Wednesday, September 10, 2008

More on Elderberries

It occurs to me that I should write more about why elderberries are so good for you come flu/cold season. Some of the links in the following article, Elderberries Galore, will lead you to good information on this. I could write it all down here, but they've already done it better and I've other things to do. I am NOT an expert in anything--I just go and do what I think needs to be done for my family. So I research and read and study the books and then go and do. So you should do also, time and life permitting. This is the place for pointers to good info, at least that's my hope.

Anyway, Elderberries. Here's a mention of an Israeli study on the effectiveness of elderberries on flu:

There has been one small study in Israel (1992), testing the use of Elderberry syrup in people with the flu. These patients were showing the first symptoms of influenza. Half of the group was given elderberry syrup and the other half received a placebo (no medication or herb). In those receiving the elderberry, fever, cough, muscle aches were reduced in one-fifth of the patients in 24 hours. The 2nd day 75% of the patients were feeling better and by 3 days, 90% of them felt completely cured. While those on the placebo - 8% felt better in 24 hours and it was 6 days before 90% of that group was cured.

I don't know if this was a "scientific" study or not--but it did include a placebo group and the results were certainly good. And, as I've said elsewhere, I've used Sambucol for flu with good success--it cut the symptoms and severity of symptoms and got me better faster. That's all I need to know.

Both the elder flowers and the berries are very good for you. Read the pages of material on elder at and you'll have more information than you'll know what to do with. What a magnificent resource that website is. I read it for fun and in the hope that dollops of good info will enter my brain (and stay there).

In the past the leaves, stems, bark and root of the elder were also used medicinally, but it is not recommended today. The leaves, bark and root of the elder contain cyanidin glycosides and can be poisonous. Or so it is said. Steve Brill discusses this in the section on elderberry on his webpage:

Many older herb books recommend using elderberry leaves, roots, or bark medicinally, probably because Indian herbal experts used them. This doesn’t guarantee safety: Never use these parts of the elderberry. They’re poisonous. They contain a bitter alkaloid and glycoside that may change into cyanide. Children have been poisoned using elderberry twig peashooters, and adults have been poisoned using hollowed twigs to tap maple trees. However, there is a benefit to the toxicity: People use dried, crumbled elderberry leaves in their gardens as a natural insecticide.

Be that as it may, sometimes tiny doses of something poisonous can be used medicinally. I don't recommend it--but say you were terribly constipated in a wilderness survival situation--I would nibble some elder leaves as a laxative, figuring it would do the trick but not kill me. And I'd bet I'd be right--but that's me. The body I'd be taking chances with is mine--so you make up your own mind when it comes to things like that. I can only be responsible for my own idiocy, not yours.

Do find and use some elderberries if you can. After you've taken the berries from the stems, the rest is quite easy and it will be great to have the syrups and tinctures on hand. Here is just a bit more information on the medicinal properties of the berries to entice you into berry-picking.

Good hunting, and, as Michael says, stay alive.



Nancy said...

These are from notes I compiled from a couple of Master's dissertations. It's not 100% accurate because rounded the numbers as I recorded them (didn't see much point in hundredths since there's variability in the products anyway, depending on soil, weather, etc.). The figures on vitamin C were from Gerlock, and the rest were from Keely.

100 grams of red elderberries (Sambucus racemosa) have
Calories: 57
Protein: 2.6 g
Carbohydrates: 11 g
Ash: 0.6 g
Lipid: 0.9 g
Calcium: 54 mg
Iron: 1 mg
Magnesium: 15 mg
Zinc: 0.4 mg
Vitamin C: 81 mg

100 grams of blue elderberries (Sambucus cerulea) have
Calories: 74
Protein: 3.4 g
Carbohydrates: 15 g
Ash: 2.2 g
Lipid: 1.1 g
Calcium: 25 mg
Iron: 1 mg
Magnesium: 15 mg
Zinc: 0.3 mg
Vitamin C: 33 mg

These were from

Patrick Byron Keely
University of Washington, 1980
"Nutrient Composition of Selected Important Plant Foods of the Pre-Contact Diet of the Northwest Native American People"

Peggy Sue Gerlock
University of Washington, 1983
"Vitamin Composition of Selected Important Plant Foods of the Pre-Contact Diet of the Northwest Native American Peoples"


Patricia said...

Nancy, thank you! That's good information to have. I'll copy it over into a file I keep on components of various herbs/spices/berries.

Nancy said...

You're welcome. And thank you for keeping this blog. I've been enjoying your entries!


Survival Chick said...

Thanks for visiting, and I LOVE your blog. Hope you didn't mind me linking it!