Natural Health Products

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European Elder

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General Information

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 Name(s)
European elder, black elder, elder, elderberry, elder flower, sambucus
Scientific Name(s)
Sambucus nigra
How is this product usually used?

European elder is a deciduous tree that is native to Europe, western Asia, and northern Africa. It also now grows in the United States. The flowers and berries of the tree are used in traditional medicine and food flavouring. The dried flowers and cooked berries are used in teas, liquids, powders, strips, and tablets.

What is this product used for?

European elder has been used for:

  • colds and flus
  • constipation
  • strengthening the immune system
  • chronic fatigue syndrome
  • allergic rhinitis
  • sinus pain/infections
  • sciatica – back and leg pain
  • nerve pain
  • cancer

It has also been used for its diureticdiuretican agent that increases urine flow effects and its ability to promote sweating.

Your health care provider may have recommended this product for other conditions. Contact a health care provider if you have questions.

What else should I be aware of?

Although the evidence is weak, some studies have shown that European elder may relieve flu symptoms.

There is currently no reliable evidence available for the effectiveness of elderberry or elder flower for other uses.

Uncooked or unripe elderberries, leaves, seeds, and other parts of the tree may cause nausea, vomiting, or severe diarrhea due to the presence of a cyanide-producing chemical. Cooking the plant parts eliminates this toxin.

European elder should likely be avoided by people who are allergic to grass pollen.

There may be an interaction between European elder and the following medications:

Before taking any new medications, including natural health products, speak to your physician, pharmacist, or other health care provider. Tell your health care provider about any natural health products you may be taking.


*All medications have both common (generic) and brand names. The brand name is what a specific manufacturer calls the product (e.g., Tylenol®). The common name is the medical name for the medication (e.g., acetaminophen). A medication may have many brand names, but only one common name. This article lists medications by their common names. For information on a given medication, check our Drug Information database. For more information on brand names, speak with your doctor or pharmacist.

  1. European Elder (monograph). Natural Medicines (Accessed online March 28, 2015)
  2. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM). Herbs at a Glance. European Elder.
  3. American Botanical Council. European Elder. Available at: Accessed March 28, 2015.

All material copyright MediResource Inc. 1996 – 2020. Terms and conditions of use. The contents herein are for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.