Materia Medica – Elderberry


Sambucus (Adoxaceae)

Also Known as: Arbre de Judas, Baccae, Baises de Sureau, Black-Berried Alder, Black Elder, Black Elderberry, Boor Tree, Bountry, Elder, Common Elder.


Elderberry is a shrub within the honeysuckle family. Reaching a maximum height of 15m, this deciduous shrub flowers in the spring and early summer. The elderberry shrub has smooth, grayish-brown bark with small bumps. The small white flowers have 5 flattened, white petals in a large umbrella-shaped cluster. Edible dark purple berries hang in bunches and ripen in the late summer.

-Parts Used: Flowers and Berries

-Habitat and Cultivation: The elderberry bush is native to Europe, North Africa, and western Asia. Today you can find the plant in most regions of the world, with a large portion growing in the eastern United States and southern Canada. The shrub prefers moist soil but is able to tolerate fairly dry soil. Elderberry grows best when exposed to full sunlight. Once the shrub becomes established it is easy to maintain and has few problems.  

-Harvesting: Elderberry fruit normally matures between mid-August and mid-September and turns a dark purple when fully ripe. The best way to harvest elderberries is to use garden scissors to cut the entire cluster from the shrub.


Tannins, flavonoids, essential oil, mucilage, triterpenes. Berries: Sugar, vitamin C, anthocyanins (sambucin, sambucyanin), bioflavonoids, fruit acids. Leaves: Cyanogenic glycosides, vitamins, tannins, resins, fats, sugars.

Actions and Energetics

-Actions: Astringent, bitter, pungent, clearing, reduces fever. 

-Energetics: Cooling, pungent, light, dry, sharp, penetrating.


Strong impact on immune system, anti-inflammatory, blood vessel formation, wound healing, energy transfer respiratory system clearing, cold and flu relieving properties, blood tonic, supporting healthy blood flow to skin.


Tonic, tincture, salve, compress, essential oil, flower essence, fresh

Culinary Uses

-Elderberry Wine.

-Elderberry Liqueur.

-Elderberry Ketchup (Pontack Sauce)

-Elderberry Jam

-Elderberry Ice Cream

-Elderberry Tea

-Elderberry Baked Goods

Precautions and Contraindications

DO NOT use unripe or uncooked elderberries. They may be poisonous. Pregnant and breastfeeding women should not take elderberry. The stems of the elderberry shrub are toxic and should never be consumed.


With Rosehips: tonic

-With Lavender: immune boosting elixir

-With Aloe Vera: skin soothing

-With Garlic: immune boosting supplement

-With Corn Silk: urinary tract infection

-With Peppermint: diaphoretic

Medicine Message

Elderberry treat wounds, when applied to the skin. It is also taken orally to treat respiratory illnesses such as cold and flu. Some evidence suggests that chemicals in elder flower and berries may help reduce swelling in mucous membranes, including the sinuses, and help relieve nasal congestion. Elderberry has anti-inflammatory, antiviral, anti-influenza, and anticancer properties.

Spiritual Message

Elderberry is a potent and extremely healing plant. She is considered to be kind though she resides in darkness. Used for curses, summoning dark spirits, and banishing, she posses the power to protect the life cycle and those who are newly entering the Underworld. It is with this unique skill that she bridges the gap between light and dark. She can protect against the dark but also can create the gathering of darkness. Anyone entering her realm will be met with either good or bad, contingent of what they rightfully deserve. Elderberry should be respected for her immense power.