Loading... Please wait...

Blog - health

Elder Monograph (Sambucus Spp.)

Posted by

(Elder Flowers: photo by author)

Sambucus Spp.

Latin Name: Sambucus nigra, Sambucus canadensis L.

Common name(s): Elder, Elderberry, Elder flower, Black Elder, European Elder, American Elder

Family: Adoxaceae

Botany: Elders are deciduous shrubs that grow anywhere from 5 to 20 feet tall, with the European variety tending to be taller. 

Habitat: Elder likes moist, rich soils. It grows along trails and roads, near lakes and streams, and in fields.

History/Folklore: The American Elder was called the “tree of music” by some indigenous peoples, who made flutes from the branches. The European Elder has a long history of use in religious and secular storytelling. It was said that Judas of the Hebrew Bible hung himself from an Elder tree. Elders were long considered to have mystical properties, and were planted near homes to provide the dwellers good luck. Elders were also seen as the tree of witches, who were believed to live in the branches.

Parts used: flowers, berries, bark

Constituents: Sambucine, hydrocyanic acid, soft resin, Viburnic acid, volatile oil, albumen, fat, wax, tannic acid, chlorophyll, extractive, starch, gum, pectin, flavonoids

Actions: Anticatarrhal, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antiviral, diaphoretic, purgative

Medicinal use: The strongest reputation Elder has today is as a cold and flu remedy, particularly as a preventative. Regular use of Elderberry preparations during the fall and winter months can help stave off colds and flus, as well as reduce tendencies towards reoccurring coughs, sore throats, and associated symptoms. It’s also very useful for addressing fevers, and helping to heal infections. Hot Elder flower infusions act as a diuretic, and also can be used to calm rheumatic aches and pains. Cold Elder flower infusions can be used topically as an eyewash for sore and inflamed eyes, as well as for common skin conditions like eczema and acne. Historically, some Native peoples used American Elder root and bark tea for headaches, coughs, congestion, colds and flu. Elder is often combined with Yarrow as a cold and flu preventative, especially at the first sign is symptoms.

Common preparation: Hot infusion, cold infusion, tincture, tea

Contraindications: None

Notes: Elder contains cyanide producing glycosides. The flowers can generally be used raw, while the ripe berries are generally cooked and/or dehydrated before use.

The inner bark and roots were used historically for medicine, but are not commonly used today.

Sources

Chevallier, Andrew. Herbal Remedies. 2007, Metro Books, New York.

https://www.botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/e/elder-04.html

http://medicinalherbinfo.org/herbs/Elder.html

View Comments


Nettles (Urtica dioica) Monograph

Urtica dioica Latin Name: Urtica dioica Common name(s): Nettle, Big string nettle, common nettle, devil’s leaf, European nettleFamily: UrticeaeBotany: The species is divided into six subspecies. Five of them have hollow stinging hairs called trichomes on the leaves and stems. The plant grows 3 to 7 ft tall in the summer months, and then dies back during the winter. It has [...]

Read More »


Cleavers (Galium aparine) Monograph

Galium aparine Latin Name: Galium aparineCommon name(s): Cleavers, Goose Grass, Bedstraw Family: RubiaceaeBotany: Cleavers are annuals with tiny, star shaped flowers and creeping stems which cleave on whatever they grow on. Habitat: Grows around the globe, and is often found in fields, woods, and in disturbed soils and waste areas. History/Folklore: Cleavers has a history of use among [...]

Read More »


Astragalus: A Great Adaptogen Herb

AstragalusLatin Name: Astragalus, Astragalus propinquus, Astragalus membranaceusCommon name(s): Milk Vetch, Astragalus, Huang QiFamily: FabaceaeBotany: Astragalus membranaceus is a perennial, native to Northern and Eastern China, as well as Mongolia and Korea. Habitat: Astragalus does well in deep, sandy, well drained, and somewhat alkaline soils, but is fairly adaptable to other conditions. History/Folklore: Astragalus has been a staple [...]

Read More »


California Spikenard (Aralia californica)

Aralia californicaLatin Name: Aralia californicaCommon name(s): California Spikenard, Western Aralia, California Ginseng, Elk Clover Family: Araliaceae Botany: Aralia, a member of the Ginseng family, is a deciduous perennial that can grow up to 10 feet high. It has large leaves, and yellow-greenish flowers that bloom in mid-summer, and mature into blue-black berries in early fall. According to herbalist Michael [...]

Read More »


Burdock: Another Medicinal Weed to Know

Burdock (Arctium lappa) MonographLatin Name: Arctium lappaCommon name(s): BurdockFamily: AsteraceaeBotany: Burdock is a biennial herb with large, dark green leaves, tall stalks that can grow several feet high, and a plethora of characteristic round burrs, which often get caught in human clothing and animal fur. Habitat: Native to Europe and Asia, Burdocks have been naturalized all over the world. [...]

Read More »


Solving for Pattern with Herbs

I've been reflecting upon gratitude for the plants lately. How they offer us so many gifts, from their physical beauty to giving their bodies for our teas and medicines. Next week, I will be entering a clinical herbalist program in Berkeley, and really I owe so much to the plants themselves. For guiding me along [...]

Read More »


5 Common Herbs for Vibrant Spring Health

Spring. The season of renewal. New beginnings. Reawakening. If you're into natural medicine, you also know that spring is a great time to clear out the old, and make space for what's ready to be born. One way to do this is with herbs. Although herbal medicine is becoming more popular again, many people are [...]

Read More »


Can Herbal Medicine Heal the World?

Herbalism has made a resurgence in North America over the past three decades or so. However, it has done so in a way that has stripped away much of the power, beauty, and wisdom. Plugging directly into the Western biomedical model’s view of health and disease, what constitutes herbal medicine these days tends to be primarily or solely focused [...]

Read More »


3 Common Herbs for Winter Health

Oh November. A time of diminishing sunlight, falling leaves, and increasing susceptibility to the common cold and flu. As we move into late autumn, it’s a good time to think about ways to support your immune system. I always start by reflecting on my diet, and shifting towards cooking and eating more nutritious soups and stews. In addition, I’m [...]

Read More »




Recent Updates

Newsletter


Connect with us Facebook Instagram Twitter