Elderberry, Elder – Sambucus nigra, S. canadensis

Parts used: bark, leaf, flower, berry

Traditional uses: Berries used in formulas against chills and cold. Helps support the immune system. Infusion of berry used internally for rheumatism. Flower infusion used as a febrifuge and to sweat out a cold. Leaf infusion used to wash sores and prevent infection. Bark poultice used on sores, wounds, rashes, and other dermatological needs.

*** Cautions: Berries mildly toxic when unripe, foliage toxic in large quantities ***

Used in the “stick-notching” treatment for warts – “The stick-notching treatment used for many other ailments is also adapted to the removal of warts. A little boy near Hot Springs, Arkansas, showed me a green switch with four notches in it, tied to the end of an old wooden gutter; each notch represents a wart, he said, and as the water rushes over the notches, it gradually dissolves away the warts. Other hillfolk say that it is best to use an elderberry stick, and to cut the notch carefully so that it just fits over the wart to be cured. Then bury the stick on the north side of the cabin and never mention it to a living soul.” ~Vance Randolph OMF 180

Elder twigs for teething – “To make teething easier, backwoods babies often wear necklaces of elder twigs, cut into short sections and dyed brown; a woman told me that the twigs were brown because they had been boiled in possum grease, but it looked more like walnut stain to me.” ~Randolph OMF 144

Bark used as a diuretic – “A decoction of the inner bark of elder is a powerful diuretic.” ~Parler FBA II 1478

Leaves as a purgative – “The leaves of elder are a drastic purgative. They may be ground up and taken as decoction, boiling a pound in a gallon of water till it makes a quart. Use in very small doses – one teaspoonful.” ~Parler FBA II 1907

Leaves as a laxative – “Elder is good for a laxative. Just put a few leaves of it with your wild greens and cook it.” ~Parler FBA II 1913

Bark used for diarrhea – “For children, boil the bark of an Elder tree, put a little sugar in the tonic, and give to the person with the direa about three times a day, a fourth of a cup.” ~Parler FBA II 2063

Root used for dropsy – “Make a quart of strong elderberry root tea. Take two tablespoonfuls three times a day.” ~Parler FBA II 2075

As a wash for swollen feet – “For swollen feet and skin pains: The bark of an elderberry mixed with strong salt water should be used as a wash for sore feet and other injuries of the skin.” ~Parler FBA II 2186

Flower tea for measles – “Elder flowers will break out the measles and check the fever.” ~Parler FBA III 2698

Carried for poison ivy – “Carry a wild cherry or elderberry in your pocket so if you touch poison ivy it won’t hurt you.” ~Parler FBA III 2900

Leaves carried to keep heat off the body – “Farmers carried green elder leaves in the spring to keep heat off their body.” ~Parler FBA III 3097

Bark used for sprains – “Scrape elder berry bark, heat the juice, put in meal or shorts to thicken. Use this for a sprained ankle or any sprain.” ~Parler FBA III 3224


Grieve, Margaret A Modern Herbal (MH)

Moerman, Daniel E. Native American Ethnobotany (NAE)

Parler, Mary Celestia Folk Beliefs from Arkansas (FBA)

Randolph, Vance Ozark Magic and Folklore (OMF)