Elder tree properties

Health benefits of elder tree (Sambucus nigra L.)

Characteristics of elder tree


Common noun: Elder, European black elder (tree); Eldelberry, Common elderberry, Black elderberry, European elderberry (fruit)

Scientific noun: Sambucus nigra L.

Family. Elder family -Caprifoliaceae

Habitat: In woods, by the side of the rivers and streams and humid hedges.


A branch with the leaves and the inflorescence


A detail of the fruits and the flower

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Description of elder tree

Shrub – tree up to 10 m. Ligneous stems, gray brown like cork.

Composite leaves, pinnate till 12 cm long. 5- 7 leaflets, toothed and ovate.

Flowers in inflorescences, similar to umbels, very flat, till 20 cm wide. Cream corolla, about 5 mm.

Fruits in drupe, black.

Picking and storing elder

Spring and Autumn are the best season to pick the flowers. We should collect the leaves from the fresh shoots, also in spring. Bark in Autumn and fruits at the end of Summer or in Autumn.

Flowers must be dried in the shade and kept in a dry and dark place. Bark in the sun and must be put into a dry, airtight container. Fruits can be eaten raw or they can be dried in the sun and stored under the same conditions of the bark.



Elder for respiratory diseases

– Respiratory: It is very helpful against respiratory diseases. Flowers in infusion become a good sudorific, which contributes to heal this kind of processes.

Cold: Infusion for 10 minutes of 20 gr. of dry leaves a litter of water. Drink several little glasses all through the day.

Cough: (Ripe fruits eaten very ripe or made into jam)

Fever: It is an excellent aid against respiratory diseases. The flowers are a good diaphoretic infusion which contributes to the healing of these processes. Very useful against respiratory problems, especially to relieve cough and fever-reducing processes accompanying flu, colds or bronchitis..

– Depurative: It has got a depurative effect for the body, being suitable to get rid toxins from our body. It can be used for psoriasis, urticaria, eczema, etc. (Infusion of flowers. A flower tablespoon per cup.) (Fruit in jam)

Laxative and purgative: Against constipation. ( Ripe fruits, raw or in marmalade) Fruits which are not very well ripe are toxic!!!

elder tree

Elder leaves and flowers


Sambucus nigra

Botanical illustration

– Antiseptic and bactericide: The same decoction seen above can be used for buccal rinsing against pyorrhea.

– Astringent: To treat hemorrhoids apply the lotion with the juice extracted squashing fresh leaves.

– Bactericide and anti-inflammatory: To cure or disinfect cuts or burns, apply a cataplasm of fresh leaves on the affected area.

For otitis, earache, tinnitus, hearing loss, Meniere’s disease or swimmer’s ear: By introducing the steam in our ear resulting from the decoction of a handful of dry leaves, we will feel a big relief. (The process is done by the vaporization method, which consist on the application of a vapor for therapeutic use.

This can be done in practice in the following way: Boil a handful of leaves in a liter of water for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and, while being hot, place a cone made of paper or cardboard over the steam. Introduce the narrowest end in the ear and the widest end over the steam so that the steam can go into the ear.)

– As a natural collyrium: It has been a traditional remedy for what has been called “evil eye”. Very useful in case of conjunctivitis, cataracts or retinal detachment (Make eye washes with the infusion of a handful of flowers per liter of water. Apply a gauze over the eyes). (Do not use in case of allergic conjunctivitis or hay fever)

For pyorrhea: (Decoction of the bark)

– Hair care: Besides having bactericidal properties, elder possesses anti-baldness properties so it can help stop hair fall. It can be used to prepare natural shampoos.

Nose bleeding: (Crush some dry leaves into a powder. Insert a bit in the nostril that is bleeding.)

Culinary uses of elderberries

Elder marmalade: Pick ripe fruits to make a marmalade, adding a fourth part more of fruit than sugar (750 gr. of sugar each kg. of fruit) It should be cooked on a low flame, stirring constantly.

Cosmetic uses of elder

A flower infusion poured in the water of the bath makes it very refreshing, besides contributing to cure skin faults. – pimples, blisters, inflammations, etc.

– To eliminate face spots, apply on it the infusion of a handful of flowers in 1 and a half litters of water.

Other uses:

Elder wood is very hard. This is the reason why it has been considered very valuable for making farming tools or for cabinetwork.

punto rojo More information about natural medicine.

Written by Editorial Botanical-online team in charge of content writing

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Botanical-online is an informative page that describes, among other topics, the traditional uses of plants from a therapeutic point of view. Their descriptions do not replace professional advice. Botanical-online is not responsible for self-medication and recommends consulting with the physician.