Elder Berry (Sambucus nigra) is a genus of between 5-30 species of fast-growing shrubs or small trees (two species herbaceous), formerly treated in the honeysuckle family Caprifoliaceae, but now shown by genetic evidence to be correctly classified in the moschatel family Adoxaceae.
The genus is native to temperate and subtropical regions of both the Northern Hemisphere and the Southern Hemisphere; the genus is more widespread in the Northern Hemisphere, with Southern Hemisphere occurrence restricted to parts of Australasia and South America.
Elder Berry is a very valuable food resource for many birds. Elders are used as food plants by the larvae of some Lepidoptera species including Brown-tail, Buff Ermine, Dot Moth, Emperor Moth, The Engrailed, Swallow-tailed Moth and The V-pug. The crushed foliage and immature fruit have a strong foetid smell.
Traditional Uses for Elder Berry:-
Both Elder Flower and Elder Berry can be made into Elder wine, and in Hungary an Elder brandy is produced (requiring 50 kg of fruit to produce 1 litre of brandy). The alcoholic drink Sambuca is made by infusing Elder Berry and anise into alcohol. The berries are best not eaten raw as they are mildly poisonous, causing vomiting (particularly if eaten unripe). The mild cyanide toxicity is destroyed by cooking. The berries can also be made into jam, pies or Pontack sauce.
All green parts of the plant are mildly poisonous, containing cyanogenic glycosides (Vedel & Lange1960) but cooking tends to destroy the toxins.
In Europe, Elder Berry can be made into a syrup or cordial (in Romanian: Socat), which is diluted with water before drinking. It is more usual to do this with the flower, however. The popularity of this traditional drink has recently encouraged some commercial soft drink producers to introduce Elder Flower and Elder Berry-flavoured drinks.
Medical Uses for Elder Berry:-
A few clinical studies have shown effectiveness of Sambucol, a formulation based on an extract of Elder, in the treatment of both adults and children with either type A or B influenza. Sambucol reduced both the severity and duration of flu symptoms in otherwise healthy subjects, but should not be considered a substitute for influenza vaccination in high risk individuals. An in vitro study of Sambucol showed possible effectivness against the H5N1 avian influenza virus.
Elder Berry is used in traditional Chinese medicine, dissolved in wine, for rheumatism and traumatic injury.