translated from a website in French




The black elderberry is a shrub very widespread in Europe (it tolerates the cold like the heat, the humidity like the drought), it can reach 4 to 5 meters but most often much less because its branches are brittle.


The opposite leaves, quite large, are formed from 5 to 7 oval leaflets, they give off a strong odor, unpleasant for some, when they are crumpled.

This shrub, full sun, common in roadside hedges and near waterways, blooms in spring, between May and July depending on the latitude, the umbellate inflorescences, which can reach 25 cm in diameter, are made up of small pleasantly fragrant yellowish-white flowers.

The flowers (5-part hermaphrodite) later give fruit in hanging clusters; they are shiny black berries when ripe, which contain several flattened seeds in a very colorful watery pulp, red-purplish. Fruit-eating birds disperse the elderberry.

There are many other species of Sambucus in the world,
Many are very similar to black elderberry and considered by botanists to be subspecies, almost varieties.
Thus Sambucus canadensis is widespread in North America from Canada to Mexico.
Sambucus peruviana in South America, Sambucus mexicana in Central America, all three have dark fruits when ripe.

Sambucus nigra has been introduced in many countries (including tropical ones) where it coexists with native species.

Other species with red fruits have medicinal properties different from black elderberries and are grouped around the species Sambucus racemosa (with flowers in pyramidal panicles and dark red fruits). Finally, it is common to meet in Europe the little elderberry, Sambucus ebulus. It is a perennial annual plant by its root, reaching 1m to 1.5m, giving off a strong odor, with the inflorescence similar to black elderberry (but sometimes a little pink or reddish) and with fruits also similar to those of black elderberry but in erect umbel-clusters, never hanging down.



All parts of black elderberry (but to a lesser extent the flowers) contain cyanogenic heterosides (cyanogen), which after absorption can release toxic hydrocyanic acid by an enzymatic process .

These compounds are unstable and are destroyed by heat.

Human poisoning is rare because the parts of elderberry that contain it are bitter (except the fruits) which does not encourage swallowing, and the body is able to detoxify fairly quickly small amounts of cyanides.

The leaves, stems, bark, roots and seeds are the parts which contain the most cyanogenic compounds, they are emetic and purgative by toxic effect.

The flowers contain: softening mucilages, a little tannin, flavonoids, phenol acids (chlorogenic, caffeic, ferulic ...) potassium nitrate and a little essential oil which is solid at ordinary temperature.

Fruits : simple sugars and organic acids (citric, malic), flavonoids including anthocyanosides (cyanidol and pelargonidol pigments) and other pharmacologically interesting components (catechin, quercetin, kaempferol, apigenin, hesperitin, luteolin), triterpene acids, vitamins (C, B2, A, folic acid).

The flowers are traditionally used as a sudorific (increases sweating) and diuretic.

The infusion (aqueous extract) is diuretic but on the other hand the hydro-alcoholic extract (tincture at 15 °) is not. A good example of the importance of the solvent in the preparation of plant extracts.
A mucilaginous decoction of black elderberry flowers is soothing, especially when applied to an inflamed area

The inner bark (green) is also a classic diuretic, by its content in potassium nitrate, but we prefer the flowers (non-toxic at normal dose).

Researchers from Saudi Arabia are interested in the "exudate" of elderberry bark, BILSAAN in Arabic, which would have an anti-asthmatic effect, verified on an animal model.

Fresh fruits are edible (in small quantities), they provide a little vitamin C, but they are laxative by toxic effect as soon as a certain dose is exceeded (variable with people and the elderberry itself).
Once cooked and detoxified, the fruits are an interesting source of polyphenols (phenol acids, flavonols, anthocyanosides). The content of elderberry juice in these antioxidant components is higher than that of blueberries, and similar to that of colored grapes.

The bioavailability of anthocyanidol pigments is good, they are absorbed in the intestine while retaining their antioxidant capacity. Anthocyanoside pigments are found in the blood and are excreted in the urine approximately 4 to 6 hours after absorption.


One of the most interesting properties of black elderberry fruits is its antiviral power .

Elderberry is a plant traditionally used since the Middle Ages to fight upper respiratory infections, "colds".
Quite recently, Israeli and Norwegian researchers have clearly demonstrated the ability of extracts from the fruits and flowers of black elderberry to shorten influenza infection by several days.
Antiviral substances are not clearly defined, but elderberry extracts are believed to act on the hemaglutinin of the influenza virus, thus preventing its adhesion to the cells of the respiratory mucosa. This slows down the viral infection and it can be assumed that it may also prevent the flu.
The researchers who developed this elderberry extract (Sambucol) believe that it is active on all influenza type A viruses (the most dangerous), including AH5N1 and AH1N1.

Tests, in vitro, were also carried out to test this extract (sambucol) on herpes viruses (with success) and on the AIDS virus (HIV) and on coronaviruses (covid 19, but without much success) .



Infusion: (10 to 15 minutes), 3 to 4 g of dried flowers in a bowl of very hot water, three times a day or a small handful of dried flowers in a liter of very hot water, to drink during the day.
This infusion causes an attack of sweating but it is also diuretic

in case of seasonal viral respiratory infections (including influenza), bronchitis, rash fevers
in the event of fluid retention requiring an increase in diuresis, mild urinary tract infection or in the event of urinary stones but only on medical advice.

Decoction : (10 minutes of boiling and 10 minutes in infusion) a large handful of dry flowers in a liter of water: applied once warmed in compresses on inflamed or irritated skin, on dry skin.


- fruit syrup (same weight of ripe fruit and sugar, boiling for 15 minutes and filtration to remove the seeds), if we add a gelifiant we obtain elderberry JAM (interesting in winter to protect against viral infections),

- elderberry rob (one part of sugar and 4 parts of fruit, boiling, filtration then slow boiling until obtaining a liquid with a consistency of honey).Jam, syrup or rob are consumed pure (a teaspoonful 2 to 3 times a day) or diluted in a glass of cold or hot water.

in the event of a seasonal viral or influenza infection to shorten their course or to try to prevent them in the event of an epidemic
these fruit extracts are slightly laxative or even purgative if the dose is increased or in some more sensitive people

- alcoholic tincture of fruits, or fruits and flowers, concentrated at 1/5: 30 to 50 drops 1 to 3 times a day

There are in drugstores (but not in all countries) elderberry extracts (flowers or fruits) at various concentrations (such as "Sambucol" for example): refer to the dosage of the manufacturer.

These extracts and the preparations described above are of interest:

- to strengthen the immune defense in association with other plants with similar properties such as echinacea, to prevent and shorten seasonal viral - - - infections (including influenza), and to strengthen natural immunity more generally
- in the event of chronic inflammatory conditions,
- for the antioxidant power - anti-free radical protecting the tissues.



The elderberry is an easy shrub to grow and not very demanding on the soil and the climatic conditions. It fears strong winds., The branches are brittle.

It can be propagated by seed or more quickly by dividing roots in the fall.
The planting is done during the winter.

The elderberry is a deciduous tree, the fruits attract birds (their droppings is strongly colored).

There are "industrial" elderberry plantations especially in Eastern Europe, but the fruits of wild shrubs are also harvested.

The fruit harvest is not easily mechanized, it is most often done by hand, especially since it is necessary to choose the ripe bunches of fruits .

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Elderberry is an easy shrub to grow and quite widespread in the world, its flowers, diuretics and sweat, and its antiviral fruits are useful for fighting viral infections
including influenza infections type A virus.
Fruits and most of the elderberry (leaves and stems)
contain toxic substances causing vomiting and diarrhea
but which are destroyed by heatr