Elderberry refers to group of deciduous shrubs,small trees and herbaceous perennial plants that grow between 3 and 10 meters of which there are about 30 individual species throughout the world. There are two species of Elderberry which are used as medicine, Sambucus nigera which produces black berries and Sambucus W hance which produces red berries.
Unearthed villages in Italy and Switzerland reveal evidence of Elderberry cultivation in stone age times and in 400 BC Hippocrates claimed the Elderberry to be his personal medicine chest and wrote about it in his MateriaMedica. In North America and parts of Asia, Elderberry has been used extensively by Native American Indians and in Traditional Chinese Medicine, respectively.
Common Name: Elderberry
Botanical Name: Sambucus nigera and Sambucus W
Other Names: Eldertree, Tree of Music (S. nigera) North China Red Elder (S. W hance)
Growing Area: Europe, North America (S.nigera), China, North East Asia (S. W hance)
Nutrients & Applications:
Elderberry is a rich source of powerful antioxidants (anthocyanins and flavonoids), potassium, calcium, iron, phosphorous and vitamins A, B and C. Elderberry also contains tannin which may assist to reduce bleeding, diarrhoea and congestion; amino acids, carotenoids, rutin which is a strong anticlotting agent;viburnic acid and organic pigments. The flavonoids are not only antioxidants but also immunologics, meaning they stimulate the immune system.
Traditionally, Elderberries and flowers have been used to treat pain, inflammations, joint diseases, bone fractures,bruises, sprains and oedema.The leaves, roots and bark were made into a poultice and mixed with chamomile to reduce the swelling of bee stings. Poultices made from the flowers were used to treat wounds, to soften and tone the skin and lighten freckles or spots.Elderberry was used to treat coughs and colds, reduce fevers, aid digestion and its aged bark was used as a laxative, diuretic or to induce vomiting.
In modern times, Elderberry is commonly used in formulas to prevent and treat upper respiratory infections and fever.The elder berries and flowers reduce excessive mucous secretion and play a role in reducing the swelling of mucous membranes which improves sinus drainage and relieves nasal and chest congestion in upper respiratory infections. Elderberry reduces the severity and duration of colds and flu as the anthocyanins enhance immune function by boosting the production of cytokines thus destroying the ability of cold and flu viruses to infect a cell.Elderberry juice was used to treat the Panama flu epidemic in 1951 and 1995. Elderberry may also help diabetics and those wanting to lose weight by enhancing the body’s immune system. It may benefit asthmatics and those with hay fever because Elderberry helps make mucous membranes less reactive to allergens. While Austrian researchers learned that Elderberry helps to prevent cardiovascular disease by reducing oxidation of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, research in China shows Elderberry root extract has antifungal properties and may even be of use in the management of postmenopausal osteoporosis.
Flowers are fried in a batter and served with sugar and cinnamon or used to produce elderflower cordial, soft drink or syrup. Elderberry flowers and berries are used to make marmalades and yoghurt deserts while the hollowed Elderberry twigs have traditionally been used as spiles to tap maple trees for syrup. Elderberry juice was used as a dye in basketry and flutes can be made from their branches.
Raw and unripe berries contain cyanide, so ensure the elderberries come from a trusted medicinal source and are only consumed in recommended dosage levels.