Substances & Homeopatic Remedies

Sambucus nigra

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Viburnic Acid . This body, identical with valerianic acid, (See p. 155 - 3) was proven to exist in the bark of this species by C. G. Traub, ( Am .  Jour .  Phar ., 1881, 392) who succeeded in obtaining its characteristic odor, and valerianate of zinc after the addition of the sulphate of that metal.

Oil of Sambucus . This volatile body, found in the flowers of  S .  nigra , was proven by Traub to also exist in the bark of this species. It is described as a thin, light - yellow body, having the odor of the flowers, a bitter, burning, afterward cooling taste; becoming of a butter - like consistence, and solidifying at 0 (32 F.) to crystalline mass.

Tannin, sugar, fat, resin, and a coloring - matter were also determined.

PHYSIOLOGICAL ACTION . Dr. Ubelacker's experiments with from 20 to 50 drops of the tincture gave the following symptoms of physical disturbance: Drawing in the head, with anxious dread; flushed and blotched face; dryness and sensation of swelling of mucous membranes of the mouth, pharynx, larynx, and trachea; frequent and profuse flow of clear urine; heaviness and constriction of the chest; palpitation of the heart; pulse rose to 100, and remained until perspiration ensued; sharp, darting rheumatic pains in the hands and feet; exhaustion and profuse perspiration, which relieved all the symptoms. (Millspaugh's Medicinal Plants)

Its blossoms, the berries which grow out to them, the second bark of its stems and its root, are endowed with more or less toxical properties. Beasts and even caterpillars avoid its leaves. Its berries have destroyed chickens and even peacocks. The juice of its leaves, in dogs, has caused vomiting and diarrhoea. There are several cases of poisoning by elder on record i some authors, with the following symptoms: vomiting, serous diarrhoea, great weakness, sweat (especially at the forehead,) paleness, altered features, a sort of coma (on the third day,) and finally considerable emaciation. (Teste's Homeopathic Materia Medica)

Botanical uses.

The bark is a strong purgative which may be employed with advantage, an infusion of 1 OZ. in a pint of water being taken in wineglassful doses; in large doses it is an emetic. Its use as a purgative dates back to Hippocrates. It has been much employed as a diuretic, an aqueous solution having been found very useful in cardiac and renal dropsies. It has also been successfully employed in epilepsy.

An emollient ointment is made of the green inner bark, and a homoeopathic tincture made from the fresh inner bark of the young branches, in diluted form, relieves asthmatic symptoms and spurious croup of children - dose, 4 or 5 drops in water.

Elder leaves are used in the preparation of an ointment, Unguentum Sambuci Viride, Green Elder Ointment, which is a domestic remedy for bruises, sprains, chilblains, for use as an emollient, and for applying to wounds. Like the bark, the leaves are also purgative, but more nauseous than the bark. Their action is likewise expectorant, diuretic and diaphoretic. They are said to be very efficacious in dropsy. The juice of Elder leaves is stated by the old herbalists to be good for inflammation of the eyes, and 'snuffed up the nostrils,' Culpepper declares, 'purgeth the brain.' Another old notion was that if the green leaves were warmed between two hot tiles and applied to the forehead, they would promptly relieve nervous headache.

Elder Flower Water (Aqua Sambuci) is an official preparation of the British Pharmacopoeia, which directs that it be made from 100 parts of Elder Flowers distilled with 500 parts of water (about 10 lb. to the gallon), and that if fresh Elder flowers are not obtainable, an equivalent quantity of the flowers preserved with common salt be used. The product has at first a distinctly unpleasant odour, but gradually acquires an agreeably aromatic odour, and it is preferable not to use it until this change has taken place.

Elder Flower Water is employed in mixing medicines and chiefly as a vehicle for eye and skin lotions. It is mildly astringent and a gentle stimulant. It is the Eau de Sureau of the Continent, Sureau being the French name of the Eider. (

Human Clinical Data
Glycoprotein lectin immunosorbent assay (GLIA) uses lectins from Sambucus nigra bark & Maackia to identify pregnant women at risk for preterm delivery by detecting fibronectin was quantitated in cervicovaginal secretions Hampel 1999 .  

N-Acetylneuraminic acids promote calcium binding and gel formation. Its free/bound ratio in urine was 0.84 in 41 calcium oxalate stone-formers vs. 1.87 in 33 non-stone-formers. S. nigra lectin distinguishes normal from stone-forming kidneys Hofbauer 1998 .

