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Elderberry and elderflower (Sambucus nigra)

Synonyms/Common Names/Related Substances:

  • Almindelig hyld (Danish), alpha-amyrenone, alpha-amyrin, anthocyanins, baccae, baises de sureau (French), battree, beta-sitosterol, betulin, black berried alder, black elder, black elderberry, boor tree, bountry, boure tree, busine (Russian), Caprifoliaceae (family), cyanidin-3-glucoside, cyanidin-3-glucoside monoglucuronide, cyanidin-3-sambubioside, devil's eye, elderberry, elderberry anthocyanins, elderberry bark agglutinin, elderberry juice, ellanwood, ellhorn, European alder, European elder, European elder fruit, European elderberry, European elderflower, frau holloe, German elder, Holunderbeeren (German), Holunderblüten (German), hyperoside, inking elder, lady elder, mucilage, nigrin b, N-phenylpropenoyl-L-amino acid amides, old gal, old lady, oleanolic acid, peonidin monoglucuronide, peonidin-3-glucoside, peonidin-3-sambubioside, pipe tree, plastocyanin, quercetin, Rubini® (elderberry extract), rutin, Sambreo, Sambuci flos, Sambuci fructus, Sambucipunct sambucus, sambuco (Italian), Sambucus sieboldiana (Japanese red elder), schwarzer Holunder (German), sambunigrin, sieboldin-b, suco (Spanish), sureau noir (French), sweet elder, tannins, tetrameric, tree of doom, yakori bengestro.
  • Selected combination products: OptiBerry IH141 (contains wild blueberry, strawberry, cranberry, wild bilberry, elderberry, raspberry extracts), Sinupret® (contains Sambucus nigra flowers, gentian root, verbena, cowslip flower, and sorrel), Sambucol® Active Defense (contains elderberry extract, vitamin C, zinc Echinacea angustifolia, Echinacea purpurea, and propolis); Sambucol® Immune System (contains elderberry, Echinacea angustifolia root, Echinacea purpurea, propolis, vitamin C, zinc); Sambucol® for Kids (contains elderberry, Echinacea purpurea, Echinacea angustifolia root, propolis). A phytotherapeutic compound contained Pimpinella anisum, Foeniculum vulgare, Sambucus nigra, and Cassia angustifolia.
  • Note: Several species of Sambucus produce elderberries. Most scientific literature pertains to Sambucus nigra. Other species with similar chemical components include the American elder or common elder (Sambucus canadensis), antelope brush (Sambucus tridentata), blue elderberry (Sambucus caerulea), danewort (Sambucus ebulus), dwarf elder (Sambucus ebulus), red-fruited elder (Sambucus pubens, Sambucus racemosa), and Sambucus formosana. American elder (S. canadensis) and European elder (S. nigra) are often discussed simultaneously in the literature, since they have many of the same uses and contain common constituents.
  • Note: This review does not include Sambucus nigra agglutinin (SNA) affinity chromatography.

Clinical Bottom Line/Effectiveness

Brief Background:

  • Several species of Sambucus produce elderberries. Most research and publications refer to Sambucus nigra. Other species with similar chemical components include the American elder or common elder (Sambucus canadensis), antelope brush (Sambucus tridentata), blue elderberry (Sambucus caerulea), danewort (Sambucus ebulus), dwarf elder (Sambucus ebulus), red-fruited elder (Sambucus pubens, Sambucus racemosa), and Sambucus formosana. American elder (S. canadensis) and European elder (S. nigra) are often discussed simultaneously in the literature, because they have many of the same uses and contain common constituents.
  • According to secondary sources, European elder grows up to 30 feet tall and is native to Europe, but has been naturalized to the Americas. Historically, the flowers and leaves have been used for pain relief, swelling, inflammation, and diuresis (urine production), and as a diaphoretic or expectorant. The leaves have been used externally for sitz baths. The bark, when aged, has been used as a diuretic, laxative, or emetic (to induce vomiting). The berries have been used traditionally in food as flavoring and in the preparation of elderberry wine and pies.
  • According to secondary sources, the flowers and berries (blue and black only) are used most often medicinally. They contain flavonoids, which have been found preclinically to possess a variety of biochemical and pharmacological actions, including antioxidant and immunologic properties that have shown benefit in treating influenza, bacterial sinusitis, and bronchitis. Although it has been hypothesized to be beneficial, definitive evidence from well-conducted human clinical trials is currently lacking regarding the use of elder, especially as monotherapy.
  • The bark, leaves, seeds and raw or unripe fruit contain the cyanogenic glycoside sambunigrin, which is potentially toxic.

Dosing/Toxicology

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Precautions/Contraindications

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Interactions

Most herbs and supplements have not been thoroughly tested for interactions with other herbs, supplements, drugs, or foods. The interactions listed below are based on reports in scientific publications, laboratory experiments, or traditional use. You should always read product labels. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, you should speak with a qualified healthcare provider before starting a new therapy.

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Mechanism of Action

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History

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Evidence Table

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Evidence Discussion

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Products Studied

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Author Information

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References

Natural Standard developed the above evidence-based information based on a thorough systematic review of the available scientific articles. For comprehensive information about alternative and complementary therapies on the professional level, go to www.naturalstandard.com. Selected references are listed below.

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The information in this monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. Information is based on review of scientific research data, historical practice patterns, and clinical experience. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions.