Common Names: American Elder, Black Elder, Common Elder, Elderberry, Elderberry Tree, Elder Flowers, Rob Elder, Sambucus, Sweet ElderMost
Scientific Name: Sambucus Canadensis L., Sambucus Canadensis Nigra, Caprifoliaceae, Honeysuckle Family
Common Uses: Aged bark: emetic (in large doses), cathartic (topical-emollient) Flowers: diaphoretic, diuretic, expectorant, febrifuge, exanthematous, alterative, emollient, discutient, rubrifacient, stimulant (topical-anti-inflammatory) Berries: laxative, diuretic, promotes sweating A tea made from the root acts as a diuretic and a hydragogue cathartic. Some Native Americans used root-bark tea for headache, coughs, mucous congestion, colds, influenza, neuralgia, fever, and to promote labor in childbirth. An infusion of leaves and flowers or a decoction of bark serves as an antiseptic wash for skin problems, age spots, removes freckles, wounds, gout, and inflammations. Flower tea taken warm is said to stimulate and to induce sweating; it can be taken for headaches due to colds, blood purifier, and for rheumatism. Taken cold, it has diuretic properties. Dried seeds are used for weight reduction. An infusion of the leaf buds is strongly purgative. Fresh berry juice, evaporated into a syrup, is moderately purgative. It also makes a good ointment for burns when mixed with lard or a creamy base. Externally used for rashes and minor skin problems. The ointment may be used to relieve dry skin. The dried berries can be made into a tea useful for diarrhea and cholera. An infusion of elder flowers is a well-known eye-wash in Europe. An infusion made of elder flowers, peppermint or yarrow herb is much used in Europe taken hot as a night cap when colds threaten. The flowers are steeped in boiling water only a few seconds then strained off. The tea may be sweetened with honey or taken plain. A tea of the flowers alone was a favorite recipe for jangled nerves taken at night. A pinch of elder flowers added to ordinary tea gives the tea a delicious flavor. Bruised leaves will keep away flies, as a spray, elder will keep caterpillars from eating plants; the spray is also good for mildew. Both flowers and berries are made into wines. Cooked berries can be used in jams and pies
*Warnings: Bark, root, leaves, and unripe berries are toxic, said to cause cyanide poisoning, severe diarrhea. Flowers not thought to be toxic; eaten in pancakes and fritters. Only bark that has been aged for a year or more should be used or cyanide poisoning may result. The Western species are more toxic. All parts of the fresh plant can cause poisoning. Children have been poisoned by chewing or sucking on the bark. Cooked berries are safe and are commonly used in pies and jam. Commercially obtained preparations (teas, salves) are perfectly safe. Do not use the bark in pregnancy; it is very strongly purgative.
Origin: Grows in damp areas, rich soils, and waste places, thickets, along trails, and roadsides, in fields, fences and ditches, particularly in the central and eastern states of the United States. Nova Scotia to Georgia; Texas to Manitoba.