Colonic mucin sialylation in colitis of Asians is different from Europeans in that there is less binding of Sambucus lectin. This might have a role in lower colorectal carcinoma rates in Asians McMahon 1997 .

Glycoprotein GP4S (Mr = 45 000), detected by Datura stramonium agglutinin and Sambucus nigra agglutinin, appeared in 96.7% of samples of the stressed group Barisic 1996 .

Sambucol reduced hemagglutination and inhibited replication of human influenza viruses in a double blind study Zakay-Rones 1995 .  

CA125 is adquate for screening ovarian cancer but adding mucin-specific lectin from Sambucus sieboldiana (SSAM) is useful in cervical and uterine cancers due to the low level of detection with CA125 Devine 1993  

SNA (S. nigra agglutinin) was unreactive with epithelial cells of all the 13 normal colon specimens, weakly reactive with 3 out of 8 benign lesions and positive for 23 out of 26 carcinomas Dall'Olio 1993 .

Observational Case Reports
"Anthocyanins are detected in human plasma after oral administration of an elderberry extract " (no abstract) Cao 1999 .

One of the studies done on elderberry comes from Dr. Madeleine Mumcuouglu, Ph.D., a virologist based in Israel. What we call the flu comes from a family of viruses known as the myxoviruses influenzae. There are three types A, B and C of which A and B are the most common. Type A is the most prevalent in nature and most resilient but it cannot replicate itself. To reproduce it must invade living cells which it does through tiny spikes known as hemagglutinin that cover the surface of the virus and enable it to puncture the cell wall.
Dr. Mumcuoglu discovered that the active ingredients in elderberries neutralize the hemagglutinin by binding to them, thus stopping them from piercing the cell membrane and making it impossible for them to reproduce. Unlike flu vaccines, which find it difficult to cope with new strains and are ineffective against type B viruses, elderberry is active against all types.
In addition, tests done to determine the presence of flu antibodies in humans showed that the level of antibodies was higher in those using elderberry than those receiving the placebo. This indicated an enhanced immune response

