Black Elder
Sambucus nigra L.

The black elder is a shrub or small tree that reaches a height of 2-6m. Young branches are green, then they become grayish-brown, with a large number of yellow pores. The leaves are oppositely arranged (20-30 cm long), composed of 3-7 leaflets on short stems, elongated ovate, pointed with a wide wedge-shaped base, the edge of the leaf unevenly toothed. The upper side of the leaf is dark green, the lower side is lighter. The flowers are small, yellow-white, sessile or on peduncles, arranged in large shield-shaped inflorescences.

The fruit is a juicy, berry-like drupe of black color. Blooms in May and June, fruits ripen in August-September. Black purple fruits ripen late, at the end of September, sometimes even until November, when the leaves have already turned yellow. Black elder is a shade-tolerant plant. Propagated vegetatively, by root shoots or seeds.

Important! Without flowers and berries in season, black elder is difficult to distinguish from red elder, which is poisonous!

As a basis for a medicinal drug, plant flowers, rarely fruits, leaves, young branches, bark and roots are used. The flowers are collected when they have fully opened and have not yet started to fall. Dry in special dryers at a temperature not exceeding 35C, or in a well-ventilated place on sieves, spreading the flowers in a thin layer. Dry until the flower stalks become brittle.

The fruits are harvested when they are fully ripe, August-September. Cut into bunches, spread in a thin layer, wrap, then dry in dryers, ovens or ovens at a temperature not exceeding 65C.

Black elder tree roots are dug in late autumn, dried and ground into powder. The bark is collected from two-year-old branches, in early spring, when the sap season began, the upper, gray layer, yellow pores are scraped off and the middle of the branch is separated and dried in dryers, ovens or ovens not exceeding 70C.

Black elder flowers contain flavonoids, organic acids (malic acid, acetic acid, valerian acid, chlorogenic acid, caffeic acid), terpenes, glycoside sambunigrin, sambucin, rutin; essential oil, vitamin C, antiseptics - benzaldehyde and cinates; rutin-like glycoside altrinome, isoamylamine, choline, mucilage, ethylisobutyl.

Bark - essential oils, choline, phytosterol.

Black elderberry fruit contains ascorbic acid, glucose 2.8%, fructose 2.5%, malic acid, citric acid, resins, vitamins C and E, provitamin A, tannins 0.31%, carotene, anthocyanins, free acids, dyes, tyrosine, amino acids, sambucin. Macro elements - Mg, K, Ca, Fe. Trace elements- Mn, Cr, Cu, Zn, Co, Al, Se, Ni, Sr, Pb, Br, I, Mo.

Unripe fruits and leaves contain the poisonous glycoside sambunigrin (which breaks down into hydrocyanic acid and benzaldehyde). Green leaves contain essential oils, aldehydes, ascorbic acid, carotene, tannins, remnants of alkaloids, resins; dried - provitamin A. 

The seeds are rich in vegetable fats.

Medicinal significance

The pharmacological effects of different parts of black elder vary according to their composition and dosage. All parts have diuretic, diaphoretic and anti-inflammatory properties - bark, leaves, flowers and fruit.

The anti-inflammatory properties are provided by the flavonoids present in the plant. The flowers have a pain-relieving effect. Due to its diuretic properties, a decoction of flowers and leaves is effective in the treatment of chronic kidney failure. Flower arrangements are used in gynecology. The black elder flower arrangement has not only diaphoretic properties, but also analgesic, sedative and weak hypotensive properties, as well as it normalizes the function of the adrenal cortex. The fruits, bark and roots have a strong laxative effect in large doses.

Black elder has been known in folk medicine since the Middle Ages. In folk medicine, black elder has a much wider application than in official medicine. Infusion, decoction, juice, compresses, baths are used both internally and externally as a diaphoretic, strengthening, temperature-reducing, sedative, expectorant, choleretic, laxative, sedative, expectorant, diuretic, anti-inflammatory agent for kidney and bladder diseases case, for the treatment of ascites, respiratory diseases, diabetes mellitus, gastric ulcer and other diseases. 

Black elder may be useful for the following problems:

  • diabetes;
  • hepatitis;
  • gallstones;
  • neuralgia;
  • sciatica;
  • radiculitis;
  • joint pain;
  • dermatoses;
  • gastric ulcer;
  • skin and stomach cancer;
  • kidney diseases;
  • inflammation of the bladder;
  • arthritis;
  • gout;
  • rheumatism;
  • skin inflammation;
  • bronchitis;
  • laryngitis;
  • malaria;
  • inflammation of the respiratory tract;
  • influenza;
  • angina;
  • burns;
  • inflammation of hemorrhoidal nodes.

Not recommended for use

Black elder is not desirable for people who suffer from diseases such as:

  • Ulcerative enterocolitis;
  • Diabetes insipidus;
  • Crohn's disease.

Also, black elder is not desirable:

  • During pregnancy and lactation;
  • In case of individual intolerance.

In case of overdose, nausea and vomiting appear.