Elderberry: Uses and Health Benefits

Elderberry: Uses and Health Benefits

Elderberry, also known as Sambucus scientifically, comes from the Anglo-Saxon word ‘aeld‘ meaning ‘fire’ and is a staple in our home. Whenever we buy cough or cold “medicine” at our local health food store, depending on the severity, we either grab a honey base or elderberry!

Elderberry plants are native to Europe, Asia, and here in North America and are definitely worth planting!

Best grown from root divisions or cuttings as can be very difficult grown from seed

Growth: A multi-stemmed shrub or small tree, potentially 30 feet tall
Hardiness: Hardy from zones 3-9, depending on species. May survive in
colder regions with protection
Light: Semi-shade to full sun
Soil: Prefers rich soil
Water: Moist, well-drained soil
Use: Culinary; medicinal; cosmetic; ornamental; economic [Caution – Use owers
or ripe berries (cooked) only – remove all stems because they are toxic.
e leaves, stems, branches, seeds, unripe berries and roots all contain a toxic
cyanide-producing glycoside.]

A classic of herbal medicine famous for health and immune support

Long revered for its exceptional and multi-faceted healing gifts intertwined with mythology, elderberry has been utilized for centuries throughout the world. Healers have used elderberry in many different ways throughout history. Traditionally, herbalists use the berries to support immune system health but Elder plants give us not just one, but TWO edible crops – a cluster of tiny white flowers and deep purple berries. Herbalists have long prized the elderflower for its usefulness in treating fevers and colds. Exceptionally rich in antioxidants, the elderflower has antiviral and antimicrobial properties as well.

There are nine species of the elder plant, Sambucus Nigra, Sambucus Canadensis, and Sambucus Americanas being the most common. Some others include; S. Cerulea (Blue elderberry), S. Ebulus (European Dwarf Elderberry), S. Racemosa (Red Elderberry).

The following information has been gathered from health sources listed at the end of this article and is intended for personal knowledge and is in no way intended to diagnose or treat medically. I am not a doctor of any kind, you should always consult a trusted healthcare professional when choosing a new regimen. Allergy and other unknown side effects, injury or death may occor.

What is elderberry good for?

Sambucus nigra is the best-known herb in Western herbal medicine for immune support and nourishment, and carries a number of health benefits.


Elderberry flowers promote perspiration in the early stages of influenza, especially when combined with Mentha piperata (peppermint). It is supportive in the removal of waste and toxins through both the skin and kidneys.

Fever reduction 

Elderflower is especially helpful for fevers where a child feels hot, is bright red and restless, and is not sweating. It is also very refreshing on a warm day!

Preventing infection

Research shows the use of elderberry to prevent upper respiratory infections and shorten the duration of a cold or flu. In some recent studies, Sambucus nigra syrup reduced the severity of flu symptoms and shortened their duration by about four days.


Beneficial flavonoids cool and repair inflamed tissues, reducing both inflammation and oxidative stress.

Virus protection

Research performed by Madeleine Mumcuglu, PhD, found that the influenza virus forms tiny spikes (hemagglutinins) laced with an enzyme (neuraminidase) that helps the virus to penetrate the cell walls of a healthy organism. Mumcuglu found that the active ingredients in elderberries disarm the viral neuraminidase enzyme within 24–48 hours, thus preventing the virus from entering and further replicating in the cells. Sambucus berries contains several compounds that have also been demonstrated to reduce ACE2 binding.

The following information is intended for personal knowledge and is in no way intended to diagnose or treat medically. I am not a doctor of any kind, you should always consult a trusted healthcare professional when choosing a new regimen. Allergy and other unknown side effects, injury or death may occor.

Warning: Raw fruit can be poisonous and should always be cooked before consumption.


Family: Adoxaceae

Common name: Elder, American elder, elderberry

Parts used: Bark, berries, flowers, and leaves

Taste: Berries: sour; flowers: bitter/sweet

Energy: Dry, cool

Active constituents

Berries: Flavonoids, invert sugar, fruit acids, vitamins A & C.

Leaves: Triterpenes, cyanogenic glycosides (sambunigrin), flavonoids, tannins

Flowers: Flavonoids (quercetin, rutin), triterpenes, phenolic acids, anthocyanins, vitamin C, free fatty acids (linoleic, linolenic, palmitic acid), tannins, essential oil.

Herbal actions

Berries: Anti-catarrhal, antioxidant, antiviral, diaphoretic, laxative.

Leaves: Externally—emollient, vulnerary; internally—purgative, expectorant, diuretic, diaphoretic.

Flowers: Diaphoretic, diuretic.

Bark: Purgative, emetic, diuretic.

System tropism: Lungs, immune, liver (flowers)

Contraindication: Not for those with tissue transplants using immunosuppressive drugs


Tincture (1:5)

Long term (3x daily): Adult: 5–10 ml; children: 2–3 ml.

Acute (3x daily) for children:

  • infants: 0.5 mL
  • < 4yrs: 1–2 mL
  • < 6yrs: 2–3 mL
  • < 8yrs: 3–4 mL
  • < 10yrs: 4–5 mL
  • > 10yrs: 5mL


For both acute and long term: 1–2 tsp dried berries. Add 8 oz hot water, steep for 10 minutes 3c/day.


Long term: ½–1 tsp for kids, ½–1 tbsp for adults. Acute: every 2–3 hours until symptoms disappear

Elderberry Syrup Recipe


  • 1½ cups freshly picked black elderberries or ⅔ cup dried
  • 3½ cups filtered water
  • 2 tbsp ginger root, peeled and sliced
  • 1½ tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground gloves
  • 1 cup of raw, local honey


  1. Add all ingredients, except honey, to a medium-sized saucepan. Bring to a boil.
  2. Reduce heat and let simmer for 3–4 hours, stirring occasionally, until liquid is reduced by half.
  3. Remove from heat. Strain liquid to remove solids. Let cool.
  4. Once completely cooled, add honey and mix well. Decant into an airtight container. Keep refrigerated for up to a month. For dosing see above.

Tonsilitis Gargle


  • 1 tbsp elderberry fruit juice
  • 1 tbsp sumac extract
  • 1 tsp echinacea root extract


Combine ingredients and gargle, as needed.

Read More from our sources!

  • An evidence-based systematic review of elderberry and elderflower (Sambucus nigra) by the Natural Standard Research Collaboration – Pubmed.gov
  • A Review of the Antiviral Properties of Black Elder (Sambucus nigra L.) Products – Pubmed.gov

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