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Botanical name

Black elder - Sambucus nigra L.


Dipsacales (Adoxaceae)

Useful information about the plant

The Black elder is distributed across almost all of Europe with the exception of the north, ranging as far east as the Caucasus. The up to 8m high shrub with its large pinnate leaves characterises the riparian forests and hedgerows in many parts of Germany, it is also common in ruderal meadows and roadsides, railway embankments and dumps. It is particularly decorative during flowering in June / July, as the small, densely clumped white flowers grow in large, umbrella-shaped umbels, 10 to 25cm in diameter. They are very fragrant and are therefore often fermented with water and sugar into sparkling wine or boiled down to elderflower syrup. They are also baked in pancakes because of their fragrance from the umbels, they are put in the batter and pulled out after baking. In the autumn the small, black, juicy berry-like drupes can be processed into elderberry juice. They give the black elder the epithet nigra (Latin "niger" = black). It is not clear whether the genus name comes from Greek "symbyke" (= harp) or "sambyx" (= red). Before Styrofoam came about, the unusually thick and white pith of young branches was previously used in microscopy as a tool for cutting thin objects.

Medicinally used plant parts (drug)

The dried flowers, which are destemmed, are used. De-stemming means that the umbels are rubbed through a coarse wire mesh, so the small flowers open up and fall through the sieve. The commercial drug trade comes from cultures in Germany, Poland and the Balkan countries.

Ingredients of the drug

Elderberry flowers contain flavonoids, hydroxycinnamic acid derivatives, triterpenes, gums and essential oil.

Descriptions of the quality

The quality of elderflower (Sambuci flos) is specified in the European Pharmacopoeia (Ph. Eur.).

Medical Application

Recognised medical use

For colds (Commission E).
The HMPC has classified Elderflower as a traditional herbal medicinal product (see traditional use).

Traditional use

Elderberry flowers were classified by the HMPC as traditional herbal medicines (§ 39a AMG). Based on many years of experience Elderflower can be used for relief of symptoms of a common cold.
Traditionally used to improve the condition of colds (traditional use acc. to § 109a).

Medicinal herbal preparations in finished drug products

  • Elderflower as a tea
  • powdered Elderflower in tablets
  • alcoholic extracts and drops in juice


Prepared drugs: see package insert;
Tea infusion: drink a cup of elderflower tea as hot as possible (sweating cure) 2 to 4 times daily, mean daily dose 10 to 15grams of the drug. Good to combine with other drugs (teas for colds).

Preparation of a tea infusion

Pour 150ml of boiling water over 3 to 5g of Elderflower and strain after 5-10 minutes.


There is no experience on the harmlessness of using Elderflower during pregnancy and breast-feeding as well as with children under 12 years old.

Side effects

None known


None known


Drug monographs

HMPC, Commission E, WHO (Vol. 2)

Further reading

Wichtl: Teedrogen und Phytopharmaka, pg. 598
Schilcher: Leitfaden Phytotherapie, pg. 123
Van Wyk: Handbuch der Arzneipflanzen, pg. 285
Kommentar zum Europäischen Arzneibuch (Elderflower, no. 1217)

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