Basic Information

Common name: Elderberry

Other Names: Black Elder

Latin Binomial: Sambucus nigra

Parts Used: Berry, leaf, and flower


Medicinal Uses

This herb has an affinity for the respiratory system, being useful for all conditions related to inflammation and congestion of the upper respiratory tract. The flower is used for cold and flu conditions and has been found to accelerate the recovery from the flu with a reduction in duration of 3-4 days. The expectorant properties of the flower draw out mucus congestion and promotes relief of sinusitis. In addition, the flowering tops and leaves significantly reduce the susceptibility to hay fever symptoms when taken regularly during allergy season for daily maintenance. There is also a marked diuretic action associated with taking the lowering tops and leaves of the herb.


The berry possesses all the same actions as the flower in addition to that of an anti-rheumatic. A standardized elderberry syrup extract was found to have antiviral properties against 10 strains of the flu virus (Hoffmann, 2003) and became the basis of the formula for the over-the-counter medicine, Sambucol. It seems to strengthen the cell membrane so that viruses are unable to penetrate the cell. There is a mild laxative effect associated with taking the berries of the herb.



Key Constituents


  • Flavonoids (antioxidants)
  • Anthocyanins
  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin C


  • Triterpenes (pre-cursor to steroids that reduces cholesterol levels)
  • Glycosides
  • Flavonoids (antioxidants)
  • Fatty Acids
  • Alkanes
  • Tannins


  • Flavonoids (antioxidants)
  • Triterpenes (pre-cursor to steroids that reduces cholesterol levels)
  • Fixed Oils
  • Phenolic Acids (stimulates the immune system)
  • Pectin
  • Tannins
  • Sugars




  • Diaphoretic
  • Diuretic
  • Laxative
  • Anti-Rheumatic


  • Purgative
  • Expectorant
  • Diuretic
  • Diaphoretic
  • Emollient
  • Vulnerary


  • Diaphoretic
  • Anti-Catarrhal
  • Antispasmodic
  • Anti-Inflammatory


Body Organs Acted Upon

  • Pharynx
  • Lungs
  • Kidneys


When and How to Use It

The leaves and flowers can be taken as a tincture or a tea and the berry can be made into a syrup or juice. As a tincture, take 2-4 ml, three times per day. As an infusion, use 2 teaspoons of dried leaves and/or flowers in 1 cup of boiling water and steep for 10 minutes; take three times per day. As a syrup or juice, boil the fresh berries for 2-3 minutes and then squeeze out juice. The flowering tops, leaves, and berries are safe for children.


Safety Considerations

No known contraindications or other drug interactions. There has been one documented report of vomiting, abdominal cramps, and weakness after consuming a juice made from the fresh berries, leaves, and branches of the elderberry plant.




Bone, Kerry and Mills, Simon (2013). Principles and practice of phytotherapy: Modern herbal medicine, 2nd ed. Churchill Livingstone, Elsevier, Ltd. China.

Chevallier, Andrew (2000). Encyclopedia of herbal medicine: The definitive reference to 550 herbs and remedies for common ailments, 2nd ed. Dorling Kindersley. New York, NY.

Gonzalez-Castejon, M., Visioli, F., and Rodriguez-Casado, A. (2012). Diverse biological activities of dandelion. Nutrition Reviews. 70(9). 534-47.

Marieb, E.N. (2015). Essentials of human anatomy and physiology, 11th ed. Pearson Education, Inc. Glenview, IL.

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