Elderberry: nutrition facts and health benefits


In addition of being delicious, elderberries are very rich in vitamins A, B6, C and iron. But the most remarkable of this little fruit is that it contains a significant amount of polyphenols. These powerful natural antioxidant compounds are recognized for the prevention of certain diseases such as cancer, inflammatory, cardiovascular and neuro-degenerative diseases in addition to stimulating the immune system.


The word Sambucus comes from Latin and refers to the flutiaux (sambuca). Greek herdsmen were used to cut into the soft wood of the elderberry. A Greek doctor of the second century of our era, named Galien recommended the elderberry against the catarrhs and excessive mucus. He kept his knowledge from his colleagues who brought the foundation of modern medicine in the previous era. Pliny the elder attributed to the elderberry the same properties, a few centuries ago. Greek knowledge about natural medicine with elderberry became part of the pharmacopoeia of the Ayurvedic in India after travelling to Asia.

In North America, Native Americans attributed the same properties of white elderberry (Sambucus canadensis). Its composition is similar the European elderberry, as it was discovered later.

Its diuretic, diaphoretiques virtues (which causes sweating) and anti-inflammatory virtues are also recognized in England, Germany, Belgium, France and Italy. In the Middle Ages, elderberry water, in which water is macerated with flowers, was used to brighten the and diminishes the visible appearance of freckles. Fruits and flowers and have long served in the manufacturing of soft drinks. In the spring, people drank large quantities of elderberry water in order to cleanse the toxins in the body accumulated during the winter. It is said that some wines have been adulterated with elderberry. According to a legend which dates back to the end of the 19th century, an American sailor who was intoxicated with Porto added of elderberry juice has been cured of rheumatism.

Nowadays, people often find elderberry in old gardens of monasteries and, with a bit of luck, an old monk or nun remembered that pulled flowers and fruit syrup is useful against cough.


Flu. During a epidemic flu in an Israeli Kibbutz in 1993, a double-blind placebo trial was conducted on 27 patients. The results of this trial indicated that an extract from elderberry berries (Sambucol) was significantly higher to placebo to quickly relieve the symptoms of the flu. 93.3% of patients treated with elderberry, after a period of two days, saw a significant relief of their symptoms. It took six days for 91.7% of those in the placebo group to show similar improvement. During the 1999-2000 influenza seasons, in Norway, Israeli researchers conducted a double-blind trial placebo with 60 patients of influenza type A and B2. The authors report that elderberry syrup has had for effect to curb the flu symptoms four days earlier and significantly reduce the use of medications for relief compared with the patients who were taking the placebo. In vitro data suggests this preparation (Sambucol) inhibits the development of many strains of type A and B of the virus of the influenza and has an immunostimulant effect.

Colds and respiratory tract inflammation. The European Commission approved the medicinal use of the flowers of elderberry for treatment of the common cold, in 1986. The World Health Organization acknowledged the use of traditional elderberry flowers as diaphoretic (causing sweat) and expectorant, in 1999. These two organizations related than in vitro and animal’s tests allowed to establish that flowers had an anti-inflammatory, diuretic and sudorific action.

Sinusitis. A preparation manufactured by Germany and including elderberry flowers, the gentian, vervain, the primrose and sorrel (Sinupret) would have given good results in tests conducted on patients suffering from serious and chronic sinusitis, but the results of these studies, conducted mainly in Germany, are not listed in the Medline database.



Pregnancy, breastfeeding, and young children. The World Health Organization advises the use of elderberry flowers among pregnant women, breastfeeding women and young children because of the lack of evidence about their safety. Other sources estimate that there are no restrictions on this situation. The injection of a isolated substance (lectin) extracted from the elderberries to pregnant mice had a toxic effect on the fetus. Authors of this study noted that given the high doses, it was unlikely that such a thing could happen among humans. In addition, a pharmacovigilance study focused on 762 pregnant women who had taken, at least once during their pregnancy, a preparation containing, among other plants, elderberry flowers (Sinupret). They gave birth to 786 children and no embryotoxic or teratogenic effect was observed. Medical literature reports either of ripe fruit-related embryotoxic or teratogenic effects, and elderberry syrup was traditionally given to children.

People with allergies to plants of the Caprifoliaceae Family.

Side effects

Rarely, light passenger gastrointestinal disorders.


