[TGN ARTICLE] The Essential Guide to Elderberry - Plus 11 Benefits

Ruth Ann Reyes
Ruth Ann Reyes Posts: 576 admin
edited November 10 in Herbal Medicine-Making

Elderberry (Sambucus nigra): The Essential Guide to Its Benefits and Uses

  • Botanical NameSambucus nigra, S. cerulea, S. canadensis, S. mexicana, S. racemosa, S. gaudichaudiana
  • Family: Adoxaceae
  • Other Common Names: Elder, elder tree, elder mother, good mother, mother plant, queen of herbs
  • Parts Used: Berries, flowers, leaves
  • Energetics: Dry
  • Thermal Properties: Cool
  • Actions: Anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antimicrobial, , depurative, diaphoretic, diuretic, immunomodulating, laxative, nervine (relaxing), skin protectant, vulnerary (leaf)
  • Taste: Sour (berries), bitter/sweet (flowers)
  • Plant Uses: Immune stimulant, cold & flu remedy, broad-spectrum antimicrobial, high in antioxidants, glucose and cholesterol-lowering, wound healing, fever breaker, detoxification, rheumatism and inflammation-related pain
  • Plant Preparations: fresh or dried berries, juice, wine, syrup, tincture, infusion, cream, eye wash, spray, dummies, gummies, various baked goods
  • Toxicities/Warnings: Elderberry contains cyanide-forming glycosides. These are highest in the stem, leaves, and unripe berries. Raw, ripe berries cause some people digestive distress. Cooking or drying greatly reduces this. Blossoms are usually very well tolerated by all.

Introduction to Elderberry Herb

Elder plants and humans have enjoyed a relationship for thousands of years. Wherever elder has grown, people have used it as food and medicine.

And humans, in return, have created inviting habitats for the elder to propagate in. We’ve used the berries to dye clothing and hair, and to create ink for writing and drawing. The elder tree has also been the inspiration for musical, artistic, and superstitious tradition, and is linked with death, rebirth, and the supernatural.

Elder was often viewed as a gateway plant, bridging two areas, or protecting boundaries. It’s branches reach high into the sky, but also down to the ground. It often grows at the edge of water and land, or on the border of wild and cultivated lands. It was also seen as a bridge between the realms of the living the the dead.

Elder branches were used to test whether or not someone’s soul had reached paradise. The branch was placed on a grave in the spring. If the branch blossomed, this was an indication of success.

According to some traditions, planting a row of elder trees would protect you from witches. However, in other traditions, witches were fond of elder, using it in their magic. Various legends say that spirit or faery creatures, or an entity known as the Elder Mother, resided in the hollow branches of the elder.

If you were to cut an elder without reciting a rhyme or performing the appropriate ritual, you would anger the entity that dwelled within its hollow branches and bring bad luck upon yourself.

The name of the genus, Sambucus, comes from its Latin common name.

A related word, “sambuca,” was the name of a harp-like instrument and may have been inspired by a resemblance between the two. The wood of the elder has also been used to create flutes and other woodwind instruments. Celtic druids were said to use these flutes to heal the spirit or communicate with the souls of the dead.

Other magical abilities associated with elders are seeing the future, having visions of faery lands, gaining protection from attack, and gaining protection from disease. The latter has been confirmed by modern medical science. I’ll leave the rest for you to decide.

11 Benefits of Elderberry

  • Anti-Inflammatory: Combat inflammation-related conditions, such as rheumatism, with elderberry.1)2)3)4)
  • Cancer Fighter: Elderberry has shown promise as a cancer fighter both internally and externally.5)6)
  • Fever Fighter: Elder is an excellent fever-reducing plant with a long history of use.7)
  • Cardiovascular Health: Elderberries help to influence cholesterol levels and promote heart health.8)
  • Healthy Skin: Elder helps to gentry detoxify the skin, and is ideal for soothing and healing inflamed skin.9)10)
  • Eye Health: Both the berries and flowers have been used to help strengthen vision.11)
  • Diabetes Management: Elderberry and elderflowers both help to lower blood glucose levels.12)13)
  • Antimicrobial: While famous as a flu treatment, elderberry combats a broad range of harmful pathogens.14)15)16)
  • Immune Booster: Elderberry stimulates and strengthens the immune system.17)
  • Diuretic: Elderberry flushes out toxins and expels excess water from the body.18)
  • Wound Healing: Speed wound healing with topical application of elder leaves.19)20)21)

Medicinal Properties of Elderberry

Image by Manfred Richter from Pixabay

Nearly every part of the elderberry plant has been used as a medicine. And while most parts of the plant share the same properties, these properties are not always expressed in the same proportion.

The flowers are the mildest and safest part of the plant. Because of this, they are the primary choice for children and for those who are particularly sensitive to the elder’s cyanide-forming glycosides.

