Sambucus nigra is a species complex of elder native to most of Europe, northwest Africa southwest Asia, and western North America.
It is most commonly called Elder, Elderberry, Black Elder, European Elder, European Elderberry, European Black Elderberry, Common Elder, or Elder Bush when distinction from other species of Sambucus is needed. It grows in a variety of conditions including both wet and dry fertile soils, primarily in sunny locations.
It is a deciduous shrub or small tree growing to 4–6 m (rarely to 10 m) tall. The bark, light grey when young, changes to a coarse grey outer bark with lengthwise furrowing. The leaves are arranged in opposite pairs, 10–30 cm long, pinnate with five to seven (rarely nine) leaflets, the leaflets 5–12 cm long and 3–5 cm broad, with a serrated margin.
The hermaphrodite flowers are borne in large corymbs 10–25 cm diameter in mid summer, the individual flowers white, 5–6 mm diameter, with five petals; they are pollinated by flies.
The fruit is a dark purple to black berry 3–5 mm diameter, produced in drooping clusters in the late autumn; they are an important food for many fruit-eating birds, notably Blackcaps.
The dark blue/purple berries can be eaten when fully ripe but are mildly poisonous in their unripe state. All green parts of the plant are poisonous, containing cyanogenic glycosides (Vedel & Lange 1960). The seeds of red elderberries are toxic and must be removed before eating red elderberries or food products from red elderberries. The berries are edible after cooking and can be used to make jam, jelly, chutney and Pontack sauce. Also when cooked they go well with blackberries and with apples in pies.
The flowerheads are commonly used in infusions, giving a very common refreshing drink in Northern Europe and Balkans. Commercially these are sold as elderflower cordial, etc. In Europe, the flowers are made into a syrup or cordial (in Romanian: Socată, in Swedish: flädersaft), which is diluted with water before drinking. The popularity of this traditional drink has recently encouraged some commercial soft drink producers to introduce elderflower-flavoured drinks (Fanta Shokata, Freaky Fläder). The flowers can also be dipped into a light batter and then fried to make elderflower fritters. In Scandinavia and Germany, soup made from the elder berry (e.g. the German Fliederbeersuppe) is a traditional meal.
Both flowers and berries can be made into elderberry wine, and in Hungary an elderberry brandy is produced (requiring 50 kg of fruit to produce 1 litre of brandy). The alcoholic drink sambuca is not made with elderberries. In south-western Sweden, it is traditional to make a snaps liqueur flavored with elderflower. It is also made and sold commercially, under the name Hallands Fläder, named after the landscape where it is traditionally made. Elderflowers are also used in liqueurs such as St. Germain and a mildly alcoholic sparkling elderflower 'champagne'.
This plant is traditionally used as a medicinal plant by many native peoples and herbalists alike.
Stembark, leaves, flowers, fruits, root extracts are used to treat bronchitis, cough, upper respiratory cold infections, fever. A small (N=60) double blind clinical trial published in 2004 showed reduction in both duration and severity of flu-like symptoms for patients receiving elderberry syrup versus placebo.
Elderberry flowers are sold in Ukrainian and Russian drugstores for relief of congestion, specifically as an expectorant to relieve dry cough and make it productive. The dried flowers are simmered for 15 minutes, the resulting flavorful and aromatic tea is poured through a coffee filter. Some individuals find it better hot, others cold, and some may experience an allergic reaction.
The flowers can be used to make an herbal tea as a remedy for inflammation caused by colds and fever
See Also: flowers, send flowers, flower delivery