Plant Profile: Elder

(Sambucus nigra syn S. canadensis)

Other Common Names: Black elder, Boretree, Devil's wood, European elder, Pip tree


Parts Used: Berries, Flowers, Leaves 

Energetics: Bitter/Cooling/Drying

Body Organs / Systems affected: Immune system, Liver, Musculoskeletal system, Respiratory system. 

Preparations: Capsules, Decoction, Poultice, Tincture

Key Components:  Flowers: Flavoniods, (Rutin, Isoquercitrine, Kampherol), Sambunigrine (a hydrocyanic glycoside), Tannins, Volatile oils (essential oil).
Berries: Acids, Anthrocyanic Pigments, Tannins, Vitamins A, C & P (Flavenoids)
    Properties: Leaves: Externally: emollient, vulnerary. Internally: purgative, expectorant, diuretic, diaphoretic. Flowers: immune building, slightly blood thinning, slightly tonic (alterative & astringent), Diaphoretic, anticatarrhal. Berries: anti-viral, tonic, blood-building, Diaphoretic, diuretic, laxative, anti-rheumatic.
    Medicinal Uses: 

    • Anti-viral
    • Cold
    • Fever reducing
    • Flu
    • Herpes
    • Immune enhancing
    • Shingles
    Berries: Elder is about transitions; a time when additional immune support is needed. Start taking in fall as a daily tonic. Berries have an ability to build immune system over time and best to take daily as an immune support to avoid getting sick in the first place. Good general blood purifier & effectively used for arthritic & rheumatic complaints. Shown to kill many strains of influenza virus and shorten bouts of the flu. Also effective in treating herpes, shingles & upper respiratory infections. 

    Contraindications: It is not recommended to eat the raw berries as eating large amounts of the large berries could cause digestive upset and diarrhea in some people. Contraindications: Only black elder is safe for internal use. This produces Blue flowers & dark blue/black looking berries. Berries should only be consumed cooked, never raw as it can cause digestive discomfort if eaten raw in large amounts. Red elder (Sambucus racemosa) is TOXIC & produces red flowers and berries.

    Growing: Elder is a large perennial shrub that can grow up to 30' high. Can be found in the wild throughout North America as far north as Zone 5 (Though some have luck cultivating it as far as zone 3).
    It is most often found along streams and fields where there is rich, wet soil. They prefer partial shade to full sun.

    Harvesting: Flowers are typically collected in spring/early summer. It is best to collect berries in late summer (August/September)