The Elderberry Tree: History & Health

The Elder (Sambucus) is a bushy plant with delicate white flowers found mostly in semi-temperate parts of the world, differing only slightly from area to area. It is fast-growing, making it ideal as hedgerow and is much sought after for its many other qualities and uses. It ranges from the Himalayas, across most of Europe to America and Australia, where its flowers are used as decoration and in other areas for the wines produced both from the flowers and fruit. It is also used to make the clear, strong liquor, Sambuca, which is particularly popular in Spain, Italy and Portugal, where it is either drunk straight, on the rocks or as part of a cocktail, in a similar way to Ouzo.

But there is much more to the Elder than that.

For thousands of years, it has been highly prized for its medicinal and nutritional properties. Since the earliest of times, it has been called “the queen of the herbs”, “the medicine chest of the country”, and claims made that it is capable of curing almost anything when properly prepared – which isn’t true. It is still used widely and recently interest and research into it have increased dramatically with the rise of new lifestyle illnesses which seem to resist modern medicine. Once again eyes are turning to the past in search of answers and it appears that the Elder may have at least some of them. It is those health-giving qualities which are the focus of this article.

The main parts used are its flowers and berries. Let’s look at the berries: they are small and very dark red-to-black. As a general rule, the darker the fruit, the better it is for you as a potent antioxidant, containing a higher percentage of Flavonoids than light fruit. Red wine is better than white. Flavonoids are vital for maintaining good health because they have a fourfold action. They are antibacterial, antiviral, anti-inflammatory (general inflammation level measured with a CRP test by a doctor, is a key biomarker for cellular aging) and are potent free radical scavengers, protecting against the effects of oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is the build-up of free radicals in the body-essentially rusting caused by the action of water with food when it contacts the iron in our blood. This causes the blood vessels to become stiff, clogged and eventually contributes to them blocking, resulting in heart attacks and strokes-the two biggest killers in the world today. Anything which helps clean these out makes our circulation system younger, stronger and more resilient.

Elderberries prepared as wine, cordials or syrup can be useful allies in this fight. And…with the coming of the Coronavirus their powerful antiviral and anti-inflammatory qualities are looking ever more important. In the final analysis Covid-19 kills by out-guessing the immune system, causing it to over-react- producing massive inflammation which damages all the vital organs and can lead to death. Elderberry fights that attack. On top of that Elderberries have high amounts of Vitamin C and other vitamins, plus vital minerals, as it likes to grow in Nitrogen-rich soil. Here is a list based on eating the equivalent of 100g of berries a day:

Energy: 305KJ (73 cal) Carbs: 18.4g, Fiber: 7g Fat 0.5g, Protein, 0.66g

Vitamins: Vit A, 30ug (4% of daily need in each case) B1mg, 0.07- 6%, B2 0.06mg, B3 0.23mg-18%,
B3, 0,5mg- 3%, B6, 0,23mg-18% B9, 6ug-2% C36mg-43%

Minerals: Magnesium, 5mg-1%, Calcium,38mg-4%, Iron, 1,6mg-12%, Phosphorus, 39mg-6%, Potassium, 280mg-6%, Zinc (vital to the immune system) 1%.

Source: USDA Nutritional database:

It’s clear that the berries are an important supplement for health and nutrition, but on their own, not enough. No-one could eat/drink enough elder to live healthily. That is why concentrated extract products have become so popular and important. These give much higher yields than the pure fruit ever could. As part of a health regime they are recommended, cheap and easy to buy without prescription. Make sure that your brand is properly produced and has a quality control certificate-don’t risk buying uncertified products of doubtful source or low quality.

Some words of warning:

Never eat Elderberry roots or seeds-whether cooked or not- they are poisonous. Always make sure that any wild Elderberry you eat or preserve is from uncontaminated ground with clean water. For example, any plant growing in soil which was once an industrial site is liable to contain highly toxic chemicals and heavy metals like Lead or Cadmium, which cause severe brain damage and other dangerous conditions including fevers, rashes, hemorrhages or blindness. Don’t let children too near Elderberry, in the right hands it’s a medicine, in the wrong, a poison. Even in the right hands, too much or an individual intolerance can produce unpleasant and sometimes dangerous side effects.

Secondly, Elder on its own won’t solve many problems, it should always be used as a part of a greater nutritional program tailored to your needs and in consultation with a specialist advisor.
There is a woeful lack of hard, large-scale clinical trials of natural medicine and therefore outrageous claims for this or that extract should be treated with some skepticism. It is to be hoped that with the history of the successes of natural medicines that more serious research will be increasingly undertaken-and there are signs that this is beginning to happen.

There is no question about the benefits we have enjoyed since the birth of modern (allopathic) medicine, much of which is synthetically produced compounds which successfully mimic plant medicines while being quality controlled and mass produced. Less successful though have been some artificial drugs and treatments which serve only to mask illness, not cure it, sometimes with disastrous side effects. Perhaps we should take another look now at naturopathic medicines, like Elder and what we can learn from them?

Double Wood Supplements offers high-quality Elderberry Immune Complex to gain all of the benefits of this amazing plant, along with the practical convenience of capsules.


Double Wood Elderberry Immune Complex


Disclaimer: This article is intended to augment the work of medical specialists, not to replace it. Always seek advice from your health practitioner before changing any part of your lifestyle or medication routine.

By |2021-01-10T01:31:27+00:00January 5th, 2021|

About the Author:

Dr. Ian Hale earned his BA (Honors) in Cultural Studies (English and History) at the University of Portsmouth, before receiving his Teaching License from Bristol University (England). He earned his M.A. in Professional Special Education Studies, which included genetics, neurology and haemotology at Bath Spa University in 2008. He received his Ph.D. (H.C.) in Humanitas at UNESCO in 2006. Prof Hale has guest lectured at Touro Law School, Jewish Law Institute under Prof Samuel L Levine, New York on Neurodiversity. He is the author of and Prof Hale also holds an International Diploma in Integrated Medicine.