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7 Health Benefits of Elderberry

The health benefits of elderberry include boosting immunity, as well as antioxidant, antimicrobial, and anti-inflammatory superpowers!

Among the health benefits of elderberry are its use as a natural remedy for colds and the flu (The Grow Network)

Image by Avia5 from Pixabay

Elderberry: Safe, Natural, and Powerful

Are you looking for a safe, natural medicine to use this cold and flu season? Elderberry won’t disappoint. It’s been used throughout human history, even being planted at the edges of gardens to act as a guardian over the other plants. And just as the Elder Mother looked after her little ones in the garden, she can help to look after you and your little ones, too.

7 Health Benefits of Elderberry

1) Antimicrobial Action

Elderberry is a traditional remedy for colds, flus, and other infections. Modern research is validating what herbalists have long known. Whether you’re dealing with a bacteria or a virus, elderberry can help due to its antimicrobial and immune-stimulating properties.1)Simonyi, Agnes, Zihong Chen, Jinghua Jiang, Yijia Zong, Dennis Y. Chuang, Zezong Gu, Chi-Hua Lu, Kevin L. Fritsche, C. Michael Greenlief, George E. Rottinghaus, Andrew L. Thomas, Dennis B. Lubahn, and Grace Y. Sun. “Inhibition of Microglial Activation by Elderberry Extracts and Its Phenolic Components.” Life Sciences128 (2015): 30-38. doi:10.1016/j.lfs.2015.01.037.2)Álvarez, Claudio, Andrés Barriga, Fernando Albericio, María Romero, and Fanny Guzmán. “Identification of Peptides in Flowers of Sambucus Nigra with Antimicrobial Activity against Aquaculture Pathogens.” Molecules23, no. 5 (2018): 1033. doi:10.3390/molecules23051033.3)Kinoshita, Emiko, Kyoko Hayashi, Hiroshi Katayama, Toshimitsu Hayashi, and Akio Obata. “Anti-Influenza Virus Effects of Elderberry Juice and Its Fractions.” Bioscience, Biotechnology, and Biochemistry76, no. 9 (2012): 1633-638. doi:10.1271/bbb.120112.4)Bahiense, Jhéssica Benevides, Franciane Martins Marques, Mariana Moreira Figueira, Thais Souza Vargas, Tamara P. Kondratyuk, Denise Coutinho Endringer, Rodrigo Scherer, and Marcio Fronza. “Potential Anti-inflammatory, Antioxidant and Antimicrobial Activities of Sambucus Australis.” Pharmaceutical Biology55, no. 1 (2017): 991-97. doi:10.1080/13880209.2017.1285324. But The Elder Mother is especially helpful when it comes to the flu. In laboratory tests, elderberry flavonoids were comparable to commercial antivirals like Tamiflu.5)Roschek, Bill, Ryan C. Fink, Matthew D. Mcmichael, Dan Li, and Randall S. Alberte. “Elderberry Flavonoids Bind to and Prevent H1N1 Infection in Vitro.” Phytochemistry70, no. 10 (2009): 1255-261. doi:10.1016/j.phytochem.2009.06.003. Researchers suspect that elderberry does this by binding to viruses, preventing them from infecting your cells.

