Elder: Properties and Benefits


Elder is a vegetable with many therapeutic properties supported by science. All parts of the plant are used for therapeutic purposes: flowers, bark, leaves and fruits

The elder, botanical name  Sambucus Nigra, is a plant belonging to the Caprifoliaceae family. It grows across Europe, from the plains to mountain areas.

Elder: properties and benefits

The plant has the appearance of a shrub that does not exceed 4 meters in height. The flowers, very fragrant, are cream white in color and the fruits instead have the appearance of small black berries.

The flowers of elder are harvested in the spring, while the fruits are harvested from August to September. The ripening of the berries goes from August until mid-September.


Its name derives from the Greek word sambuché  which indicates a musical instrument. In fact, in past times it was precisely from the hollow branches of the plant that a kind of flute was made. There is evidence to suggest that this plant may have been grown by prehistoric man. Even recipes for elderberry-based drugs dating back to ancient Egypt have been found .

The studies suggest that when used in the first 48 hours in which they arise of the symptoms influence, reduces its duration. According to the results, healing takes place on average 4 days before. (1)

Be careful not to confuse the elder plant with other poisonous plants such as Sambucus ebulus. It is a very widespread shrub but it stands out for the height it reaches maximum 1,5 meters.

Chemical Composition

Chemical Composition for 100 gr of elder
Fat g 0,50
Carbohydrates g 18,40
Fibers g 7
Calcium mg 38
Iron mg 1,60
Magnesium mg 5
Phosphorus mg 39
Potassium mg 280
Sodium mg 6
Zinc mg 0,11
Vitamin A IU 600
B1 mg 0,070
B2 mg 0,060
B3 mg 0,500
B6 mg 0,230
Vitamin C mg 36
Folate mg 6

Source: USDA Database

It contains flavones and flavonols such as quercetin and anthocyanins. Other compounds that we find in elderberry are chlorogenic acid and cinnamic acid.

Amino acids: glutamic acid, aspartic acid, alanine, arginine, cystine, glycine, isoleucine, lysine, proline, serine, tyrosine, threonine, tryptophan and valine those present in greater quantities.


100 grams of berries have a caloric yield of 73 kcal.

Elder: Properties and Benefits

The elder is a plant with many therapeutic properties. Its use dates back to very ancient times. The plant mainly uses flowers, berries, leaves and bark.


The infusion obtained with the flowers has sweat properties, its use is recommended in the treatment of diseases related to the respiratory system.


In popular tradition both the flower and the berries have been used to treat diabetes. Scientific research has confirmed that flower extracts stimulate glucose metabolism and insulin secretion. These two properties result in lowering blood sugar levels.

A study published in the  Journal of Nutrition found that elderberry aqueous extract significantly increases glucose transport and glycogenesis without adding insulin. (2)

A recent animal study found that elderberry extract decreases endurance insulin in diabetic rats. (3, 4)

Diuretic and Laxative

The berries of the elder instead they owned mainly laxative and purgative. The bark, on the other hand, is mainly used for diuretic purposes and in the treatment of neuralgia and cysts.

The studies still argue that the berries have a natural diuretic effect. (5)


It seems that the decoction obtained with flowers and berries  together has healing and preventive properties against arteriosclerosis. For the preparation, boil 100 g  of flowers and berries in 2 liters of water for about 20 minutes. Once cooled and filtered, drink a glass three times a day for three weeks.

Antibacterial and Antiviral

It has antibacterial and antiviral properties which can help alleviate some types of allergy and to boost the immune system. An Irish study scientifically demonstrated the plant’s antibacterial properties.


The research confirms that the berry’s extract is rich in anthocyanins and has different properties therapeutic including the anticancer. Studies indicate that elder in particular has chemopreventive properties. This means that its intake can slow down, inhibit or reverse the formation of tumors. (6)

A study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food compared the anticancer properties of the berries of the European elderberry ( Sambucus Nigra) and the American elderberry ( Sambucus canadensis ). Test results confirmed that both fruits of plants have potential anticancer properties. (7)


The flowers of the plant are known to be a good natural remedy for herbal allergies. In herbal medicine, elderberry has been included in the list of the most effective herbs for the treatment of hay fever symptoms .

It also seems that the flower is a good detoxifier and good for the liver.

Heart Health

A study of 2015 conducted on animals suggests that the extract of the berries can improve cardiovascular health. In the tests, the rats that received the extract found a significant reduction in LDL cholesterol. According to the researchers, this positive effect on cholesterol is due to the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity of the anthocyanins. (8)

Another 2015 study, also conducted on rats, found that elderberry extract can have beneficial effects on hypertension. Researchers argue that using polyphenols to lower blood pressure can also reduce the side effects associated with antihypertensive medications. (9)

Teeth Abscess

Even in the case of abscess to the teeth, elder can prove useful with its properties. It is sufficient to crush a handful of fresh leaves in a mortar together with a spoonful of vinegar and a pinch of salt. Then, using a gauze, apply everything on the abscess for a couple of hours


Recent scientific research has shown that elder is a valid remedy for flu. It appears that a component present in the berries is capable of surrounding the flu virus and preventing it from attacking other cells. (10)

A 2016 study claims that elderberry supplementation reduces the duration and symptoms of colds in air travelers. Travelers who use berries from 10 days before the trip up to 4 days after, have a two-day reduction in the duration of the cold. (11)

In a 2009 study , people who took 175 milligrams of berries 4 times a day experienced a significant reduction in flu symptoms.

