Of European origin, the black elderberry (Sambucus nigra) is a shrub that grows easily in France in slightly damp places, such as woods, the edge of waterways or vacant lots. Its woody branches contain a white pith and its leaves, opposite, are composed of 5 to 7 oval leaflets with toothed edges, acute at the end. Its white flowers are raised towards the sky and assembled in corymbs. They give small black and shiny berries.
Its bark, flowers and berries are traditionally used in herbal medicine and each part of the plant can integrate a “country pharmacy”. However, not all of them benefit from sufficient scientific studies and only the flowers, like large ivory-white parasols, are recognized effective against colds by the European Medicines Agency.
Elderberry works against colds and flu
Elderberry flowers concentrate the active respiratory ingredients: antioxidant flavonoids, from triterpenes strongly anti-inflammatory, and mucilages which improve the fluidity and evacuation of secretions from the nose and bronchi. They also help to better eliminate toxins and lower fever.
In practice, elder flowers are therefore to be used in cases of colds, sore throats, coughs, congested bronchi and flu syndrome. As they calm muscle pain, aches for example, they are particularly valuable in times of flu! Finally, they counteract the negative effects of respiratory allergens, which prevents complications of asthma, such as secondary bronchial infections.
The flowers are picked in May, then dried in a dry place in the shade. When they turn yellow, this is a sign that they are ready to use and of quality. The European Medicines Agency recommends prepare them in tisane from the first symptoms stuffy or runny nose, sneezing, watery eyes …
The right dose: 2 to 5 grams of dried flowers per cup, to be left to infuse for 10 minutes so that all the active ingredients are extracted, one cup three times a day. We can also, for more effectiveness on congested and irritated bronchi, associate them with mallow flowers, in expectorant herbal tea.
You don’t like herbal teas? Solutions based on mother tincture or fluid extract of black elderberry can be prepared by the pharmacist, to be reserved for adults when they contain alcohol.
The duration : this medicinal treatment should not last more than a week and, of course, in case of high and persistent fever or respiratory signs which do not improve within two or three days, it is better to take the advice of his doctor.
Is elderberry dangerous? What precautions for use?
The European Medicines Agency As a precaution, does not recommend its use for children under 12 years old, as well as pregnant or breastfeeding women. According to Dr Charrié, “these precautions are not, however, justified during a cold and at the doses used.”
The black elderberry, on the other hand, is contraindicated for people with Parkinson’s disease, in deficit of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that slows down the plant, or in case of diabetes, the plant can modulate the level of insulin and unbalance the glycemia. The specialist also issues a reservation for people at higher risk of cancerFor example, a heavy smoker or a man with a higher than normal level of PSA – the prostate specific antigen – and whose prostate is under surveillance, because black elderberry stimulates cell growth.
As for the picking of its small red fruits, black when they are ripe, beware! Eating raw or undercooked berries is not a good idea : this may indeed lead to gastrointestinal disorders, especially in children.