2) Anti-Inflammatory Power

Chronic inflammation could be the source of much discomfort and dis-ease. Elderberries contain strong antioxidants and anti-inflammatory power to help relieve rheumatism and other inflammation-linked conditions.6)Simonyi, Agnes, Zihong Chen, Jinghua Jiang, Yijia Zong, Dennis Y. Chuang, Zezong Gu, Chi-Hua Lu, Kevin L. Fritsche, C. Michael Greenlief, George E. Rottinghaus, Andrew L. Thomas, Dennis B. Lubahn, and Grace Y. Sun. “Inhibition of Microglial Activation by Elderberry Extracts and Its Phenolic Components.” Life Sciences128 (2015): 30-38. doi:10.1016/j.lfs.2015.01.037.7)Ho, Giang, Eili Kase, Helle Wangensteen, and Hilde Barsett. “Effect of Phenolic Compounds from Elderflowers on Glucose- and Fatty Acid Uptake in Human Myotubes and HepG2-Cells.” Molecules22, no. 1 (2017): 90. doi:10.3390/molecules22010090.8)Bahiense, Jhéssica Benevides, Franciane Martins Marques, Mariana Moreira Figueira, Thais Souza Vargas, Tamara P. Kondratyuk, Denise Coutinho Endringer, Rodrigo Scherer, and Marcio Fronza. “Potential Anti-inflammatory, Antioxidant and Antimicrobial Activities of Sambucus Australis.” Pharmaceutical Biology55, no. 1 (2017): 991-97. doi:10.1080/13880209.2017.1285324.9)Ho, Giang, Helle Wangensteen, and Hilde Barsett. “Elderberry and Elderflower Extracts, Phenolic Compounds, and Metabolites and Their Effect on Complement, RAW 264.7 Macrophages and Dendritic Cells.” International Journal of Molecular Sciences18, no. 3 (2017): 584. doi:10.3390/ijms18030584.10)Balkan, Irem Atay, Ayca Zeynep Ilter Akülke, Yeşim Bağatur, Dilek Telci, Ahmet Ceyhan Gören, Hasan Kırmızıbekmez, and Erdem Yesilada. “Sambulin A and B, Non-glycosidic Iridoids from Sambucus Ebulus , Exert Significant in Vitro Anti-inflammatory Activity in LPS-induced RAW 264.7 Macrophages via Inhibition of MAPKss Phosphorylation.” Journal of Ethnopharmacology206 (2017): 347-52. doi:10.1016/j.jep.2017.06.002.11)Farrell, Nicholas J., Gregory H. Norris, Julia Ryan, Caitlin M. Porter, Christina Jiang, and Christopher N. Blesso. “Black Elderberry Extract Attenuates Inflammation and Metabolic Dysfunction in Diet-induced Obese Mice.” British Journal of Nutrition114, no. 08 (2015): 1123-131. doi:10.1017/s0007114515002962.

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3) Cancer Fighter

Yes, elderberries are a potent cancer fighter, as well. Researchers have suggested that elderberries may become a part of future treatment protocols for advanced tumors.12)Song, Kyoung Jin, Seong Kook Jeon, Su Bin Moon, Jin Suk Park, Jang Seong Kim, Jeongkwon Kim, Sumin Kim, Hyun Joo An, Jeong-Heon Ko, and Yong-Sam Kim. “Lectin from Sambucus Sieboldiana Abrogates the Anoikis Resistance of Colon Cancer Cells Conferred by N-acetylglucosaminyltransferase V during Hematogenous Metastasis.” Oncotarget8, no. 26 (2017). doi:10.18632/oncotarget.15034. They have also shown promise as a topical treatment for skin cancers.13)Rugină, Dumitriţa, Daniela Hanganu, Zoriţa Diaconeasa, Flaviu Tăbăran, Cristina Coman, Loredana Leopold, Andrea Bunea, and Adela Pintea. “Antiproliferative and Apoptotic Potential of Cyanidin-Based Anthocyanins on Melanoma Cells.” International Journal of Molecular Sciences18, no. 5 (2017): 0949. doi:10.3390/ijms18050949. This might be due to their strong anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.

DIY_Elderberry_Syrup_Kit-The_Grow_Network

Make Your Own Elderberry Syrup With Our DIY Elderberry Syrup Kit! Buy Yours Here!

4) Cardiovascular Health

Elderberries have the ability to influence cholesterol levels and heart health.14)Simonyi, Agnes, Zihong Chen, Jinghua Jiang, Yijia Zong, Dennis Y. Chuang, Zezong Gu, Chi-Hua Lu, Kevin L. Fritsche, C. Michael Greenlief, George E. Rottinghaus, Andrew L. Thomas, Dennis B. Lubahn, and Grace Y. Sun. “Inhibition of Microglial Activation by Elderberry Extracts and Its Phenolic Components.” Life Sciences128 (2015): 30-38. doi:10.1016/j.lfs.2015.01.037.15)Farrell, Nicholas J., Gregory H. Norris, Julia Ryan, Caitlin M. Porter, Christina Jiang, and Christopher N. Blesso. “Black Elderberry Extract Attenuates Inflammation and Metabolic Dysfunction in Diet-induced Obese Mice.” British Journal of Nutrition114, no. 08 (2015): 1123-131. doi:10.1017/s0007114515002962. This could be another benefit of their anti-inflammatory power and antioxidant abilities. But researchers also suggest that elderberries have the ability to influence how the genes in our liver cells express themselves, resulting in more efficient cholesterol processing.16)Farrell, Nicholas, Gregory Norris, Sang Gil Lee, Ock K. Chun, and Christopher N. Blesso. “Anthocyanin-rich Black Elderberry Extract Improves Markers of HDL Function and Reduces Aortic Cholesterol in Hyperlipidemic Mice.” Food & Function6, no. 4 (2015): 1278-287. doi:10.1039/c4fo01036a.

