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Elderberry & Flower


botanical name: Sambucus nigra, sambucus spp.

Common Name

Elder, black elder, common elder, elderberry, elkhorn, sweet elder.


Adoxaceae (formerly Caprifoliaceae)

Native To

Europe and parts of Asia and Africa

Parts Used

Flower (dried), berry (cooked)

Harvesting Guidelines

When harvesting elder flowers, it's important to only remove a few clusters from each tree to ensure that the tree can still produce berries later on. The flowers should be removed from the base of the flower cluster stalk. As for harvesting the berries, it's best to wait until they are fully ripe before picking them. Be sure not to pick any green or unripe berries. To harvest the berries, simply remove the berry stalk and separate the berries from the stems.


In addition to its health benefits, elderflower and elderberry have a long history of culinary use. Elderberry is commonly used in jams, jellies, syrups, and pies. Elderflower can be used to flavor teas, cordials, and liqueurs. In fact, elderflower liqueur is a popular ingredient in cocktails and is often used in traditional British and Scandinavian cuisine.

Elderflower and elderberry are powerful natural remedies that can help combat colds, flu, and respiratory infections. These plants have diaphoretic and antiviral properties that can stimulate circulation and promote sweating, which helps to remove toxins from the body and reduce fever. Additionally, elderflower has anti-inflammatory and expectorant properties that can help reduce inflammation of sinus tissue and alleviate congestion in cases of colds, sinusitis, and sinus allergies. Whether taken as a hot tea or tincture, elderflower and elderberry can be valuable allies in maintaining respiratory health.

Elderberry is a powerful natural remedy that has been used for centuries to promote overall health and wellness. Rich in flavonoids, elderberry is known for its immune-boosting properties, making it a popular choice for preventing and treating cold and flu symptoms such as cough, sore throat, and fever. Elderberry is especially beneficial during the winter and fall months, and is safe for children as a natural immune tonic. (2)

Elder has been used for medicinal purposes by both ancient European civilizations and Native Americans. The Cherokee tribe used elderberry teas and infusions to treat rheumatism, while elderflower tea was used as a diaphoretic. The plant's leaves were also used in salves to treat skin problems and infections. The Chickasaw tribe used branch infusions topically for headaches, bruises, and wounds. Creek Indian healers poulticed pounded elder roots onto swollen breasts for relief, while the Lenape tribe used elderflower decoctions for children's colic and elderberry decoctions for jaundice and liver complaints.(3). Elder, a healing plant, has been used extensively and in various ways by Native American communities throughout history. It is considered a valuable resource for its medicinal properties and accessibility. Today, we too are fortunate to have access to this plant and its healing benefits. (4)

In the case of elderflower, it is said to have a resemblance to the respiratory system, specifically the lungs. The tiny, delicate white flowers are arranged in clusters that resemble the alveoli in the lungs, and the branches and stems are said to look like bronchial tubes. This resemblance to the respiratory system led to the traditional use of elderflower as a remedy for respiratory ailments such as coughs, colds, flu, and bronchitis. The flowers are also known for their diaphoretic and diuretic properties, making them useful for promoting sweating and urination to help the body eliminate toxins and reduce fever.

Finally, as Susun Weed wrote: There is a woman who lives in the elder tree, so the story goes. In one version, the woman in the elder bush is called Elda Mor. She is the guardian of the elder’s medicine. In Germany she is known as Frau Holle or Frau Holunder. She is a fierce old woman, wise in the ways of plants, and people. She is often referred to as Elder Tree Mother. She is beautiful. She is Alhorn, Holder, Holler, and the “mulberry” bush we go round in song. She is the star of a Grimm’s fairy tale. She is magical. She is the Queen. She is a fierce protector to those who care for her.

Elda Mor is glad to share, if she is shown respect. If you are not in right relationship with her, she will poison you rather than heal you. If you honor her, she will support you and help you though the hardest times. She will soothe you as only a grandmother can.

Adult Dose

Tea: 1-2 teaspoons dried flowers per cup boiling water, steeped for 10-15 minutes, taken three times per day. Tincture: 2-4 mL (1:5 in 40%) elderflower tincture, taken three times per day.

Syrup: 2-3 teaspoons elderberry syrup, taken 3-4 times per day.

Decoction: 1-1.5 g dried berry/day divided into 1-3 doses;


Elderflowers are generally safe for children, while ripe fresh berries are safe in moderation. However, caution should be taken with elder bark, leaves, roots, seeds, and unripe berries, as they contain alkaloids and cyanogenic glycosides that can cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, as well as depression of the central nervous and respiratory systems. It's important to note that these reactions only occur when these plant parts are used fresh. (4)

Energy: Cooling

Herbal Actions: Alterative: supports the body in its natural cleansing processes. Aperiant: eases constipation. Astringent: causes the contraction of tissues, primarily the skin (the flowers are mildly so). Demulcent: soothes inflammation or irritation. Diaphoretic: induces sweating (primarily the flowers). Diuretic: promotes urination. Emollient: increases skin hydration by reducing evaporation. Expectorant: aids in expelling mucus from the airways. Laxative: loosens stools and promotes bowel movements.



(1). Chevallier, A. (2000). Encyclopedia of herbal medicine. London: DK Publishing.

(2) Adaptogens in Medical Herbalism) Donald R Yance 408-409

(3)Kavasch, E. Barrie. “Ethnobotany of Elderberry,” The Herb Society of America’s Essential Guide to Elderberry, 2013.

(5) Gardner, Z. & McGuffin, M. (2013). American Herbal Product Association’s herbal safety handbook.

Information offered on Achula and on this page is for educational purposes only. Achula makes neither medical claim, nor intends to diagnose or treat medical conditions. Women who are pregnant or nursing, and persons with known medical conditions, should consult their licensed healthcare provider before taking any herbal product. Links to external sites are for informational purposes only. Achula neither endorses them nor is in any way responsible for their content. Readers must do their own research concerning the safety and usage of any herbs or supplements.


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