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Sambucos nigra L. – Elder, Black elder
Caprifoliaceae –
Honeysuckle family

Entire umbels are harvested at the beginning of blooming and dried in natural conditions, shaded and ventilated or in drying rooms 30° C and then separated from the stem.

Elder – appearance and origin:

Shrub or tree from the honeysuckle family, found across Europe, northern West Africa and Asia Minor; common in Poland in lowlands and lower mountain regions, sometimes grown near homes and in parks. Grows best in fertile, moderately moist soil and sunny spots. Green young stems, greyish or brown-grey bark on older ones, oblong furrowing. Up to 10 m in height. Leaves up to 30 cm in width, made up of 5-7 elliptic or oblong leaflets, acuminate. White or cream-colored flowers with a strong smell, clustered into a cyme. The fruit is a shiny, black or black-purple drupe.

Elder – effects and use:

The parts used in medicine include: elder flower – Sambuci flos and the elderberry – Sambuci fructus. The raw material must contain at least 0,8% of flavonoids expressed as isoquercitroside.
The flowers contain flavonoids (i.a. rutin, quercetin, astragalin), organic acids (valeric acid, ferulic acid), polyphenolic acids (caffeic acid, chlorogenic acid), essential oils, amine compounds, tannins, saponins, mucouses and approx. 9% of mineral compounds (calcium, sodium, pottasium, iron, aluminum).
The fruit contain mainly anthocyanins, vitamin A, B, B1, B2, C and J, pectins, tannins, mineral salts, essential oils, resins, waxes and numerous organic acids (malic acid, acetic acid, tartaric acid, valeric acid, benzoic acid), enzymes and compounds with reproductive hormone characteristics.
Warning: all parts of the fresh plant contain a typical compound – the sambunigrin glycoside which is toxic and causes nausea and vomiting. However, this glycoside is broken down during drying and boiling so the raw material is safe to consume when processed.

Elder is a diuretic, due to its flavonoid content. It is also a diaphoretic, as it activates the centre responsible for lowering body temperature and perspiration. It increases capillary elasticity and reduces capillary permeability. Such activity is characteristic of the vitamin P group, represented in the raw material by rutin. Elder flower decoctions are used internally for common colds with elevated body temperature, for difficulties with expectoration, and also externally for throat and mouth gargling and washes for skin issues.

In cosmetics, elder is used mainly for baths and facial masks. The flowers have astringent, anti-inflammatory, anti-exudativem and antiseptic activity and prevent blood vessel bursting. An elder flower tonic can be recommended for all types of skin, especially aging and dull skin. It smoothes out and softens the skin, whitens freckles and relieves sunburns. The flowers are very beneficial for oily and combination skin and for fragile blood vessels. An elder flower infusion is recommended for washing and rinsing dry hair. A decoction may help care for black hair and intensify its colour. The elder flower also has found its use in cuisine. An elder flower syrup, for example, is a tasty addition to herbal cocktails. About 30 fresh flowerheads are required to prepare it, which then have to be poured over with a heated syrup made with 1 l of water and 1 kg of sugar with a touch of citric acid or an entire sliced lemon. After 12 hours, the syrup is poured into bottles or jars. Additionally, elder flowers can be used for desserts, herb vinegar and wine.