5) Diabetes Management

Elderflower and elderberry both help to lower blood glucose.17)Salvador, Ângelo, Ewelina Król, Virgínia Lemos, Sónia Santos, Fernanda Bento, Carina Costa, Adelaide Almeida, Dawid Szczepankiewicz, Bartosz Kulczyński, Zbigniew Krejpcio, Armando Silvestre, and Sílvia Rocha. “Effect of Elderberry (Sambucus Nigra L.) Extract Supplementation in STZ-Induced Diabetic Rats Fed with a High-Fat Diet.” International Journal of Molecular Sciences18, no. 1 (2016): 13. doi:10.3390/ijms18010013.,18)Ho, Giang, Eili Kase, Helle Wangensteen, and Hilde Barsett. “Effect of Phenolic Compounds from Elderflowers on Glucose- and Fatty Acid Uptake in Human Myotubes and HepG2-Cells.” Molecules22, no. 1 (2017): 90. doi:10.3390/molecules22010090. In animals tests, elderberry was shown to reduce serum insulin and liver cholesterol levels.19)Farrell, Nicholas J., Gregory H. Norris, Julia Ryan, Caitlin M. Porter, Christina Jiang, and Christopher N. Blesso. “Black Elderberry Extract Attenuates Inflammation and Metabolic Dysfunction in Diet-induced Obese Mice.” British Journal of Nutrition114, no. 08 (2015): 1123-131. doi:10.1017/s0007114515002962.

Not to be confused with pokeweed, elderberries grow in spray formations (The Grow Network)

6) Diuretic Action

Herbalists use diuretics to flush excess water from the body. This can be done for many reasons, but the idea is usually to flush out toxins or infectious agents along with the water. Though relatively few studies have examined the efficacy of this practice, those that are available seem to support the traditional use of elderberry as a diuretic.20)Beaux, D., J. Fleurentin, and F. Mortier. “Effect of Extracts of Orthosiphon Stamineus Benth, Hieracium Pilosella L., Sambucus Nigra L. and Arctostaphylos Uvaursi (l.) Spreng. in Rats.” Phytotherapy Research12, no. 7 (1998): 498-501. doi:10.1002/(sici)1099-1573(199811)12:73.3.co;2-u.

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7) Wound Healing

In addition to all of the benefits listed above—or maybe because of them—elderberry leaves have also been shown to have powerful wound-healing properties.21)Süntar, Ipek Peşin, Esra Küpeli Akkol, Funda Nuray Yalçın, Ufuk Koca, Hikmet Keleş, and Erdem Yesilada. “Wound Healing Potential of Sambucus Ebulus L. Leaves and Isolation of an Active Component, Quercetin 3-O-glucoside.” Journal of Ethnopharmacology129, no. 1 (2010): 106-14. doi:10.1016/j.jep.2010.01.051. In one study, an herbal paste of several herbs, including elderberry, was confirmed to speed the healing of a bone fracture.22)Peng, Li Hua, Chun Hay Ko, Sum Wing Siu, Chi Man Koon, Gar Lee Yue, Wai Hing Cheng, Tai Wai Lau, Quan Bin Han, Ka Ming Ng, Kwok Pui Fung, Clara Bik San Lau, and Ping Chung Leung. “In Vitro & in Vivo Assessment of a Herbal Formula Used Topically for Bone Fracture Treatment.” Journal of Ethnopharmacology131, no. 2 (2010): 282-89. doi:10.1016/j.jep.2010.06.039. In both of these examples, the leaves were used topically. Do not use elderberry leaves internally.

