Sambucus nigra. N.O. Caprifoliaceae.
Synonym ► Black Elder. European Elder.
Habitat ► Woods and hedges throughout Europe.
Features ► This familiar small tree, twelve to twenty feet high, has young branches containing light, spongy pith, with a bark that is light grey and corky externally. The leaves are opposite, deep green and smooth. Creamy-white, flat-topped masses of flowers bloom in July, to be followed by the decorative, drooping bunches of purplish-black, juicy berries. Country folk aptly limit our English summer when they say that it does not arrive until the Elder is in full blossom, and ends when the berries are ripe!
Part used ► Flowers.
Action ► Diaphoretic, emollient, alterative, diuretic.
These properties of the flowers are obtained from infusions of 1 ounce to
1 pint of water in wineglass doses. It is used, often in conjunction with Peppermint and Yarrow, chiefly for the reduction of feverish colds, but inflamed conditions of the eyes are also found to yield to bathing with the warm Elder flower infusion. Although the medicinal qualities are weaker in the berries than in the flowers, the popular Elder berry wine is widely used as part of the treatment for colds and influenza.
An ointment made from the leaves has been of help to sufferers from chilblains.