European elder is a tree native to Europe and parts of Asia and Africa, and it also grows in the United States. There are several different types of elder, such as American elder, but European elder is the type most often used as a supplement.
Common Names—European elder, black elder, elder, elderberry, elder flower, sambucus
Latin Name—Sambucus nigra
What Elderberry Is Used For
Parts of the elder tree—such as the berries and flowers—have long been used for pain, swelling, infections, coughs, and skin conditions.
Today, elderberry and elder flower are used for flu, colds, fevers, constipation, and sinus infections.
How Elderberry Is Used
The dried flowers (elder flower) and the cooked blue/black berries (elderberry) of the European elder tree are used in teas, liquid extracts, and capsules.
What the Science Says
Although some small studies show that elderberry may relieve flu symptoms, the evidence is not strong enough to support this use of the berry.
A few studies have suggested that a product containing elder flower and other herbs can help treat sinus infections when used with antibiotics, but further research is needed to confirm any benefit.
No reliable information is available on the effectiveness of elderberry and elder flower for other uses.
Side Effects and Cautions
Uncooked or unripe elderberries are toxic and cause nausea, vomiting, or severe diarrhea. Only the blue/black berries of elder are edible.
Because of elder flower's possible diuretic effects, use caution if taking it with drugs that increase urination.