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Elderberry - Uses and Benefits

Biological Name: Sambucus nigra

Other Names: Black elder, Black-berried European elder, Boor tree, Bountry, Elder, Ellanwood, ellhorn, European elder, German Elder, elderberry.

Elder flowers and berries have been used in traditional medicine and as flavorings for centuries. In folk medicine, the flowers have been used for their diuretic and laxative properties and as an astringent. Various parts of the elder have been used to treat cancer and a host of other unrelated disorders. Distilled elder flower water has been used as a scented vehicle for topical preparations and extracts are used to flavor foods, including alcoholic beverages. The fruits have been used to prepare elderberry wine.

The American elder is a tall shrub that grows to 3.6 m. It is native to North America. The European elder grows to approximately 9 m, and while native to Europe, it has been naturalized to the US.

The American elder, also known as Elderberry, is small tree that grows to 12 feet and is native to North America. The European elder i.e.nigra grows to 30 feet, is found throughout Europe, Asia, North Africa, and has been naturalized in the United States. The tree has been called "the medicine chest of the common people.

The flowers, leaves, berries, bark and roots have all been used in traditional folk medicine for centuries. The fruits have been used to make elderberry wine, and when cooked, can be used in pies and jams. The berries contain more vitamin C than any other herb except rosehips and black currant.

Uses of Elderberry:

The important uses of Elderberry are as:-

  • Elder flower tea is used to "break" a fever by bringing on sweating.
  • It is used especially for situations in which the feverish person feels chilled, and the tea is drunk as hot as possible.
  • A cooled infusion has traditionally been used as a gargle for sore throat.
  • Elder flowers are believed to have mild diuretic action.
  • Elderberry juice is reported to have laxative as well as diuretic properties.
  • Traditional herbalists such as Tommie Bass consider it a "wonderful blood purifier."
  • Research has shown that alpha- and beta-amyrin have hepatoprotective activity in animals.
  • Sciatica and neuralgia are among the traditional European uses of elderberry juice.
  • The Elder tree is a medicine chest by itself. The leaves are used for bruises , sprains , wounds and chilblains.
  • It has been reported that Elder Leaves may be useful in anointment for tumours.
  • Elder Flowers are ideal for the treatment of colds and influenza . They are indicated in any catarrhal inflammation of the upper respiratory tract such as hayfever and sinusitis .

Dosage of Elderberry:

Liquid elderberry extract is taken in amounts of 5 ml (for children) to 10 ml (for adults) twice per day.  A tea made from 3-5 grams of the dried flowers steeped in 250 ml (1 cup) boiling water for ten to fifteen minutes may also be drunk three times per day. The bark and root bark must be used fresh.

Side Effects of Elderberry

There have been reports of toxicity, particularly involving the stems and leaves.

Elderberry flowers are generally regarded as safe. Side effects are rare and consist primarily of occasional mild gastrointestinal distress or allergic reactions. Nonetheless, safety in young children, pregnant or nursing women, or those with severe liver or kidney disease has not been established.

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