With plants or supplements

Theoretically, the effects of elderberry could be added to those of plants or supplements having a diuretic, decongestant and anti-inflammatory action.

With medicines

Theoretically, effects of elderberry could join those of synthesis which have a diuretic, decongestant and anti-inflammatory action.

Theoretically, elderberry could counter the effects of the immunosuppressants.

On the shelves

Elderberry is often used in association with other plants in products which are applied to colds, flu and fever that accompanies them.

Culinary properties

Elderberry flowers, once dried, enter the composition of many recipes for foodies.

Elderberry flowers are so pleasantly fragrant, and this perfume is so easy to capture by simple infusion, that they are appreciated in all the dishes.

Reasons are good to add elderflowers to our dishes. Whether to incorporate into our sauces, flours, breads, muffins, or in the manufacture of soft drinks, sparkling wine and different drinks, let elderberry flowers express their scent.

Organic gardening


Identity card

• Family: Caprifoliaceae
• Origin: Europe.
• Habitat: forests of hardwoods, but also rubble where birds deposit the seeds of elderberry.
• Size: small tree from 2 to 7 m.
• Leaves: opposite, with 5 leaflets oval, toothed, petioles 5 to 10 cm long.
• Flowers: small and white, clustered in umbrella.
• Fruit: berries black, appreciated the birds… and men

This small tree, which heights is generally 2 meters, can go up to 10 meters. It can live more than 100 years and comes from the botanical family of the Caprifoliaceae (as well as the honeysuckle, for example). It is a heliophilous species, which needs sun or shadowed to live. You will find them on the edge of wood, in hedgerows and along streams.

To recognize them easily you can rub the leaves in your hands, they give off an acrid and unpleasant scent. Another feature of this tree, there branches are hollow, making it a haven of choice for many insects. It is this also this feature which its name comes from Greek sambuke, the flute: wood already hollow and tender wood is ideal to make an instrument.

Between June and July, generous and prolific, the elder black gives birth to small very fragrant white flowers and fruits with the appearance of black berries and arriving at maturity end of August.

Elderberry in good company

With so many arguments in his pocket, no wonder that black elderberry is among the trees of the most ‘visited ‘. Its dense foliage and many forks offer its branches make a place of choice for breeding birds. Bees savages and other wasps benefit easily from its hollow branches… In short, a real host of our campaigns!

Flowers attract, in addition, many browsers: bees, flies, butterflies… and berries are the delight of Warblers of the gardens, black Blackbirds, thrushes, the Robins, the passerines…


Beware, it is not here in the gray bark very structured, visible at first glance, but the second green bark. This last is very rich in nitrate of potash, tannin and acid valérianique. Many substances that give this bark diuretic and laxative properties. Used in decoction, this part of the tree is recommended, among other things, against urine retention, rheumatism, gout and nephretiques colic.


The fresh leaves are very rich in hydrocyanic acid, which, in high dose, may make them toxic. Used reasonably, they nonetheless offer an impressive range of ‘services ‘. In poultice, they soothe bruises and relieve toothaches. They are used also in case of burns. One drawback to their defence, the cooked leaves give off a bad smell and are bitter. A little honey in the preparation allows to override. Finally, note that barely harvested on the tree, the leaves are effective to stop small nasal bleeding.

Gardeners will remember that manure of black elderberry leaves is also useful in organic gardening to fight mildew and aphids. This manure would also have the power to repel rodents (mouse, mice and voles). To do this, simply to macerate for 1 kg of leaves for a few days, in 10 l water and spray it in his garden.


There are two ways to take advantage of the virtues of these small white and fragrant flowers, either in external application, either by ingesting them. In the first case, decoction they have emollient, soothing and softening properties for the skin. Internal care, elderberry flowers are a diaphoretic perfect (they promote perspiration) and are recommended to combat the flu, colds, or simple colds.

The berries:

In addition to the fact that these fruit are popular in jam, they contain a number of active substances: glucoside, tyrosine, nitrate of potassium, carotene, various acids…

Rob, hear the elderberries juice concentrate, is known for its sudorific properties, therefore ideal to treat flu, bronchitis and other rebel cough.

If these qualities make it a popular tree, its ability to spread, with the assistance of the birds who spread its seeds, done it is reviled by farmers in areas of intensive agriculture…


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