European Elder (Elderberry) - What is it & How to use

What is it?

  • European elder is a tree native to Europe and parts of Asia and Africa, and it also grows in the United States. The name “elder” comes from the Anglo-Saxon word “aeld,” meaning fire. The terms “elder flower” and “elderberry” may refer to either European elder or a different herb called American elder. This fact sheet focuses only on European elder.
  • Various parts of the elder tree, including the bark, leaves, flowers, fruits, and roots, have long been used in traditional medicine.
  • Currently, elderberry and elder flower are used as dietary supplements for flu, colds, constipation, and other conditions.
  • The dried flowers (elder flower) and the dried ripe or fresh berries (elderberry) of the European elder tree are used in teas, extracts, and capsules.
  • Although some preliminary research indicates that elderberry may relieve flu symptoms, the evidence is not strong enough to support its use for this purpose.
  • A few studies have suggested that combination products containing elder flower and other herbs might be helpful for sinusitis, but because the products contain multiple ingredients, it’s unclear what role, if any, elder flower plays in their effects.
  • There’s not enough information to show whether elder flower and elderberry are helpful for any other purposes.
  • Researchers funded by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) are studying the antioxidant effects of extracts from elderberry and their possible relevance to the body’s defense against infection.

Safety Concerns

  • The leaves, stems, raw and unripe berries, and other plant parts of the elder tree contain a toxic substance and, if not properly prepared, may cause nausea, vomiting, and severe diarrhea. Because the substance may also be present in the flower, consuming large amounts of the flower might be harmful; however, no illnesses caused by elder flower have been reported.

* The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.