The favored uses of the flower center around skin health and fever reduction. As a diaphoretic, elderflower increases sweat production. This helps to expel infection from the body and cool the body through evaporation. While doing this, the skin is detoxified and the elderflower’s anti-inflammatory properties are drawn into the skin, soothing rashes, sunburns, and other inflammation.22)23) Elderflowers have also been used in eye washes to help promote healthy vision.24)

The berries are easily the most used part of the plant. While they contain some cyanide-forming glycosides, the amount is usually well-tolerated, especially when the berries have been first cooked or dried. Elderberries are most famous as a flu remedy. The reputation is well deserved. Studies have shown that elderberry products, when taken at the first signs of infection, are comparable to commercial antivirals and can reduce the duration of infection by more than half.25)26)

But Sambucus nigra isn’t limited to flu viruses. It’s effective against a number of different bacteria and viruses and also acts as an immune stimulant to help you regardless of infection type.27)28)29)

Aside from infection, elderberries have shown promise as a cancer fighter, both internally for tumors, and topically for skin cancers.30)31) They also have potent anti-inflammatory effects that help to ease rheumatism symptoms and other inflammation-related pains and problems.32)

The berries have benefits related to cardiovascular health and blood sugar. They help lower cholesterol levels and may have an epigenetic effect on liver cells, influencing the expression of chromosomes to produce more efficient cholesterol processing.33) Both elderberry and elderflower have blood glucose-lowering properties.34)35)

When we get to the leaves, we need to start exercising some additional caution. Elder leaves have higher concentrations of cyanide-forming glycosides. Also, some species, such as red elder (S. racemosa) are naturally higher in these chemicals and should not be used internally. However, the leaves can be used safely in topical applications. Poultices, pastes, and creams made with elder leaf are anti-inflammatory to the skin and stimulate healing to accelerate recovery.36)37)38)39)40)

The bark contains a higher level of cyanide-forming compounds and should only be used by an experienced herbalist. One of its uses is as a laxative, which may be linked to its higher quantity of cyanide-forming glycosides.

Nutrition Properties

Elderberries are a nutrient-dense food. They’re loaded with antioxidants, have more Vitamin C than an orange, and several times more Vitamin A than blueberries. They’re an excellent source of iron and a good source of calcium, phosphorus, potassium, and B6. Elderberries also contain fewer nutrients and are a good energy source without being sugary.

Elderberry Preparation and Usage

Image by RitaE from Pixabay

Elder plants can be used to create a large number of different products, far too many to fully represent here. This list doesn’t even touch the food applications. Although the number of options may be intimidating, the various preparations are well worth trying.

There are many different ideas about the “correct” way to make an elderberry tincturesyruptea, etc. Likewise, there are many different “correct” dosages. This is to be expected from such a widely used plant. Naturally, the examples below are not the only way to create and use these elderberry products, but they should be suitable to most circumstances and can form the basis for a more personalized formula later.

Continue reading on our website to learn how to make a hot and cold infusion, spray, and eyewash...

Original Article URL: https://thegrownetwork.com/elderberry-sambucus-nigra/


  • 1/2 cup dried elderberries (or 1 cup fresh)
  • 2 cups water
  • 5 cloves
  • 1 tbsp fresh ginger
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 cup honey

Add everything but the honey to a pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cover nearly completely. Allow to simmer until the liquid is reduced by half. Strain liquid and add honey. Bottle and store in your refrigerator.

A typical serving is 1/2-1 tsp for children and 1-2 tsp for adults. This can be taken once a day when you’ve been exposed to an illness and want to keep your immune system on alert, or every 2-3 hours when actively trying to fight off an infection.

Make Your Own Elderberry Syrup With Our DIY Elderberry Syrup Kit! Buy Yours Here!

Continue reading to find out how to make juice, tincture, pet products, and more on our website...

Original Article URL: https://thegrownetwork.com/elderberry-sambucus-nigra/

Plant ID

Elderberry plants form a shrub or small tree, often growing in dense clusters with other elders. They have woody stems with small bumps (lenticels) and a pithy core. The leaves are pinnately compound with toothy margins and 5-9 leaflets. The flowers are creamy white, small, have 5 petals, 5 states, and grow in a cluster. The berries are round and glossy. Berry color can vary by species. Black elder (Sambucus nigre) and American elder (S. canadensis) have black or deep purple berries. Red elder (S. recemosa) is red, Australian elder (S. gaudichaudiana) is white to yellow, and two blue elders (S. cerulea and S. mexicana) are blue.

Elderberry is similar to two different plants called Hercules club (Zanthoxylum clava-herculis and Aralia spinosa). Each of these can be easily distinguished from elder by their thorns. Elderberry has no thorns whatsoever. Anything with thorns is not an elder.

Elderberry also bears a passing resemblance to deadly water hemlock.

However, these can also be easily distinguished. The bloom of a water hemlock is a compound umbel, or an umbel of umbels. Spatially, they resemble the explosion of fireworks.

The stem of a water hemlock is smooth and non-woody, while the woody stem of an elder has small bumps. The leaves of water hemlock are also distinctly different from elder.

With hemlock, the leaf veins terminate in the notches between the teeth at the margin of the leaf. In elderberry, the veins typically terminate at the tip of the teeth. And while an elder’s leaves are pinnately compound, water hemlock’s leaves are double compound. Lastly, the water hemlock will produce a dry seed; not a juicy berry, like the elder.

What Do You Think?

Elderberry is an excellent food and a living pharmacy that’s well worth bringing into your yard. It’s rich history with humans shows just how important it was to our ancestors and how important it should be to us today. What are your favorite elder foods and medicines? Have you used elder to heal your family?

Continue reading on our website to find out where It grows and how to find it...

Original Article URL: https://thegrownetwork.com/elderberry-sambucus-nigra/