The elderberry tree, Sambucus nigra L., (Caprifoliaceae) has a documented traditional remedy history dating back to Hippocrates (460-370BC), Pliny (23AD-79AD) and Hildegard von Bingen (1098AD-1179AD). It is a large deciduous shrub which produces sweet-scented white flowers and deep purple berries.

For your reference, the Elderberry tree is also commonly known as the Elder, Ellhorn, and Bore tree. In German “Holunder”, in French “Sereau” and in Spanish “Sauc´o”.

Hippocrates knew through observation that the elderberry tree was a medicine chest. The renown 12th century German herbalist and nun, Hildegard von Bingen, also included elderberry in her herbal works.  Then in the 17th century, an entire book on the uses of all the parts of the elder tree with detailed pharmacy procedures and corresponding ailments to be treated, was published by Dr. Martin Blochwich. The book, called the Anatomy of the Elder has been reprinted by Iprona, and is a valuable historical document.

Anatomy of the elder

Chemical constituents:

The black Elderberry contains a wide range of phenolic compounds:

– Flavonoids, a large group of polyphenols which, in Elderberry is made up of:

  • Anthocaynins (Cyanidin, Delphinidin, Pelargonidin),
  • Flavanols (Proanthocyanidins, Catechins),
  • Flavonols (Quercetin, Kaempferol, Myricetin, Isorhamnetin)7

– Cinnamic acid derivatives (Caffeic acid, Vanillic acid, Shikimic acids, Protocatechuic acid)

Modern science and technology has identified the most active ingredients in Elderberry as anthocyanins.

Elderberries are particularly noted for their high polyphenol content. Among cultivated and wild edible berries, black Elderberries contain one of the highest mean fresh weight contents of Anthocyanins (1374 mg/100 g), second only to black chokeberries (Aronia melanocarpa), 1480 mg/100 g.

In the fresh berries of most cultivars of black elderberry, the main anthocyanins are cyanidin 3-O-glucoside and cyanidin 3-O-sambubioside

Vitamins: The US Federal Drug Administration (2005) conducted comparative vitamin and mineral analysis of the main dark berries consumed and found that the Elderberry has very high values of Vitamin A, vitamin B6, Vitamin C, as well as the highest iron and phosphorus values. Additionally, Elderberries also contain Vitamin B1, B2, B3, Vitamin E, Folic acid and Biotin.

Minerals: The Austrian Elderberry (Haschberg Variety) is recognized for its mineral content. Professor Werner Pfannhauser from the Graz University identified significant levels of Fluoride, Potassium, Magnesium, Calcium, Phosphorus and Iron.

Elderberries are also rich in Sterols and Amino acids.

Health-benefits of Elderberries:

Elderberry has a well documented and long list of health benefits, which have been demonstrated both by in vitro and in vivo studies.Elder trees blossoming

Three main areas of function can be summarized:

  1. Anti aging and oxidative stress: Research shows that Elderberry is an effective free radical scavenger.  This leads to a reduction of oxidative stress and cellular damage caused by free radicals. Elderberry´s high polyphenol content  certainly plays a big role in this.
  2. Cardiovascular protection:  Elderberry has been shown to reduce the oxidation of LDL-Cholesterol, thereby reducing damage to the cardiovascular system and avoiding such illnesses as high blood pressure, heart attacks, and strokes.
  3. Antiviral and bactericidal effect: Elderberry has long been used as a remedy against colds and flu and other upper respiratory tract infections. This antiviral and bacteridal characteristic been shown both in vitro tests, Kravitz et al 2011, and in many human studies for example Tiralongo et al 2016. The human study which was carried out at the  Griffith University in Australia and published in 2016 in the Jouirnal Nutrients, provided even more evidence that elderberry is an effective cold remedy.In the study using a standardized elderberry extract (Iprona AG, Italy), with 312 participants, elderberry reduced the number of common cold infections . It significantly reduced the duration of cold infections by 2 days, and significantly reduced the severity of  common cold symptoms in patients.Elderberry Long Haul Flight Infographic

Both flowers and berries of the Elder tree are known to boost the bodies immune system. European cultures have developed many recipes for elderberry syrup and elderberry jam and elderberry wine.

Elderberry came in at position 5 of the 40 top selling herbal dietary supplements in 2015 in the USA,  just behind aloe vera.

For more information, please contact the BerryPharma team under the section “Contact”, and also visit to learn more about berry products.

Also check our references page to see relevant studies on black elderberry.

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