Elderberry

Botanical Name(s):

Sambucus canadensis, S. nigra, S. racemosa, S. ebulus. Family: Caprifoliaceae

Other Name(s):

black elder, bore tree, bour tree, common elder, eldrum ellhorn, hollunder, pipe tree

General Description:

The juice from the berries of the elder tree is used in the treatment of many ailments, particularly rheumatic pains. Elderberry is also used to treat colds and influenza. Elder flower water is used as an astringent.

Elderberry contains naturally occurring antioxidants, vitamin C and phenolic compounds such as flavonoids that are believed to be antiviral and useful in treating the common cold.

Medically Valid Uses:

Currently, there are no documented valid medical uses for elderberry.

Unsubstantiated Claims:

Please note that this section reports on claims that have NOT yet been substantiated through scientific studies.

Elderberry is commonly used to decrease symptoms of influenza such as fever.

Elder flower water is also used in lotions as a mild astringent.

Elderberry is claimed to be useful in the treatment of rheumatism, headaches, colds, constipation, neuralgia, urinary/kidney problems, epilepsy, scarlet fever and measles. When applied externally, elderberry is thought to help reduce inflammation, bruising and sprains. Elderberry is also claimed to have emetic, diuretic and insect-repellant properties.

Dosing Format:

Elderberry can be made into a broth or soup by mixing a couple of ounces of elderberry syrup into hot water. It can also be administered as a tea, wine, infusion, decoction or tincture.

Side Effects, Toxicity and Interactions:

Uncooked elderberries can cause nausea and vomiting.

Do not take more than the recommended dosage.

Women who are pregnant or breast-feeding should not use elderberry preparations.

Also, children should not be allowed to chew on the hollow stems of elder, which are poisonous. Poisoning of cattle, sheep and swine from the cyanogenic glycosides in elderberry has been reported.

There are no known significant food or drug interactions associated with elderberry.

Additional Information:

Click here for a list of reputable Web sites with general information on nutrition.

References:

  1. Navarra T, Lipkowitz MA. Encyclopedia of Vitamins, Minerals, and Supplements. New York, NY: Facts on File, Inc.; 1996:73.

  2. Cao G, Prior RL. Anthocyanins are detected in human plasma after oral administration of an elderberry extract. Clin Chem. 1999;45(4):574-6.

  3. Zakay-Rones Z, Varasano N, Zlotnik M, et al. Inhibition of several strains of influenza virus in vitro and reduction of symptoms by an elderberry extract (Sambucus nigra L.) during an outbreak of influenza B in Panama. J Altern Complement Med. 1995;1(4):361-9.

  4. Rojo MA, et al. Isolation, cDNA cloning, biological properties, and carbohydrate binding specificity of sieboldin-b, a type II ribosome-inactivating protein from the bark of Japanese elderberry (Sambucus sieboldiana.) Arch Biochem Biophys. 1997;340(2):185-94.

  5. Van Damme EJ, et al. Characterization and molecular cloning of Sambucus nigra agglutinin V (nigrin b), a GalNAc-specific type-2 ribosome-inactivating protein from the bark of elderberry (Sambucus nigra.) Eur J Biochem. 1996;237(2):505-13.

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