So Many Fun Options!

Elderberry syrup is a favored vehicle for the health benefits of elderberry (The Grow Network)

Elderberry medicines can be purchased or created in a variety of different forms. Elder products include teas, syrups, wines, lozenges and pills, juices, sprays, powders, tinctures, kombuchas, soda, gummies, and nearly anything else you can imagine. You can even make your own elderberry ice cream. While elderberry syrup is probably the most-used form of elderberry medicine, any of these would be acceptable and useful. Use whichever one calls to you.

Both the flowers and the berries can be used in medicines. The flowers are more gentle. For this reason, many people like to use flower-based products with children.

Elderberry flowers (The Grow Network)

Are Elderberries Safe?

Elderberry plants have a chemical that breaks down into cyanide in the human body. But not all parts of the plant are dangerous. The flowers are totally safe, either in herbal concoctions or eaten straight off the plant. The berries are a little different. Ripe berries do contain a small amount of cyanide-forming chemical in their seeds. The amount is small enough that the berries are not considered toxic. However, children, or people who are extra-sensitive to this chemical, should not eat raw berries. Eating too many raw berries can cause stomach upset, vomiting, and diarrhea. You should avoid the unripe berries entirely.

Cooking or drying the ripe berries neutralizes this chemical, making the berries safe to eat. Cooking also improves the flavor and makes the berry’s nutrients easier to digest and absorb. Commercially prepared products are usually safe, as well.

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If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, you should talk to a trusted medical provider before consuming elderberry products. Do the same before giving them to young children. People who have or have had autoimmune diseases, organ transplants, or other immune-system complications should also consult with a medical provider before using elderberries, due to their immune-stimulating properties. If you are taking any medication with the same properties as elderberries, you should consult with a medical professional, as well. (These could include diuretics, medications for diabetes, laxatives, medications that affect the immune system, and others.)

Despite those scary-sounding warnings, elderberries are generally well-tolerated and well-loved by those who use them. You can buy elderberry medicines online or at a health-food store, but they feel a little more magical when you make them yourself.

You can find a recipe for elderberry syrup here. Or if you’d like to make elderberry syrup and a whole lot more, you can take the leap and become a medicine man or medicine woman.

Whatever you choose to do, listen to your body, listen to the plants, and may The Elder Mother guard you as one of her own.

What Do You Think?

What’s your favorite way to use elderberry or elderflower as medicine? Share your experiences below!

_______________________________________

This is an updated version of an article that was originally published on November 30, 2018.

Psst! Our Lawyer Wants You to Read This Big, Bad Medical Disclaimer –> The contents of this article, made available via The Grow Network (TGN), are for informational purposes only and do not constitute medical advice; the content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of a qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. If you think you may be suffering from any medical condition, you should seek immediate medical attention. You should never delay seeking medical advice, disregard medical advice, or discontinue medical treatment because of information provided by TGN. Reliance on any information provided by this article is solely at your own risk. And, of course, never eat a wild plant without first checking with a local expert.

The Grow Network is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate program designed to provide a means for our team to earn fees for recommending our favorite products! We may earn a small commission, at no additional cost to you, should you purchase an item after clicking one of our links. Thanks for supporting TGN!

