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Sambucus Nigra (American Elderflower)

While most people are familiar with the berries of the American Elder plant, I was taught about flowers in school.  I can’t remember why my teacher opted to use the flower of the plant, although I’ve heard many tales from my Oma about birds dive-bombing her and my Opa when they tried to pick them.  Perhaps that’s why.  I do remember him saying that the properties of the flowers were surprisingly similar to the berries.

Elder flower

Just like its berry counterpart, the flower of the Sambucus nigra plant has potent immune stimulating and antiviral properties.  It’s these two main properties that give elderberry syrup/juice its famed reputation in the herbal world.  Although I wouldn’t be surprised if more people know about it after Hershel from the television show Walking Dead used it in an attempt to combat a super virus!!

Elderberry (Sambucus canadensis)

Other properties that make it a fantastic herb to use during cold and flu season are the following:

  •          Antiallergenic – aids in the symptoms of seasonal allergies
  •          Anticatarrhal – helps with runny noses
  •          Expectorant – aids in the expulsion of mucus from the lungs
  •          Febrifuge – helps to regulate/lower fever


The combination of all of these properties results in it being a powerful ally against colds, allergies, sinus infections, flu, bronchitis and measles just to name a few.


American elderflowers also have nervine (nervous system), relaxant and tranquilizing properties making it a great herb for stress-related conditions.


Sambucus is also a great herb for detoxifying, in particular, for rheumatic conditions.  Because it is a diuretic, it’s main cleansing action is through the kidneys.


Like many herbs, American elder also has topical healing properties (vulnerary) and would be a great herb to use for cuts, bites, stings and other wounds.


Because of its detoxifying properties it would be wise to only use elderberries, elderflowers or elderberry syrup in acute doses if pregnant or lactating.  Due to its effect on the nervous system you should consult your doctor, herbalist or other practitioner if you are on anti-depression, anxiety or other nervous system related medications.