During the flu epidemic that occurred in Panama in 1995 the government used elderberry to fight it. Its juice greatly reduced the duration and severity of the flu and the epidemic was like this defeat.

Skin and Eyes

A cold infusion of elderberry is an excellent remedy for washing inflamed and painful eyes. An ointment made with flowers of elder, beeswax and olive oil is an old remedy used for chapped hands, burns and wounds.

In recent years, elder has become part of the ingredients that make up cosmetic products for skin care. This is due to the properties of its bioflavonoids, antioxidants and its high content of vitamin A which are beneficial for the skin.

The researchers have discovered that a compound found in berries, anthocyanin, has properties antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties that can improve the skin condition. (12)


tea prepared with dried berries seems to be an excellent remedy for diarrhea and colic.

Insect Repellent

For this use you have to take some elder leaves, put them in a jar and fill it with boiling water. Close the jar and let it rest until the water cools down. The content that can be used on the skin to keep insects away is then filtered. Alternatively, it can be used on plants with the same effect.

Other Properties

The herbal tea prepared with flowers of elder is used to treat colds, coughs, asthma, and even rheumatism. Always the flowers, thanks to the presence of flavones, produce benefits for the veins and the circulatory system in general.

Other Uses

Elder flowers

The elder it can also come in handy in case of other diseases such as gout, tachycardia and hemorrhoids, that’s how. For tachycardia, obtain 200 grams of second dry bark (the one located under the external gray part of the stem).

Put it to macerate for a couple of days in a liter of red wine (possibly not of poor quality). After having filtered everything, leave it to rest for another 2 days and then drink 2, 3 glasses a day to regularize the heart beat.

decoction of elderberries, obtained with the second cortex , is instead indicated in the treatment of gout, in 2 glasses measure per day.

For hemorrhoids, on the other hand, it is sufficient to chop fresh leaves and apply them to the affected part for at least 15 minutes.

Concentrated Elderberry Juice

The concentrated juice, obtained by pressing selected berries, is rich in bioflavonoids and anthocyanins. These compounds have antioxidant properties and therefore very useful for health.

The juice contains vitamins, minerals, especially potassium, sugars, (fructose) and amino acids.


It is good to be careful never to use fresh bark or not yet ripe fruit. In fact, these contain hydrocyanic acid and can cause diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and, in some cases, difficult breathing.

All parts of the plant but especially the berries, if consumed in excessive quantities, can cause vomiting and abdominal pain.

If used correctly and for short periods of time (5 days) the plant has no side effects. Avoid consumption during pregnancy and breastfeeding. In case of possible administration to children, consult a doctor first.

The plant can interact with medicines, so consult a doctor if you are taking the following drugs:

  • Diabetes
  • Diuretics
  • Chemotherapy
  • Laxatives
  • Theophylline
  • Medicines for autoimmune diseases


The flowers are also used to flavor some drinks and sweets in general.

In ancient times the Germanic populations used to pound elderberries to get a tincture. With this they painted the body on special occasions such as hunting or war.

The ancient Romans, on the other hand, made hair dye from the berries.

The properties and benefits of elder were already known in ancient times. In fact, we find various quotations in the works of illustrious characters such as Pliny the Elder, Hippocrates and Theophrastus.

The American Indians have used the bark of the plant for centuries to treat swellings, inflammations and also to facilitate childbirth.

In ancient times it was considered a tree with mystical properties and it was considered auspicious to plant a tree near the house. It was thought to ward off disease and evil spirits.

Maybe not Everyone Knows That

Legend has it that the cross on which Jesus Christ was crucified was built with elder wood. Even Judas is said to have hanged himself from a branch of this tree.

On the plant grows a purple mushroom that has the shape of an ear and is edible. This mushroom is called Ear of Judah and has therapeutic properties. In particular, it is used for respiratory system problems.

The berries and flowers are also good to eat and there are several recipes for preparing jams, puddings and even pancakes flowers of elderberry.

With berries and flowers will also prepare the wine of elder.

The Greek physician Hippocrates , because of its marked therapeutic properties, described the plant as its supply of medicines.

Elder: Properties and Benefits

Italian language version


This is not a medical publication, the information provided on this site is for informational purposes only and is general in nature, they cannot in any way replace the prescriptions of a doctor or other health professionals authorized by law. The notions on the posology, the medical procedures and the description of the products on this site have an illustrative purpose and do not allow to acquire the necessary experience and manual skills for their practice or their use. If you have been prescribed medical treatment, I invite you not to interrupt or modify it, because all the suggestions you find on www.mr-loto.it  must always and in any case be compared with the opinion of your doctor.

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