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Black Elder Flowers

Compilation by Armando Gonzalez Stuart, PhD

Scientific Name:

Sambucus nigra

Other Common Name:

Saúco Negro.

Parts of the plant used:

Principally the flowers, although the leaves and berries are sometimes used. It is important to note that the flowers and berries do not have the same medicinal applications.

How is it used?

The flowers are used to make teas, extracts and syrups.

What is it used for?

Germany’s Commission E has approved the use of elder flowers (but not the leaves or berries) for respiratory ailments such as bronchitis, coughs, colds and fever. Elder flower tea promotes sweating and therefore may help in lowering fever. Some constituents in Elder flowers have antimicrobial activity and are employed against infections of the respiratory tract, including the flu. Elder flower tea may also be useful against insomnia, anxiety and other nervous disorders. The flowers are a significant source of Vitamin C, as well as other antioxidants. The ripe berries also have a laxative effect in small doses, but may cause nausea and vomiting in larger amounts. The leaves, bark and unripe berries can be potentially toxic and should be avoided. In Mexican traditional medicine, the fresh leaves of a related species, S. mexicana (Mexican Elder), are applied directly to the joints as a compress to relieve pain and swelling in arthritic patients and a tea made from the berries is used as a purgative.


Safety / Precautions


  • Even though various herbal products made from Black Elder flowers have not shown any toxicity, they have not been thoroughly evaluated during pregnancy and lactation. Check with a health professional before taking these products.
  • Slight gastrointestinal discomfort is one of the possible side effects.
  • Parts of Black Elder (especially the roots, bark, leaves, and unripe berries) can be potentially toxic. Avoid ingestion, especially by small children.

Before you decide to take any medicinal herb or herbal supplement, be sure to consult with your health care professional first. Avoid self-diagnosis and self-medication: Always be on the safe side!