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References

References
1, 6, 14 Simonyi, Agnes, Zihong Chen, Jinghua Jiang, Yijia Zong, Dennis Y. Chuang, Zezong Gu, Chi-Hua Lu, Kevin L. Fritsche, C. Michael Greenlief, George E. Rottinghaus, Andrew L. Thomas, Dennis B. Lubahn, and Grace Y. Sun. “Inhibition of Microglial Activation by Elderberry Extracts and Its Phenolic Components.” Life Sciences128 (2015): 30-38. doi:10.1016/j.lfs.2015.01.037.
2 Álvarez, Claudio, Andrés Barriga, Fernando Albericio, María Romero, and Fanny Guzmán. “Identification of Peptides in Flowers of Sambucus Nigra with Antimicrobial Activity against Aquaculture Pathogens.” Molecules23, no. 5 (2018): 1033. doi:10.3390/molecules23051033.
3 Kinoshita, Emiko, Kyoko Hayashi, Hiroshi Katayama, Toshimitsu Hayashi, and Akio Obata. “Anti-Influenza Virus Effects of Elderberry Juice and Its Fractions.” Bioscience, Biotechnology, and Biochemistry76, no. 9 (2012): 1633-638. doi:10.1271/bbb.120112.
4, 8 Bahiense, Jhéssica Benevides, Franciane Martins Marques, Mariana Moreira Figueira, Thais Souza Vargas, Tamara P. Kondratyuk, Denise Coutinho Endringer, Rodrigo Scherer, and Marcio Fronza. “Potential Anti-inflammatory, Antioxidant and Antimicrobial Activities of Sambucus Australis.” Pharmaceutical Biology55, no. 1 (2017): 991-97. doi:10.1080/13880209.2017.1285324.
5 Roschek, Bill, Ryan C. Fink, Matthew D. Mcmichael, Dan Li, and Randall S. Alberte. “Elderberry Flavonoids Bind to and Prevent H1N1 Infection in Vitro.” Phytochemistry70, no. 10 (2009): 1255-261. doi:10.1016/j.phytochem.2009.06.003.
7, 18 Ho, Giang, Eili Kase, Helle Wangensteen, and Hilde Barsett. “Effect of Phenolic Compounds from Elderflowers on Glucose- and Fatty Acid Uptake in Human Myotubes and HepG2-Cells.” Molecules22, no. 1 (2017): 90. doi:10.3390/molecules22010090.
9 Ho, Giang, Helle Wangensteen, and Hilde Barsett. “Elderberry and Elderflower Extracts, Phenolic Compounds, and Metabolites and Their Effect on Complement, RAW 264.7 Macrophages and Dendritic Cells.” International Journal of Molecular Sciences18, no. 3 (2017): 584. doi:10.3390/ijms18030584.
10 Balkan, Irem Atay, Ayca Zeynep Ilter Akülke, Yeşim Bağatur, Dilek Telci, Ahmet Ceyhan Gören, Hasan Kırmızıbekmez, and Erdem Yesilada. “Sambulin A and B, Non-glycosidic Iridoids from Sambucus Ebulus , Exert Significant in Vitro Anti-inflammatory Activity in LPS-induced RAW 264.7 Macrophages via Inhibition of MAPKss Phosphorylation.” Journal of Ethnopharmacology206 (2017): 347-52. doi:10.1016/j.jep.2017.06.002.
11, 15, 19 Farrell, Nicholas J., Gregory H. Norris, Julia Ryan, Caitlin M. Porter, Christina Jiang, and Christopher N. Blesso. “Black Elderberry Extract Attenuates Inflammation and Metabolic Dysfunction in Diet-induced Obese Mice.” British Journal of Nutrition114, no. 08 (2015): 1123-131. doi:10.1017/s0007114515002962.
12 Song, Kyoung Jin, Seong Kook Jeon, Su Bin Moon, Jin Suk Park, Jang Seong Kim, Jeongkwon Kim, Sumin Kim, Hyun Joo An, Jeong-Heon Ko, and Yong-Sam Kim. “Lectin from Sambucus Sieboldiana Abrogates the Anoikis Resistance of Colon Cancer Cells Conferred by N-acetylglucosaminyltransferase V during Hematogenous Metastasis.” Oncotarget8, no. 26 (2017). doi:10.18632/oncotarget.15034.
13 Rugină, Dumitriţa, Daniela Hanganu, Zoriţa Diaconeasa, Flaviu Tăbăran, Cristina Coman, Loredana Leopold, Andrea Bunea, and Adela Pintea. “Antiproliferative and Apoptotic Potential of Cyanidin-Based Anthocyanins on Melanoma Cells.” International Journal of Molecular Sciences18, no. 5 (2017): 0949. doi:10.3390/ijms18050949.
16 Farrell, Nicholas, Gregory Norris, Sang Gil Lee, Ock K. Chun, and Christopher N. Blesso. “Anthocyanin-rich Black Elderberry Extract Improves Markers of HDL Function and Reduces Aortic Cholesterol in Hyperlipidemic Mice.” Food & Function6, no. 4 (2015): 1278-287. doi:10.1039/c4fo01036a.
17 Salvador, Ângelo, Ewelina Król, Virgínia Lemos, Sónia Santos, Fernanda Bento, Carina Costa, Adelaide Almeida, Dawid Szczepankiewicz, Bartosz Kulczyński, Zbigniew Krejpcio, Armando Silvestre, and Sílvia Rocha. “Effect of Elderberry (Sambucus Nigra L.) Extract Supplementation in STZ-Induced Diabetic Rats Fed with a High-Fat Diet.” International Journal of Molecular Sciences18, no. 1 (2016): 13. doi:10.3390/ijms18010013.
20 Beaux, D., J. Fleurentin, and F. Mortier. “Effect of Extracts of Orthosiphon Stamineus Benth, Hieracium Pilosella L., Sambucus Nigra L. and Arctostaphylos Uvaursi (l.) Spreng. in Rats.” Phytotherapy Research12, no. 7 (1998): 498-501. doi:10.1002/(sici)1099-1573(199811)12:73.3.co;2-u.
21 Süntar, Ipek Peşin, Esra Küpeli Akkol, Funda Nuray Yalçın, Ufuk Koca, Hikmet Keleş, and Erdem Yesilada. “Wound Healing Potential of Sambucus Ebulus L. Leaves and Isolation of an Active Component, Quercetin 3-O-glucoside.” Journal of Ethnopharmacology129, no. 1 (2010): 106-14. doi:10.1016/j.jep.2010.01.051.
22 Peng, Li Hua, Chun Hay Ko, Sum Wing Siu, Chi Man Koon, Gar Lee Yue, Wai Hing Cheng, Tai Wai Lau, Quan Bin Han, Ka Ming Ng, Kwok Pui Fung, Clara Bik San Lau, and Ping Chung Leung. “In Vitro & in Vivo Assessment of a Herbal Formula Used Topically for Bone Fracture Treatment.” Journal of Ethnopharmacology131, no. 2 (2010): 282-89. doi:10.1016/j.jep.2010.06.039.
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COMMENTS(9)

