coughs and skin conditions. Elderberries have long been used as a food and drink, including Elderberry wine, pies, jellies, syrups, cordials and lemonade. Both the Elderberries and flowers are used in herbal medicine. The berries are best not eaten raw, as they are mildly poisonous, causing vomiting (particularly if eaten unripe). The mild cyanide toxicity is destroyed by cooking. All green parts (and roots) of the plant are poisonous, containing toxic cyanogenic glycosides. Elderberry is rich in vitamins A, C and E, B-vitamins (riboflavin, niacin, folic acid), protein, polyphenols, essential fatty acids, beta-carotene, selenium, calcium, flavonoids (anthocyanin and quercetin), essential oils, tannins and mucilage.
Considered an herbal cold and flu treatment, Elderberry is said to reduce the course of the infection when taken at the very first sign of colds or flu; and symptoms of influenza should generally pass within seventy-two hours. A 2015 double-blind, clinical trial demonstrated that a blend of Elderberry and Echinacea is equal in efficacy to the pharmaceutical drug Tamiflu). Several clinical studies have shown that an extract of Elderberry demonstrated efficacy in the treatment of both adults and children with either type A or B influenza, reducing both the severity and duration of flu symptoms in otherwise healthy subjects. Another 2015 study from Australia's Griffith University indicated that Elderberry extracts can reduce the length and severity of cold symptoms among air travellers. All this, of course, should not be considered a substitute for influenza vaccination in high risk individuals. An in vitro study also showed Elderberry's potential effectivness against the H5N1 avian influenza virus; and in 2009, scientists at the University of Miami Medical School
found that flavonoids from Elderberry extract would bind to H1N1 virions and, when bound, blocked the ability of the viruses to infect host cells in vitro and would prevent H1N1 infection.
Elderberry has long been used to treat coughs, common colds and runny nose. As an expectorant, it reduces excessive mucus and expels phlegm. Taking Elderberry will also usually induce heavy sweating; and following a soothing sleep, fever will be lowered.
Elderberry is antiviral, antibiotic and antibacterial and has been used for centuries for soothing upper respiratory infections. It is regarded as an excellent remedy for asthma, bronchial infections and sinusitis.
Since Elderberry acts as a powerful herbal diuretic, the herb increases urine flow and promotes all fluid secretions, helping to cleanse the system. By promoting heavy perspiration, Elderberry also opens the pores, and in that manner it aids the further elimination of toxic material and impurities from the body through the skin.
Considered an herbal colon cleanser, Elderberry is powerful laxative and has been used as a natural intestinal cleanser for centuries. It is said to work like lightning to evacuate the bowels and relieve constipation.
Elderberry enhances the immune system function by focusing on the nutritional needs of the immune system. This natural anti-inflammatory stimulates the immune system to combat the free radicals that attack healthy cells. Elderberry's flavonoids include anthocyanins that are powerful antioxidants, which protect cells against damage from invasive infection. A large body of research (2009) suggests that berries may be among the most potent cancer-fighting fruits, with particular emphasis on Elderberry, Blackberry, Black and Red Raspberry, Strawberry and Blueberry. Elderberry contains a number of healthful compounds including vitamins, selenium, calcium, polyphenols and, perhaps most notably, compounds called anthocyanins, which give berries their color and have, in laboratory tests, produced slower tumor growth and fewer esophageal tumors.
As a revitalizing stimulant and rejuvenating tonic, Elderberry promotes circulation, kidney function and good lymphatic system health.
Topically, Elderberry has long been used for burns, bruises, wound healing, eczema, psoriasis, rash and other skin problems. Elderberry water is said to be good for the eyes and the complexion and generally improve skin health. It has also been used to remove freckles, as well as whiten and soften the skin.
Other traditional uses for Elderberry have included the treatment of nerve pain, neuralgia, migraine headaches and nervous conditions.
Pregnant women should not take Elderberry, and the plant should never be eaten without cooking; it is poisonous (commercial preparations take care of that situation). Prolonged or overuse of Elder may increase the amount of urine you make and may cause the loss of potassium from your body. People taking diuretics or laxatives should use caution when taking Elderberry at the same time.