Elderberry Sambucus nigra

Part used: berries, flowers
Effect on Dosha: VPK=
Taste: berry-sweet, sour, bitter/flower-slightly bitter, pungent
Energy: berry-neutral to cooling/ flower-cooling
Post Digestive Effect: berries-sweet/flowers-pungent

Tissues: plasma, blood, muscle, fat
Systems: respiratory, immune, digestive, circulatory, urinary
Properties: antioxidant, immune tonic, astringent, expectorant, diaphoretic, digestive, carminative, relaxant.
Indications: coughs, colds, sore throat, tonsillitis, congestion, respiratory infections, asthma, fever, flu, gas, allergies, abdominal discomfort, inflammation, high cholesterol, poor eyesight.
Preparations: infusion, tincture, syrup, winter cordials, medicated wine, food preparation.
Precautions: None for flowers. According to the Botanical Safety Handbook* the unripe and raw fruit contains sambunigrin, which may cause nausea, vomiting or severe diarrhea. Avoid elderberries that are red in color. The fruit is commonly cooked to avoid digestive upset and possible toxicity or the fresh fruit. Sambucus nigra is the variety most commonly used in herbal medicine and is considered to be relatively safe, especially when cooked.

The most common variety of Elderberry used is the purplish-black berries of Sumbucus nigra. They are sweet, sour and slightly bitter to the taste. The ripened fruit is purple/black in color and the sweetest berries are the best to harvest for medicine making.

Elderberries have long been used in in folk herbal traditions of North America and Europe. In recent years, Elderberry has regained popularity and this increased interest has spurn research that seems to confirm much of its common folk uses. They have antiviral and antibacterial properties and are used to bolster the immune system in the treatment of common colds, flu, tonsillitis, and as an expectorant in treating upper respiratory infections. Here, the syrup or extract can be taken in small frequent doses of 1 tsp every 2-3 hours to hasten recovery time during the acute stages of illness. From an ayurvedic perspective the Elderberry clears excess dampness and heat associated with excess pitta and kapha complaints of the respiratory tract.

They also have potent antioxidants, bioflavonoids, potassium, beta-carotene, calcium, phosphorus, and is a rich source of vitamin C. The berries are also considered to improve eyesight, promote weight loss; protect cells from damage and lower cholesterol levels.

An infusion of Elder flowers is effective for lowering fever by inducing sweating and soothing for digestive upset. The cool floral tea can also be applied locally for inflammation of the eyes, and to the skin to improve the complexion of the skin and remove blemishes and lighten freckles. The dried blossoms can also be prepared along with peppermint during the first stages of influenza.

Syrup recipe:

1 cup fresh or ½ cup dried Elderberries
3 cups distilled water
1 cup of raw local honey

Optional spices: 1 stick of cinnamon, a few cloves, and a small amount of ginger powder.

Bring the water, elderberries and spices (optional) to a light boil, and then simmer for 30 to 40 minutes. Then remove from heat and mash the berries to release the remaining juice and strain well. Allow the liquid to cool and then mix it into the raw honey. The syrup should be stored in the refrigerator and lasts for 2-3 months.

1 Tbsp. daily for general immune support and prevention.
Take 1 tsp. every 2-3 hours during acute colds and flus.