The EclecticPhysician

The Eclectic Physician
Medicinal Herb Monographs

Elderberry/Black Elder

Botanical Name 
Sambucus nigra

Sambucus
Sambucus nigra
(Elderberry and Flower)

The information on this page compiled by
Beth Burch N.D.
Index
(click on the keywords)

Introduction

Elder flowers have been traditionally used to treat colds, coughs, fevers, and congestion of the ears and sinuses. Elder flowers were at one time part of the US pharmacopoeia. Weiss’ Herbal Medicine recommends elderberry juice for rheumatism and neuralgia. The berries have been shown in recent research to be antiviral, assisting with colds and influenza.

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Description

  • The black elder is a small tree or shrub up to 15 feet tall and is native to Europe. A related species, Sambucus canadensis is native to the US. A member of the Caprifoliaceae family, it has smooth pinnate leaves and large flat cymes of small yellowish-white flowers. The berries are a dark purple-blue with a reddish-purple juice. Both the flowers and the berries are used medicinally. Caution: Do not confuse the black elder with the red elder which is toxic.

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Constituents

  • Flavonoids including quercitin, rutin and anthocyanidins
  • Caffeic acid derivatives
  • Volatile oils

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Action/Effects

  • Flowers-
  • Anti-inflammatory (1)
  • Diaphoretic (induces perspiration)
  • Promotes mucus secretion
  • Berries-
  • Antiviral (2)
  • Antioxidant
  • Mild laxative

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Conditions used for

Flowers-
Fevers
Cough
Ear and sinus congestion
Berries-
Influenza(2)
Colds

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Dosage

  • Flowers-
  • Liquid extract- 1/4-1/2 teaspoon three times a day.
  • Tea- 2 teaspoons dried flowers to a cup of boiling water, steep and drink three times a day.
  • Berries-
  • Liquid extract- 1 teaspoon three times a day
  • Children’s dosage- Multiply adult dosage times the child’s weight, then divide by 150.
  • Food uses
  • Elderberries are used to make wine, jam and pie. Elder flowers are also used to make a juice or wine.

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Side Effects

  • Diarrhea, nausea and vomiting with high doses of the berries

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Contraindications

  • None known

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Interactions with medications

  • None known

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Use in pregnancy & lactation

  • No information on the safety of use in pregnancy or lactation

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References

1. Mascolo N et al, Biological screening of Italian medicinal plants for anti-inflammatory activity, Phytother Res 1987;1:28-31
2. Zakay-Rones Z et al, Inhibition of several strains of influenza virus in vitro and reduction of symptoms by an elderberry extract (Sambucus nigra L.) during an outbreak of influenza B Panama, J Altern Complement Med 1995;1(4):361-9.

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* The information presented in this web site is intended to inform and educate. It is not intended replace a qualified medical practitioner to diagnose or treat medical conditions.

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