The blossoms and fruit contain an incredible wealth of plant substances.

The black elder is wreathed with magical myths and legends. It protects house and farm, wards off evil, brings good luck. According to ancient country lore, we should take off our hats in front of the elder tree. Elder has been one of the most important medicinal plants since time immemorial.


Elder – description

Black elder, botanical name: Sambucus nigra. Belonging to the Adoxaceae family, the German name of this medicinal plant, Holunder, comes from the old High German Holuntar. ‘Holun’ means holy, auspicious, propitious and ‘tar’ ultimately derives from tree or shrub.


Black elder has its roots in Europe, where it is at home across the continent. However, it is also indigenous to Asia Minor, the Caucasus and western Siberia. There are more than 20 varieties worldwide. The most common elder species in central Europe is black elder.

Black elder – description

Elderflowers give off an enchanting fragrance. The tiny yellowish-white flowers adorn the bush beautifully, poised one on top of the other in parasol-shaped flowerheads, transforming their surroundings into a sea of blossom. The gleam of glossy black elderberries with their dark-red stems catches the eye. Elder, a medicinal plant, grows up to 10m tall and has stalked, unevenly pinnate and irregularly serrated leaves. This is how it successfully protects people, houses and property. The elder bush loves deciduous forests, gardens, fields and roadsides.

Both the flowers and the fruit of the black elder have beneficial applications in natural medicine, cosmetics, and many culinary delights including juice.

Elder – how it works and how it is used

Black elder. The blossoms and fruit contain an incredible wealth of plant substances. Flavonoids, hydroxycinnamic acid derivatives, triterpenes, mucilage, essential oil, vitamin C and folic acid, and are good for flu-like infections and colds. In addition, black elder has an immune-boosting, anti-fungal and detoxifying effect. An infusion of elderflower makes an ideal tea for the bladder and kidneys and relieves gout, arthritis and rheumatic complaints. Elderberries also have a light diuretic effect and thus stimulate the kidneys to excrete more water, relieving mild urinary tract infections; the higher quantity of fluids washes out the germs. Secondary plant substances such as anthocyanins act as antioxidants in the juice of the almost black, dark-red elderberry to protect the body’s cells against free radicals and to boost the immune system.

When combined with other healing and rejuvenative plants, elder is often used externally on sensitive, blemished skin and for neurodermatitis. Anti-inflammatory and skin-soothing action. The skin’s barrier function is strengthened and the lipid barrier is stabilised.

Black elder – traditional uses

Black elder is a magical herbal remedy. The protective elder bush has long had many properties associated with it. Black elder is a health-giving medicinal plant with a long tradition and has always been the residence of protective household gods. A natural, all-round healer, an expectorant, anti-inflammatory, diaphoretic and diuretic.

Used externally in folk medicine, elderflower helped to soothe wounds, skin infections, burns and small ulcers.

Spiritual uses

The elder bush was the seat of the goddess Holder or Holla, Mother Holle in the Grimms’ fairy tale, who protected the lives of plants and animals. Elder has always been a bridge between the worlds. Legend relates that house goblins loved to make their homes in elder bushes. When parts of the elder bush were used for medicinal purposes, the elder was asked for permission first.

In folk medicine, we find references to warts disappearing as soon as they are rubbed with bacon rind under an elder bush at full moon.



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