All About Elderberry


“Common species found in North America include Sambucis nigra. S. canadensis, and S mexicana. All species of elderberry contain cyanide in their seeds, leaves, and bark. The blue or black berry varieties contain less than the red and are considered safe after heating or drying the berries (apples contain cyanide too). The flowers are a safe and effective relaxing diaphoretic herb that is very mild tasting. For these reasons it is often used to treat fevers in young children. Elderberries are a tasty treat that also have many medicinal properties such as immunomodulating, anti-oxidant, and antiviral. This can make it an important ally at the first signs of a cold or flu. Because of its cooling tendencies, it may be appropriate to add a more warming herb, like ginger, when taking it for a cold with symptoms of being cold.” (Source: Healing Herbs eBook, Rosalee de la Foret)

Other Names:

Yakori Bengestro, Devil’s Eye, Lady Elder, Frau Holle, Rob Elder, Hollunder, Ellhorn, Pipe Tree, Boure Tree, Bour Tree, Sweet Elder, Tree of Doom, Old Lady, Battree

History & Folklore:

  • Legend has it that Judas Iscariot was hung from gallows made of elder and that the cross on which Christ died was of the same wood.
  • You must apologize three times to an elder when pruning it or cutting it down, otherwise bad luck will befall you.
  • A wound caused by an elder bush was thought to be fatal.
  • Furniture made of elder wood is unlucky and elder sticks brought into the house will cause illness in the family and misfortune. On the other hand it offers protection against all forms of evil, saddle sores and lightning.
  • The Elder wand is one of the Deathly Hallows in Harry Potter
  • Elderberries gathered on St. John’s Night were part of a mystic rite to make a person invisible.
  • Elder has been used at least since the ancient Egyptians discovered that applying its flowers improved the complexion and healed burns. The ancient Romans also used elder.

People have been using the elder for thousands of years for food, medicine, and tools. It has a rich folklore and has long been associated with the faery worlds, death, and rebirth. It is still highly revered today as one of our most powerful herbs for preventing and treating colds and influenza.

A patented Israeli drug (Sambucol) that contains elderberry is active against various strains of viruses. Elderberry Syrup: make from the decoction and take as a prophylactic for winter colds or in combination with other expectorant herbs, such as thyme for coughs. Elderflower Tincture: take for colds and influenza, or in early spring to help reduce later hay fever symptoms. Most people use 4 teaspoons daily at the first signs of cold or flu.” (Source: Herb World)

Plant Properties:

  • Berries – antiviral, immunomodulating, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory
  • Flowers – antiviral, relaxing nervine, relaxing diaphoretic, diuretic, skin protectant, antioxidant

What you can find here at Healthy Living:

Capsules: Gaia Turmeric Immune, Gaia Quick Defense, Gaia black elderberry, Healthy Living brand.

Syrups: Gaia elderberry syrup, kids & nighttime, Sambucol, Nature’s Way Umcka, Healthy Living brand, Wild Branch, VT Mountain Elderberry, Honey Gardens.

Tincture: Healthy Living brand, Urban Moonshine Immune Tonic, Urban Moonshine Immune Zoom, Crystal Garden, Herb Pharm.

Bulk elderberries: make your own syrup!


Dr. Madeleine Mumcuoglu, an Israeli virologist began human clinical trials in the 1990s. Elderberry had amazing results. In a placebo-controlled, double-blind study, 93.3% of those taking elderberry saw a significant improvement within just two days. Those taking the placebo did not see improvement until six days. More studies were performed since then and have affirmed that elderberries fight cold and influenza symptoms.

In Norway a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study gave 60 patients with influenza-like symptoms using 15mL elderberry 4x a day, compared to placebo syrup. Those taking the elderberry had relief of their symptoms four days earlier than by taking the placebo.

During the H1N1 scare of 2009, elderberries were studied in vitro and found to be effective against the virus.

How does it work?

“One way that elderberries may work is due to the presence of a hemagglutinin protein. This protein has been shown to inhibit a virus’ ability to penetrate a cell wall which then stops its ability to replicate. However, there are certainly many different mechanisms of action.

In clinical trials, patients who took the elderberry juice syrup reported fast termination of symptoms. Twenty percent reported significant improvement within 24 hours, 70% by 48 hours, and 90% claimed a complete cure after three days. Patients receiving the placebo required six days for recovery. As proof that elder has more to it than the enzyme neutralizing constituents, researchers found that the patients who took it also had higher levels of antibodies against the flu virus.”

Suggested Elderberry Dosage

  • Decoction/Syrup: 30-60 grams prepared as a decoction/syrup per day

  • Tincture: 30-90 drops per hour

(Source: Herb Mentor)