Elder – a multifunctional tree

Home / forest / Elder – a multifunctional tree

This week, we would like to inform you about a very special tree. In many parts of Europe, it would be used as medicine, on farms and manors there would always have been one next to the house and many people believed that fairies and ghosts lived in its trunk. We present you the elder:

The tree

The elder (elderberry, black elder, sambucus) is a tree, native in Europe and the northern hemisphere. It is found in forests and along rivers, in rather humid areas. It is part of the Adoxaceae family and reaches a height of two to ten metres. Elder grows fastest in sunny places with little shade and it prefers fresh soil with sufficient humidity. Its leaves are dark green and odd pinnate. They consist of three to nine elliptic shaped, serrated leaves. Elderberry blossoms are shaped by three to five sepals and an elongated anther. From the blossoms and berries, that are first green and become black when maturing, you can prepare remedies, food and cosmetics.


photo_2017-06-06_14-37-32 (2).jpg

Try not to confuse black elder and European dwarf elder which is poisonous. Look at the following attributes to distinguish between them. Dwarf elder leaves are elongated and the mature berries reach towards the sky, whereas the black elder’s berries hang towards the ground. The dwarf elder’s blossoms taper to a point unlike the black elder ones that are rounded off. Moreover, as the name implies, the dwarf elder does not reach the elderberry’s height. It grows as a bush and to a max. of two metres.


What can you use elder for?


Elder as a remedy

Elder has been used as medicine for many years now. It contains essential oils, tannin, organic acids, sugar, vitamin C, alkaloids and glycosides. Only use the blossom and mature berries to produce remedies as the leaves, bark and immature berries as well as the seeds are poisonous and should not be consumed by humans.  Traditionally, people had also prepared infusions from the elder’s bark and leaves to take advantage of their diuretic effect and get rid of surplus water that had been accumulated in the  body (retention, rheumatism). Though due to the high degree of poison in these parts of the tree we advise you not to use them for the preparation of remedies or food. Mature berries and blossoms, however, are edible and therefore perfectly suited for medical products.




Elder has a fever-reducing effect and calms the respiratory tracts. Elderberry remedies can help with colds, influenza or catarrh. You can even take the remedy as a prophylactic to strengthen your immune system and create an ongoing resistance.



Moreover, you can prepare a syrup from elderberry that helps as a laxative and detox treatment with neuralgia, headaches and lumbago. It also calms throat irritations and strengthens your immune system. To prepare the elder syrup you squeeze out the mature (black!) berries, remove the seeds and keep the juice. Watch out to not drop any seeds in the juice as they are poisonous.You then add the same weight of sugar and cook the mixture for ten minutes. SocialForest is also preparing the first SocialForest Elder Syrup Edition. We will keep you posted on how it is going.


External use
Elder can also be very effective when applied  on the outside of the body. You can treat angina or pharyngitis by gargling a concentrated elder infusion. The antiseptic effect helps with inflammations. Moreover, you can prepare eye drops from one spoonful of dry elder blossoms per one cup of water or make compresses with fresh elder leaves to disinfect and cure wounds or burns.


Elder as food

As you can eat elder blossom and mature berries you can prepare lots of different meals and drinks with elder. You can, for instance, use the berries for desserts such as cookies, cake, marmalades, ice cream or wild berry desserts. Additionally,  elder berries or blossom can also add a special flavour to salads and other meals. Moreover, elder syrup is often added to alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks.


Elder as a cosmetic

There are many natural cosmetic products containing elder. You can, for example, use a blossom and leaves infusion as a shampoo or use the berries to dye grey hair. You can even prepare a facial crème or add a nice natural smell to your flat or wardrobe by hanging up some small bags filled with dried blossoms.


The elder’s wood

The wood is very hard, dense and flexible. It has a yellowish, white colour and is quite glossy. Due to its small trunk diameter and its crooked shape, people don´t  use it to manufacture furniture or as timber. Instead, it is well suited for turning works, to manufacture musical instruments such as pipes, furniture with marquetry, bowls of a pipe and for the production of agricultural tools.












Recent Posts

Leave a Comment

Contact Us

We're not around right now. But you can send us an email and we'll get back to you, asap.