Sambucus cerulea Raf.
General: coarse shrub, sometimes approaching the size
and habit of a tree, normally with several stems from the
base, 2-4 m tall, with soft, pithy, waxy-coated twigs.
Leaves: opposite, stalked, pinnate, the mostly 7-9
leaflets lanceolate to elliptic, strongly pointed, sharply
toothed, the blade unequally extended on the stalk at the
base, commonly 5-15 cm long and 2-6 cm wide, hairless
or rarely a little hairy beneath. Stipules linear, small and
commonly soon dropped, or apparently lacking.
Flowers: numerous in a flat-topped cluster commonly
4-15 cm wide, umbel-shaped, with commonly 4-5 rays from
the base, these often again almost umbellately branched.
Flowers with strong,
white or creamy,
4-6 or 7 mm across, the 5 corolla
lobes evidently longer
than the short flat tube.
Flowering time: May-July.
Fruits: berry-like drupes, juicy, round, 4-6 mm thick,
beneath the dense, waxy bloom, thus
powdery blue, containing 3-5 small,
seedlike stones, each
enclosing a seed.
Valley bottoms, along streams and open slopes where not
too dry, from low to moderate elevations in the mountains,
w. parts of MT. Also
from s. B.C. to CA, AZ and NM.
Edible, Medicinal, Toxic plant.
(click on image for full size)
The fruits of blue elderberry are edible raw, cooked or used in preserves. This is the most well-tasting
of the North American elders, even though it is full of small seeds. The berries are rather sweet and
juicy. They can however cause nausea if eaten raw, but ripe berries are edible when cooked. Berries can
be used in portlike wine, jams, and pies. They should always be cooked and are used primarily in wines
and syrups. The fruit is usually dried before being used. Some caution is advised, see the notes below
on toxicity. The flowers are edible raw or cooked, and are said to be pleasant and refreshing raw. A pleasant
tea can be made from the dried flowers.
The leaves, green fruits and stems of members of this genus are poisonous. The stems, bark, leaves and
roots contain cyanide-producing glycosides, and are therefore poisonous, especially when fresh. The fruit
of this species has been known to cause stomach upsets. Any toxin the fruit might contain is considered
to be of low toxicity and is destroyed when the fruit is cooked.
Elderberry has been a folk remedy for centuries in North America, Europe, Western Asia, and North Africa.
It was widely employed as a medicinal herb by many native North American tribes who used it to treat a
wide range of complaints. It is still commonly used as a domestic remedy. The bark may be given for epilepsy,
a strong purgative and in large doses has emetic action, as an early diuretic for renal and heart conditions,
and to assist with epilepsy. An emollient ointment from the inner green bark and a homeopathic tincture
made from the fresh inner bark relieves asthma complaints and may assist with croup. A tea made from the
inner bark and root bark is diuretic, emetic and a strong laxative. A tea made from the root bark is used
to promote labor in childbirth and in treating headaches, kidney problems and mucous congestion. The inner
bark is also applied as a poultice to cuts, sore or swollen limbs etc in order to relieve pain and swelling.
A poultice of the leaves is applied to bruises and to cuts in order to stop bleeding. An infusion of the
leaf buds is strongly purgative. Elder flowers are stimulant, diaphoretic and diuretic. A warm tea of
the flowers is stimulant and induces sweating, taken cold it is diuretic. It is used in the treatment
of fevers and infant colic. An infusion of the leaves and flowers is used as an antiseptic wash for skin
problems, wounds etc. Elder flowers and peppermint have been used together to induce sweating of toxins
from the body, preventing pneumonia in soldiers on the battlefields. This method is still used today by
herbalists, and other combinations include elder and yarrow, or hyssop, or boneset in cases of influensa.
Tea from elder flowers is often taken as a spring medicinal for purification of the blood. Formentations
made from the flowers help with pain and inflammation, as well as headaches from colds. Elder flower vinegar
is an old remedy for sore throat.
Berries have aperient, diuretic and emetic properties and the juice of the berries has been used successfully
to treat rheumatism and syphilis. Elderberry wine taken at night will produce perspiration and clear out
toxins and will assist in ailments with mucous build-up, like early colds, coughs, and sore throats, as
well as asthma. The fresh juice of the fruit, evaporated into a syrup, is laxative. It also makes a good
ointment for treating burns when mixed with an oily base. The dried fruit can be made into a tea that
is useful in the treatment of cholera and diarrhea. Roots of elderberry may treat lymphatic and kidney
The elderberry shrub may yield green, violet and black dyes. A decoction of the leaves, when watered on
plants, repels caterpillars. The dried flower stems repel insects and rodents. Bruised leaves yield a
juice that drives away flies and aphids.
Copyright © Plant-Life.org