Vol.4, # 1
January 6, 2007

Q: What is Black Elderberry and what is it good for? - Layperson

A: Common Elderberry
Black Elderberry

http://www.hcs.ohio-state.edu/plantfacts/plant/action.lasso?-database=pmi4&-response=record_detail.lasso&-lay=input&id #=12902&-search

Scientific Name:
Sambucus canadensis L.



Elderberry, often found naturalized at ditches, ravines, rockpiles, roadsides, and neglected areas in sun or shade and wet or dry sites, has opposite, pinnately compound foliage on arching and straggly stems.

Growth Habit and Diagnostic Characteristics
Elderberiy commonly found in wet areas, is a shrub with limber branches; opposite, pinnately compound leaves and black berry-like fruits called drupes. Each compound leaf may have 5 to 11 (usually 5-7) leaflets or pinna. Leaflet margins are serrated (finely toothed). Sambucus canadensis and the red elderberry, S. pubens, are the only fleshy fruit bearing shrubs with
opposite, pinnately compound leaves in temperate Eastern North America. Red elderberry is mainly an Appalachian shrub with bright red fruits. Black elderberry has purple-black fruits and is distributed throughout Virginia. The drupes, slightly larger than BB shot (up to 6 mm), are produced in dense profusion in dome-like or flat topped clusters (cymes) in August!
September. A multitude of minute white flowers develop in May/June in flat-topped cymes that some-what resemble the flowering head of the herb, queen
anne’s lace (Daucus carota).
When heavily laden with fruit, the weak branches often droop. The internal central portion of the branches have solid white pith and the thin bark is peppered with wart-like lenticels, which are distinguishing winter characteristics. Black elderberry fruit is edible and can be used in making delectable preserves or jellies, especially when combined with currants.
Sambucus canadensis is found in wet areas throughout the eastern half of North America.
Black elderberry is found in a wide variety of nontidal wetland types. It is perhaps noticed most often along roadside ditches. Sambucus is also a common shrub in palustrine forested wetlands. Associated shrubs in this habitat are highbush blueberry Vaccinium coiymbosum; swamp dogwood, Corn us amomum; sweet pepperbush, Clethra ain/folia; paw paw,
Asimina triloba (Wetland Flora, No. 93-12 / November 1993); button bush, Cephalanthus occidentalis (Wetlands Flora, No. 94 -10! November 1994) and spice bush, Lindera benzoin (Wetland Flora, No. 94-5 /July 1994).
Ecological dues I Benefits
Elderberries are an abundant food source for songbirds. Bluebirds, catbirds, kingbirds and thrashers are known to feed on the fleshy fruits. In combination with fleshy fruited shrubs such as blueberries, dogwoods, and spice bush, wetland shrubs offer a variety of food
choices and cover for both birds and small mammals.
Hydrophytic Factor / Wetkind indicator Status
As listed in the National List of Plant Species that Occur in Wetlands: Virginia 1988, Sambucus canadensis is classified as a facultative wetland plant (FACW). FACW plants “usually occur in wetlands (estimated probability 67%- 99%).”

Parts used and where grown

Numerous species of elder or elderberry grow in Europe and North America. Only those with blue/black berries are medicinal. The flowers and berries are both used. Species with red berries are not medicinal.

Elderberry has been used in connection with the following conditions (refer to the individual health concern for complete information):

Rating Health Concerns



Cold sores

Common cold/sore throat



3Stars Reliable and relatively consistent scientific data showing a substantial health benefit.
2Stars Contradictory, insufficient, or preliminary studies suggesting a health benefit or minimal health benefit.
1Star For an herb, supported by traditional use but minimal or no scientific evidence. For a supplement, little scientific support and/or minimal health benefit.

Historical or traditional use (may or may not be supported by scientific studies)

Elderberries have long been used as food, particularly in the dried form. Elderberry wine, pie, and lemonade are some of the popular ways to prepare this plant as food. The leaves were touted by European herbalists to be pain relieving and to promote healing of injuries when applied as a poultice. Native American herbalists used the plant for infections, coughs, and skin conditions.

Active constituents

Flavonoids, including quercetin, are believed to account for the therapeutic actions of the elderberry flowers and berries. These flavonoids include anthocyanins that are powerful antioxidants and protect cells against damage according to test tube studies. According to laboratory research, an extract from the leaves, combined with St. John’s wort and soapwort, inhibits the influenza virus and herpes simplex virus. The effect on influenza of a syrup made from the berries of the black elderberry has been studied in a small double-blind trial. People receiving an elderberry extract (2 tablespoons [30 ml] per day for children, 4 tablespoons [60 ml] per day for adults) appeared to recover faster than did those receiving a placebo. Animal studies have shown the flowers to have anti-inflammatory properties. These actions have not been verified in human clinical trials.

How much is usually taken?

A syrup of black elderberry extract (1 teaspoon–1 tablespoon [5–15 ml] for children, 2 teaspoons–2 tablespoons [10–30 ml] for adults) can be taken twice daily. A tea made from 1/2–1 teaspoon (3–5 grams) of the dried flowers steeped in 1 cup (250 ml) boiling water for ten to fifteen minutes may be drunk three times per day.

Are there any side effects or interactions?

The safe internal use of elderberry is limited to the use of the dried flowers or syrups made from the ripe berries. The roots, stems, leaves, and unripe berries may contain poisonous constituents containing dagerous levels of hydrogen cyanide (HCN) that can cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Preparations containing any of these parts of the elder plant should be avoided.

