Herbs Guide


Family Name: Caprifoliaceae

Botanical Name(s): Sambucus nigra L.

Popular Name(s): Common Elder, Black Elder, American Elder, Sweet Elder

Parts Used: The bark, leaves, flowers and berries

Habitat: Elder is found widely in North America and in Europe

Description: Elder grows up to 10m in height with a trunk-diameter of up to 30cm. The bark is light grey in colour when young but changes to coarse grey as it gains height. It possesses feathery leaves. Its tiny, cream scented flowers are borne in summer, followed by black berries. The flowers are arranged in rich, flat cymes. They have a short, bell-shaped calyx and a rounded corolla composed of creamy oval petals. The ovary has a sessile stigma divided into three to five lobes, maturing into globular, glossy and blackish-purple drupes containing the seeds.

Uses: Elder is bitter, pungent, have a diuretic and anti-mucus effect. The leaves and bark are used externally to treat minor burns and chilblains. The flowers are effective to cure sore eyes, irritated and inflamed skin, mouth ulcers and minor injuries. These are used to lower fever, reduce inflammation and sooth irritation also. The fruits are used for their analgesic effects, as well as for their laxative and diaphoretic properties. They are used in rheumatic complaints also.