Elderberry (Jie Gu Mu)

Botanical Name: Sambucus (Sambucus nigra), S. mexicana, S. canadiensis

Elderberry has a long and distinguished history in Europe and the West as a medicine, beverage and for protecting against evil spirits. High in antioxidants and vitamins that help boost your immune system and reduce inflammation, elderberry is often recommended for preventing and treating cold and flu symptoms, protecting your heart, and reducing the impact of stress.

Remember to check with your doctor before trying new medicines or herbal remedies, especially if you are taking other medication where drug interactions are possible.

Below is an overview of elderberry, combining and interpreting the best of Western Science, Oriental Medicine, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Shamanism, Folklore, and a wide range of healing modalities. Gain a balanced and thorough understanding of the healing properties of elderberry.

How to use Elderberry and take FULL advantage of it's healing powers!

Find out how to safely use this powerful herb and get specific recipes you can make use of immediately. Get Eastern and Western perspectives about HOW and WHY this herb works.


Western Name: Elderberry

Also Known As: Elder, Elder Mother, Black Elder, American Elder, Velvet Elder

Organs/Systems: Respiratory System, Immune System

Key Actions: Antioxidant, Antimicrobial, Mildly Laxative, Diuretic, Anti-inflammatory, Diaphoretic

Medicinal Uses: Colds, flu, constipation, headaches, congestion, asthma, fever, joint pain, muscle pain, promote sweating, wheezing, bronchitis, influenza, sciatica, nerve pain, chest pain, HIV, AIDS, epilepsy, kidney disorders, urinary tract infections (UTIs), heart health, lowers cholesterol, boosts immunity, coughs, respiratory infections (either bacterial or viral), sinusitis, tonsillitis, mouth ulcers, inflamed appendix, itchy, red eyes, bleeding gums, diabetes.


Pin Yin: Jie Gu Mu

Also Known As: N/A

Meridians: Lung, Kidneys, Bladder

Key Actions: Releases Exterior, Clears Heat, Dispels Wind, Resolves Damp, Tonifies the Lungs, Expels Phlegm, Promotes Urination, Resolves Swellings, Reduces Inflammation and Pain Promotes Lactation

Medicinal Uses: Sweating, phlegm, headaches, colds, flu, sore throat, tonsillitis, bronchial asthma, TB, pneumonia, edema, urinary stones, arteriosclerosis, gum disease, coughs, fever, muscle aches, laryngitis, measles, smallpox, chickenpox, congestion, swollen lymph, hay fever, urinary tract infections (UTI’s), sore throat, eye infections, skin eruptions, promote lactation, and pain associated with arthritis and injury.

Basic Habitat/Botany:

5-30 species of shrubs/small trees in the moschatel family, Adoxaceae. Native to subtropical regions both in the northern and southern hemispheres. Fast growing. They bear large clusters of small white cream-colored flowers in late spring, followed by clusters of small blue-black or red berries in late summer.

Elderberry is native to Europe and large areas in North America, especially east of the Rocky Mountains, though it is now found in many parts of North America and grown throughout the world. It likes moist, well-drained soil found in openings of forest habitats.

Parts Most Frequently Used: Flowers, Ripe Berries, Inner Bark

Flavors/Temps: Sweet, Bitter, Slightly Pungent, Neutral to Cooling

Caution: Considered safe when cooked and used in proper doses. The unripe fruit or uncooked berries or flowers may cause nausea or diarrhea. The trees bark, roots, leaves, and seeds are all toxic as they contain a type of cyanide.

Key Constituents: Bioflavonoids, Anthocyanins, Antivirin, Quercetin, Phenolic acids, Organic pigments, tannin, Amino acids,, Carotenoids, Sugar, Rutin, Magnesium, Vitamin A and B, and large amounts of Vitamin C and Fiber.

History/Folklore: Elderberry fruit has long been considered a virtual cure-all with the ability to treat a wide variety of ailments and conditions. Hippocrates, the “Father of Medicine,” called the tree his “medicine chest.” Among its many attributes, elderberry is commonly used as a gentle, effective remedy to help prevent and fight viral and bacterial infections, especially colds and flu symptoms, such as fevers, coughs, headache, muscle aches, congestion, nausea, irritability, and wheezing. It was even used in the 1995 flu epidemic in Panama.

Native Americans regarded elderberry as an “Elder” plant. It used to treat infections and as a tonic herb to promote health and vitality. They dried the berries for use during the winter and also used them to make a deep black dye use in basket making. The flowers were also used to help ease the pain associated with rheumatism, sprains, and muscle aches. A poultice made from the flowers was applied externally to tone and soften skin and heal wounds. The trees were often grown near living areas for convenience and near graveyard

The ancient Egyptians used elderberry to improve their complexion and heal burns.

Used for hundreds of years to ward off evil and protect against witches. You will be cursed if you cut or burn down the “elder mother” as she would be released and take her revenge on you.

St Germaine French liqueur is made from elderberries as is Swedish aquavit.

Studies have confirmed that elderberry helps boost the production of cytokines. Cytokines are the protein messengers that help regulate immune response. The anthocyanins found in elderberries possess more antioxidant capacity than either vitamin E or C and are attributed to the greatly increased immune system coordination elderberry supports and triggers.

Antivirin is an antiviral agent found in elderberry that helps to both prevent viral infections by inhibiting their ability to invade cells.

For fighting colds and flu symptoms, elderberry is best started within 24-48 hours of symptom onset. A study of 312 air travelers who took 300 mg capsules of elderberry extract three times a day found that of those who got sick, those that used the elderberry capsules recovered faster and less severe symptoms.

In Israel, Hasassah’s Oncology Lab has shown that elderberry stimulates the body’s immune system and they have integrated its use into their cancer and AIDS treatment protocols.

In China, elderberry is used in medicinal wines to treat pain associated with injuries and arthritis. Also used to treat cold and flu symptoms, the berries are considered excellent for Clearing Heat as can be indicated by such signs as red itchy eyes, muscle aches, fever, chest pain, constipation, and urinary tract infections. It is considered excellent for reducing swollen lymph glands and easing sore throats.

Elderberry is high in vitamin C. It contains 6 to 35mg of vitamin C per 100 grams of fresh berries, that’s up to 60% of your minimum recommended daily allowance. It is als high in fiber, containing about 25% of your minimum recommended daily allowance. The flowers contain ten times more flavonols than the berries do and both the berries and flowers are very high in powerful antioxidant phenolic acids.

In general, the flowers are considered best for promoting sweating, restoring lung function, aiding urinary function, and clearing inflammation associated with empty heat. The berries are considered best for acute or chronic neuralgias, constipation, respiratory infections, and even food poisoning. The inner bark is mostly used for edema, obstinate constipation, arthritis, and gout. The flowers and berries are most typically used.

Elderberry is used in syrups, food colorings, body lotions, jams, and wine. In Romania a popular fermented fizzy drink, socata is made from elderberries.

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Elderberry was used to make Harry Potter’s wand.

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Elderberry is very valuable as a bird food.
Fun fact!

Used By Watchmakers

The pith of elder is used by watchmakers for cleaning tools before starting intricate work.

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