Latin name: Sambucus nigra / Sambucus canadensis
Common name(s): Elderberry, Black Elder, Hollowwood Berry,
Plant family: Caprifoliaceae – Honeysuckle family
Planetary association: Venus
Habitat: Native to Europe, but it is not widely cultivated around the world. This tree prefers temperate climates and disturbed alkaline soil.
Parts Used: Berry, used fresh or dried; harvest in early fall.
Flower, use fresh or dried; harvest in the spring
Diaphoretic (more than the berries)
Anti-inflammatory to respiratory tissue
Nutritive (Vitamin A & C, Bioflavonoids)
Respiratory: Frequently used for cold and flu symptoms, suitable for most people including children and the elderly. The flowers and berries increase circulation and decrease fevers and chills, especially when taken as a hot tea. The expectorant qualities help bring up mucus from the lungs and the sinuses, increasing your body’s natural ability to get rid of bacteria and viruses. The flowers are specifically useful when there is a deep cough and you are having difficulty expelling phlegm; they dry, tighten and tone the mucus membranes to prevent further infection. The berries have a high flavonoid content and Vitamin A & C; to soothe sore throats and respiratory inflammation.
Specifically Indicated for: Cold, Influenza, Bronchitis, Sinusitis, Mononucleosis, Tonsillitis, Laryngitis, Fevers, Hay Fever, Ear infections, Chronic Catarrh
Musculoskeletal: The diuretic and diaphoretic properties indicate that this herb is useful in rheumatic conditions. This means achy and arthritic joints. Infusions of the flower help the body dispel toxins and metabolic byproducts that accumulate in the joints, while bringing fresh oxygenated blood to the area.
Our Favorite Way to Use: Taking tea/ tincture as a preventative for cold and flu season. Take frequently from November - January, and in higher doses if you are sick.
Sustainability Notes: Always leave ⅓ or more of a stand when harvesting. Keep in mind that the flowers you harvest will not have the chance to turn into berries (which are the seeds of new plants!). When harvesting the berries make sure to leave some for the birds and the bears.
Contraindications: Consuming unripe berries can cause nausea and vomiting, although this has been rarely observed.
Barnes, Joanne, et al. Herbal Medicines Third Edition. Pharmaceutical Press, 2007.
Hoffmann, David. Medical Herbalism the Science and Practice of Herbal Medicine. Healing Arts Press, 2003.
Snell, Alma Hogan. A Taste of Heritage Crow Indian Recipes & Herbal Medicines. Bison Books, 2006.
Zalewski, C. L. Herbs in Magic and Alchemy: Techniques from Ancient Herbal Lore. Unity Press, 1991.