  • Marjory Wildcraft says:

    Nice article Scott!

    1. Scott Sexton says:

      Thanks Marjory! (Only a year late with that reply.)

  • Heide says:

    I would love to purchase an elderberry plant…is there a particular species that I should get. Also in Europe elderberry syrup is often added to tea…very delicious!

    1. Scott Sexton says:

      Hello Heide. Sambucus Nigra (black elderberry) is the most popular species for food and medicinal uses. Hope that helps.

    2. Margaret says:

      Nova does not require cross pollination.

  • mzlizlink says:

    Excellent article and citations, so interesting and exciting! What happened to the link for the Elderberry Syrup recipe? It was a little different than the recipe in the Top Immune Boosting Herbs book. I wanted to refer to the recipe again. Hmmm.

    1. Scott Sexton says:

      Thanks mzlizlink. I’m not sure about the link. I hope it’s working for you now. Everybody makes their elderberry syrup a little differently, according to their own preferences. Lately, I’ve been playing with an elderberry gummy recipe. My kids really like them (and so do I).

  • mzlizlink says:

    Hmmm, also wondering why my picture is not showing up here…I thought we had gotten that figured out…

  • spanthegulf says:

    Question… Consistent with most of what I’ve read, this article warns of the dangers of using elder leaf internally. However, I’ve recently read (Stephen Harrod Buhner, in particular) that not only can the leaves be rendrerd safe **if properly processed**, but they are significantly stronger than the berries or flowers. In particular, it is recommended to created a decocted tincture, with very specific guidelines re: the cooking process for the decoction phase. I am fortunate to have elder growing on my wooded property, and I always get a lot more leaves than flowers or berries! I recently experimented with a decocted leaf tincture, and found the only side effect I had from using it internally was that I immediately began to get well! I offer this experience only to broaden the discussion a bit. Please, people, do not try this unless you have done serious due diligence re: the recommended preparation process and the potential hazards, then make the decision that is right for you. Happy herbing!

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