Common Elderberry Sambucus, a member of the honeysuckle family, was once considered to be a Holy Tree. During the Middle Ages it was well known to be capable of restoring good health, keeping good health, and as an aid to longevity. Historically, Elder leaves and buds are used in drinks, poultices, and ointments.
The bark has been used for cleansing as a purgative and diuretic. The inner green bark is used in an old homeopathic remedy for asthma and croup. The leaves are useful for ointments to help bruises, swelling, tumors and wounds. Many use the dried leaves as a garden pesticide and to deter flies.
Elderberries contain organic pigments, tannin, amino acids, carotenoids, flavonoids, sugar, rutin, potassium, calcium, phosphorus, and viburnic (fruit) acid, vitamins A and B and a large amount of vitamin C. They are also mildly laxative, diuretic, and diaphoretic. The flavonoids are believed to account for the therapeutic actions of the elderberry flowers and berries.
Elderberry is used most often for its antioxidant (flavonoid and bioflavonoid) activity. These flavonoids include anthocyanins and quercetin as powerful antioxidants and protect against cellular damage according to several studies. You may find it used to lower cholesterol, improve vision, boost immunity, and help improve heart health.
When used for coughs, colds, flu, bacterial and viral infections, and tonsillitis, the bioflavonoids seem to be the elements of the juice that inhibit the ability of cold and flu viruses to infect cells. Some report that they had fewer symptoms and recovered more quickly when using Elderberry based remedies
Remember that Red Elderberries are known to be toxic and should not be gathered. This fruit is not palatable to humans and may be slightly poisonous and can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and gastrointestinal pain.
Elderberry leaves, bark, and roots contain bitter cyanide alkaloid and glycoside compounds. For this reason it is often suggested to avoid their use in remedies made for internal use.
Gayle Eversole, DHom, PhD, MH, NP, ND, is a natural health educator and advocate. Celebrating 50+ years blending science and the natural healing arts. Sign up for her herbalYoda newsletter at: http://www.leaflady.org/
This article is for educational and informational purposes only and does not take the place of a consultation with a qualified health care professional. Always consult a physician or other qualified health care professional before taking any herbs or applying any therapies. The reader must assume full responsibility for verifying any information or therapies with a qualified physician or health care professional.