Several cases of severe poisoning from several glasses of juice involved dizziness, nausea, numbness, stupor, vomiting and weakness.

Black Elderberry (Sambucus nigra L) - one of nature's oldest remedies - has been shown to be effective for both preventing and treating cold and flu viruses, with no harmful side-effects.

From alleviating fevers to encouraging wounds to heal
The health-giving properties of black elderberry have been documented as far back as the 5th century and it was favoured by Hippocrates - the father of modern medicine. The berries were extolled as an all-round panacea, due to their tonic and blood purifying properties.

Traditionally enjoyed in the form of wine or preserves, the berries epitomise Hippocrates' holistic ethos: "Let food be thy medicine and medicine thy food".

Native Americans used the plant to treat rheumatism and fever. Black elderberry's ability to reduce fever is due to its diaphoretic (sweat-inducing) properties. And the leaves of the plant were employed for pain relief and applied to wounds to promote healing.

90% of flu victims made a complete recovery in just three days!
Now a double-blind clinical trial at the Department of Virology, Hebrew University-Hadassah Medical School in Jerusalem, has provided evidence to back up Hippocrates' belief in the power of elderberries.

The trial showed that a standardised extract of black elderberry, known as Sambucol, is an effective treatment for the influenza virus. After just two days, more than 93 per cent of those who took the Sambucol showed a significant reduction in symptoms, while almost all (90 per cent) of those taking Sambucol had recovered after just three days.1

In comparison, it took 92 per cent of the placebo group more than six days to feel even a slight improvement.

World-renowned virologist, Dr Madeleine Mumcuoglu and her team, measured the presence of influenza antibodies in the two groups. The subjects in the Sambucol group were found to have a higher level of antibodies than those receiving the placebo, confirming an enhanced immune response in those patients.

Potent AntiVirins can substantially reduce virus-inflicted damage
It was during work for her Ph.D thesis that Dr Mumcuoglu isolated key active compounds from black elderberry extract known as AntiVirins. Based on common plant chemicals, bioflavonoids, these agents have the ability to protect cells from virus invasion, thereby preventing the spread of the infection through your body.

Unlike bacteria, a virus cannot replicate on its own. In order to survive it must attack living cells. It does this by puncturing cell walls using the tiny protein spikes of haemagglutinin that cover its surface. The spikes are also armed with an enzyme called neuraminidase that helps to break down the cell wall, allowing the virus to invade healthy tissue.

Dr Mumcuoglu believes that black elderberry extract disarms the protein spikes by binding to them and preventing the virus from piercing the cell membrane.

Black elderberry extract has been shown to be effective against both the type A and type B flu virus in human test subjects and at least ten different strains in the laboratory, including Beijing, Singapore, Hong Kong, Ann Arbor, Texas, Panama, Yamagata and Shangdong.1 The efficacy of Sambucol appears not to be affected by the genetic variations (responsible for the varying degrees of severity each flu season) that occur between strains.

Important immune-boosting powers
A second double-blind clinical study performed in Norway echoes the earlier studies, showing that Sambucol shortens the duration of a flu attack by an average of four days.

Other more recent research, published in June 2001, demonstrates how Sambucol positively activates the immune system.

Other studies have shown the wider anti-viral properties of black elderberry. In the laboratory, black elderberry extract can inhibit the herpes and HIV virus.

  Black Elderberry Extract
Virologist Developed Developed by world renowned virologist Dr. Madelein Mumcuoglu, Sambucol is a natural product manufactured in Israel. It is derived from the black elder tree, sambucus Nigra l. It was Dr. Mumcuoglu that discovered the key active ingredient in Elderberry, then patented a procedure for its correct standardization. Laboratory and clinically tested, Sambucol black Elderberry extract has been used by millions of people with positive results being reported worldwide. No other Elderberry product can make the same claim. Sambucol black Elderberry extract is a popular supplement during the winter season for its health promoting benefits.

Supplement Facts
Serving Size: 1 Lozenge
Servings per container: 30
Amount Per Serving % Daily Value
Total Carbohydrates 1 g <1%
Vitamin C (As Ascorbic Acid) 100 mg 167%
Sambucol® Elderberry Dried Extract (Berry) 130 mg *
*Daily value not established.

Other ingredients: Sorbitol, Magnesium Stearate, Silica, Peppermint Extract, Rasberry Extract

Free Of
  Gluten free

  Daily usage: adults; 1 lozenge twice daily. Children; 1 lozenge daily. Intensive usage: 2 lozenges three times daily. Children; take 1 lozenge four times daily. Allow lozenge to dissolve slowly in the mouth.

  These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
In short, Black Elderberry supplements are relatively safe to use, especially to reduce flu symptoms and duration. Supplements are not to be used as a preventive or substitute for the flu/flu vaccine. Avoid usage if you suffer any kind of allergy to the plant/plant parts. Consult the appropriate healthcare professional familiar with the supplement use.


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DISCLAIMER:  The information in this column, is NOT intended to diagnose and/or treat any health related issues and is provided solely for informational purposes only. Consult the appropriate healthcare professional before making any changes to your healthcare regime. Even what may seem like simple changes in the diet for example, can interact with, and alter, the efficiency of medications and/or the body's response to the medications. Many herbs and supplements exert powerful medicinal effects. Neither the author, nor the website designers, assume any responsibility for the reader's use or misuse of this information.

© 2002 Nature's Corner