Herb Spotlight - Elderflower

Elderflower (Sambucus nigra)  

Family: Caprifoliaceae

Part Used: Flower

Flavor/Aroma: Sweet, Aromatic

Energetics: Cooling, Drying



The Elder tree has been used by herbalists and healers alike since the fifth century A.D, and has a rich folklore beyond its physical uses. The Elder tree is said to be the doorway to the underworld, inhabited by fairies who both heal and harm, and bring about mystical dreams onto all those who sleep under the canopy. The Elderflower is a powerful medicine with many modern day applications.


Elder flowers begin to bloom on the Elder tree each summer before turning to berries in the fall. The Elder tree can reach heights of upwards of 12 feet, and it grows with a woody, shrubby appearance. The flowers, when fully expressed, look like clusters of delicate, ivory snowflakes amongst the bright-green, lobe shaped leaves. The Branches are hollow and pliable.

Cultivation and Harvesting:

Elderflowers are best harvested in the early summer months, just as they begin to fully express. The entire umbel of flowers is collected, but the stems are removed before preparing medicines. It is indegenous to Europe, northern Africa, and southern Siberia, and grows best in lower, damp soils or in waste places. Elder trees are naturalized in the United States and grow in a similar terroir.

Southern Oregon Cultivation:

Elder trees are fairly common in Southern Oregon, and can be found most notably on the sides of trails, peeking out toward the sun from the forest's edge. Stands of Elder trees will become covered in clusters of aromatic, medicinal flowers by the peak of the summer months, and can be collected and dried for a variety of uses.

History and Folklore:

American Native Uses: Elderflowers were used as poultices to treat irritations and inflammation, especially with heat patterns. It was also used to support rheumatism and break fevers.  

The Elder Tree was said to be protected by the dryad named ‘Hylde Moer’, and it was said that if the tree was cut or burned, this guardian spirit would haunt the perpetrator with years of misfortune.¹

Other Medicinal Uses: European medicalists have used elderflower syrup to treat asthma and other respiratory disorders, rheumatism, and syphilis. Elderflowers have been used to flavor spirits and wines, relaxing floral teas, and as topical preparations to treat inflammation, burns, and scars.²

Modern Applications:

Elderflowers are indicated to support a variety of conditions including the common cold, influenza, night sweats, skin rashes, and other metabolic disorders.4 The flowers are also used to remedy both acute and chronic liver conditions due to its flavonoid and phenolic compounds, which provides high levels of antioxidants, and helps to regulate circulating glucose levels.3,5

Uses and Preparations:

Dried Herb Tea Preparation: 

Fresh or Dried Flower: 1 Tablespoon per cup of warm water.

Using a reusable tea bag or tea ball, immerse the loose dried herbs into boiling water and allow to steep for 5-10 minutes, preferably covered, in order to release the maximum amount of herbal goodness. Some herbal tea can carry a strong flavor. We recommend organic honey as a sweetener which preserves the beneficial herbal compounds. 


1-4 mL up to 4 times per day.

Some herbal tinctures can have a strong flavor on their own. Adding your tincture to a glass of 6-8oz of water is one easy way to help, should you wish to dilute the flavor.  

Recommended Usage:

It is important to remember that some bodies may react differently than others when using herbal products. Our recommended usage amounts are designed to be an average dosage only. If you have specific concerns about the usage amount or interaction with other medication, please consult with your doctor or health care practitioner prior to using our products.


We recommend consulting with your practitioner if you are pregnant, or plan to become pregnant, or if you are using any other medications.


  1. Wood, M. (1997). Book of Herbal Wisdom: Using Plants as Medicines. Atlantic.
  2. Sambucus (U. S. P.). (n.d.). www.henriettes-herb.com/eclectic/kings/sambucus.html 
  3. Barsett H., Ho, GT., Kase, ET., Wangensteen, H. (January 6, 2017). Effects of Phenolic Compounds from Elderflowers on Glucose-and Fatty Acid Uptake in Human Myotubes and HepG2-Cells. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28067838 
  4. Basch, E., Goldberg, H., Cheung, L., Hammerness, P., Khalsa KP., (March 11, 2014). An evidence-based systematic review of elderberry and elderflower (Sambucus nigra) by the Natural Standard Research Collaboration. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24409980 
  5. Herbal Medicine: Expanded Commission E. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://cms.herbalgram.org/expandedE/Elderflower.html  

For educational purposes only. This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.