Elder is a large deciduous shrub with corky, gray-brown bark with feathery leaves. Tiny, scented cream flowers are borne in summer, followed by black berries.




Elder is a bitter, pungent, cooling herb. The flowers and fruits are used to lower fever, reduce inflammation, soothe irritation and have a diuretic and anti-mucus effect, while the leaves are insecticidal.

Both the flowers and leaves contain rutin, isoquercitrin and hyperoside, while the flowers also contain chlorogenic acid, organic acids and triterpenoids, such as a-amyrin and b-amyrin, and the fruits contain tannins and anthocyanins such as sambucin, sambucyanin, chrysanthemin and all the glycosides of cyanidin. The seeds on the other hand contain cyanogenic glycosides such as sambunigrin, prunasin and holocalin, while the fruit contains lectins.

The flowers have diuretic, laxative, anti-inflammatory and antiviral properties, while the fruits again have antioxidant properties.

Therapeutic Uses

Internal Uses:
  • Elder flowers are traditionally used to treat influenza, colds, mucus, sinusitis, feverish illnesses and other upper respiratory tract problems, as well as hay fever.
  • The fruits on the other hand are used for their analgesic effects, as well as their diuretic, laxative and diaphoretic properties.
  • The fruits are used for rheumatic complaints and the bark for constipation and arthritic conditions.
  • The flower heads are fried in batter, made into cordials, summer drinks and to add flavor to stewed fruits, jellies and jams.
External Uses:
  • Elder leaves and bark are used externally to treat minor burns and chilblains.
  • The flowers are used for sore eyes, irritated and inflamed skin, mouth ulcers and minor injuries.

Parts Used

The flowers are mainly used, although the leaves, fruit, bark and roots are also used.

Known As

Other Names: American elder, sweet elder and common elder

Genus and Specie

Sambucus nigra L.

Safety Precautions and Warning

The leaves and raw berries contain toxic cyanogenic glycosides and are poisonous.Care must be taken when using this plant for herbal remedies.

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