Ripe Elderberries [image source]

Common Name: Elderberry
Latin Name: sambucus Canadensis [N. American type] sambucus nigra [English type]
Origin: native in temperate-to-subtropical regions of both the Northern Hemisphere and the Southern Hemisphere
Part Used: flowers, berries, root, bark, leaf buds, leaves
Taste: drying, cool; flowers are neutral and bitter


Elder flower head [image source]

Constituents: volatile oil, flavonoids, mucilage, tannins, vitamins A and C, cyanogenic glycosides, viburnic acid, alkaloids,

Medical Properties: diaphoretic, alterative, laxative, stimulant, cathartic, diuretic, purgative, stimulant, expectorant, anti-inflammatory, immunostimulant, antispasmodic, antiviral

Used In: flowers; to promote sweating, externally for burns, rashes, and minor skin ailments and rheumatism. Root-bark tea for headaches, mucous congestion, promote labor in childbirth. Leaf, flower or bark decoction as an antiseptic wash for wounds, skin problems and inflammation. Bark and berries; sooth and heal throat, also good for all inflammatory bowel issues as it soothes and protects.

Habitat and Distribution: It is widely distributed in the eastern half of the United States and adjacent parts of southern Canada. Habitats include river-bottom prairies, moist meadows in woodlands, disturbed open woodlands, woodland borders, thickets, gravelly seeps, banks of streams and ditches, powerline clearances in wooded areas, fence rows, shrubby areas along railroads, and abandoned fields. Common Elderberry is a pioneer species that is often found in habitats with a history of disturbance. It is one of the shrubby invaders of moist prairies. [source]

Harvesting: There is an excellent resource I stumbled upon [thanks to google] and I couldn’t have made a better post about it. Everything you need to know about harvesting Elderberries right here.

Preparation and dosage: Used in cooking fritters, muffins, wine, pickling, pies, jelly, syrup, tea and as raw fruit. Elder flower tea w/ equal pt. peppermint drank as hot as possible before a hot bath, then put to bed to sweat out a flu/cold during sleep. Taken cold it has diuretic properties. Take tincture; 20-40 drops 3-4 x per day as long as symptoms persist. All parts of fresh plant can cause poisoning, the ripe fruit may be eaten raw in small quantities without harm.

elders whole plant

Mature elder plant in full bloom [image source]

Historical Notes: Elderberry gets its name from the Anglo-Saxon word “aeld” meaning “fire.” Inside young elder branches is a hollow tube or pipe and it has been said these tubes were once used to blow on a fire in order to encourage the flames. The Russians believed that elder trees ward off evil spirits. It was considered good luck to plant a tree near your home. The Egyptians are credited with its discover, finding that applying its flowers to the skin improved the complexion and healed burns. Many early Indian tribes made tea from elderberry for its effectiveness in preventing colds and relieving toothaches. The British, in the 17th century, often drank homemade elderberry wine believing it to prolong life and cure the common cold.


Kerry Brock, Certified Herbalist and owner at Shawnee Moon, is a researcher of plants, an eater of herbs, a drinker of coffee and a formulator of remedies. She keeps busy trying out pinterest diy’s and often failing at cooking in her backwoods home in rural southeast Missouri with her fantastic husband, Davy, two dogs, an assortment of cats and a unbelievably supportive family near by.


The information contained in this post is for educational purposes only; it is not intended to treat, diagnose or cure disease. It is simply for use in the maintenance and promotion of good health in cooperation with a licensed medical practitioner. Kerry Brock and Shawnee Moon are not licensed to treat or diagnose disease. Consult with your physician for diagnosis or treatment. By using this information you agree that the decisions regarding your health are your own responsibility and understand that Kerry Brock and Shawnee Moon are not liable for your health decisions.

Sources and continued reading:
Prescription for Nutritional Healing James & Phyllis Balch, Weiner’s Herbal Michael Weiner, The New Age Herbalist Richard Mabey The Way of Herbs Michael Tierra, The Scientific Validation of Herbal Medicine Daniel Mowery, Earl Mindell’s Herb Bible Earl Mindell, Victoria Fortner, The School of Natural Healing Dr. John Christopher, Back to Eden Jethro Kloss, The Complete Medicinal Herbal Penelope Ody, A Modern Herbal Mrs. M. Greieve, The Complete Illustrated Holistic Herbal David Hoffmann, The Green Pharmacy James A. Duke, Ph.D., 20,000 Secrets of Tea Victoria Zak, The Herb Book John Lust, Various informative websites containing herbal and health information (which are linked in post above).

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