Modern medicine and research provide us with a series of important indications about, for instance, the reduction of the risk of stroke, the fight against free radicals, the improvement of night vision through a more rapid regeneration of visual purple, retinopathy, vessel-reinforcing properties in angiopathy, arteriosclerosis, venous insufficiency, anti-tumorigenic properties etc. Scientific research also evidences the effects and action of elderberry-anthocyanins in the following areas:
 1. Antioxidant effects
 2. Vessel-protection effects
 3. Cardiovascular protection
 4. Anti-diabetic effects
 5. Anti-inflammatory effects
 6. Antiviral properties
 7. Anti-tumorigenic properties
 8. Improvement of night vision
 9. Prevention of inflammations of the urinary tract
 10. Anti-Stress
 1. Antioxidant effects
The antioxidant power of polyphenols and anthocyanins is scientifically proven and exceeds even that of the traditional Vitamins C and E:
"The antioxidant activity of most flavonoids (flavone, flavonone and isoflavone derivatives and anthocyanins) is much stronger than that of Vitamins E and C, Beta-Carotene, GSH and Uric Acid"
Dr. Ronald Prior, USDA Human Nutrition Research Center of Aging
In his studies, Dr. Prior has used our products too. The activity against the aggressive oxygen compounds produced by our body - the so-called free radicals - was clearly detectable. For measurements, ORAC units (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) were used and the method was developed by USDA. Study contents: a USA citizen intakes approximately 1700 Orac units through a balanced nutrition. Yet, since nutritional habits are such that fruits and vegetables are not eaten 3-5 times a day, the daily intake is probably only 1200 Orac units approximately. USDA suggests to add about 2500 Orac units, for example by adjusting one's nutrition or using food supplements. A consumption of approx. 4000 Orac units or more increases considerably and measurably the body's natural defences. The study has also pointed to a significant correlation between antioxidant activity and total intake of anthocyanins.
 2.    Vessel protection
Anthocyanins improve the resistance of micro-vessel walls and simultaneously reduce their permeability. This property is important also for the treatment of diabetic angiopathy. Anthocyanins are active against arterial diseases such as arteriosclerosis, coronaritis and vein disorders, which are accompanied by capillary fragility.
 3. Cardiovascular protection
Based on the variety of scientific works which have clearly indicated the benefits of bioflavonoids to the cardiac muscle, a 2-year study has now been launched in the USA in co-operation with various partners and the US health authorities: this study specifically includes our elderberry product, RUBINI.
 4.    Antidiabetic effects
Anthocyanins act on cell walls and directly influence the inner membrane, where they can help in removing glucoproteins deposited on blood vessel walls. This normalises permeability, increases the membranes' resistance and - as a consequence - gradually makes the typical vessel injuries in diabetic angiopathy regress (Pedretti, 1983).
 5. Anti-inflammatory effects
According to one theory, the real cause of heart attack is a short-term inflammation of the pertaining vessels. It derives from the fact that - along with the known risk factors (obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol level, lack of exercise, etc.) - a significant number of people not considered at risk nevertheless get a heart attack. Research is still in progress but according to the latest findings, there is a strong correlation with the total anthocyanin content.
 6.    Antiviral properties
On the occasion of the 7th German congress on AIDS, a study was presented in which a fruit juice rich in polyphenols was successfully used to improve the immunocompetence of HIV-infected people (Deutsche Ärztezeitung, 16.6.2000). A pilot study in the framework of research on elderberry has now shown significant effects against herpes viruses. Studies conducted in Israel evidence the action of elderberry against various influenza viruses.
 7.    Anti-tumorigenic properties
The activity of secondary plant substances in preventing or strongly reducing the risk of getting cancer has been evidenced by many studies and is a universally recognised fact. In England, encouraging clinical in vivo tests on brain tumours are currently in progress and they also include the use of our berry extracts rich in anthocyanins.
 8. Improvement of night vision
Anthocyanins accelerate the regeneration of rhodopsin, the light-sensitive chromoprotein, which splits into retinal and opsin under the influence of light. Their re-establishment occurs in the dark. A faster "passage" from light to dark, and as a consequence a better vision, is possible. Previous studies focussed mainly on bilberries. More recently, studies on anthocyanins from blackcurrants were published which complete the picture and tell us about the positive influence of anthocyanins on our eyes.
 9.    Prevention of inflammations of the urinary tract
In the last years, studies were published based on cranberries (for instance Avorn J, et al: Reduction of Bacteriuria and Pyuria after Ingestion of Cranberry Juice, J.Americ.Medic.Ass., March 9, 1994, Vol 271). We know from popular medicine that elderberry juice too was used against urinary tract problems. We can therefore assume that similar results could be achieved in studies on elderberries. At the moment, though, there is no knowledge of research being carried out in that direction.
 10.    Anti-Stress
The influence of a higher flavonoid intake through the RUBINI elderberry extract clearly indicates in vivo an increase in oxidative phosphorylation capacity. This means that the aerobic phase is extended and the much more unfavourable energy supply on the part of anaerobic glycolysis is substantially slowed down. Muscles become more efficient while fatigue and lactate formation are considerably delayed.

Active Constituents

Flavonoids, including quercetin, are believed to account for the therapeutic actions of the elderberry flowers and berries. According to laboratory research, an extract from the leaves, combined with St. John’s wort and soapwort, inhibits the influenza virus and herpes simplex virus. 2 A double-blind study in humans determined that an extract of elderberries is an effective treatment for influenza. 3 Animal studies have shown the flowers to have anti-inflammatory properties. 4

Ecology:   Common elder, and the four other species of Sambucus which reach tree size, are small trees or large shrubs of very mesic sites, from creekbanks to coves. Though tolerant, elders are most common in or near gaps.

Life History:   Flowers are borne in large panicles in early summer, and are insect-pollinated (bees and beetles?). The juicy fruits ripen in late fall and are prized by birds, which eat them throughout the winter. Seeds germinate in srping. Elder also reproduces from stump sprouts, but apparently not from root sprouts, thus producing clones of single or a few stems. Individual stems may live for 30 years, but clones may live much longer. Growth is fairly rapid, up to 12 inches per year.

Interactions:   Elders are important wildlife species, providing fruits during the late fall and early winter. Birds often feed on fruits after they have begun to rot and ferment, becoming quite intoxicated. The author has seen evening grosbeaks eating overripe elder fruits and falling, drunk, to the ground. Important winter browse species.

Medical Uses: Large amounts of vitamin C,  flavenoids and rutin, which are known to improve immune function  account for the use of the juice and flower tea as a cold remedy and tannins account for many of the other medical uses.  Native Americans used the inner bark to make tea used as a diuretic, emetic and laxative and poultice it on various injuries. Modern herbalist tend to use only the flowers and fruits for similar purposes.  The flowers are used in tea to treat fevers and stimulate perspiration, sooth headache and to treat colds, flue, dropsy, rheumatism, consumption, urinary infections and many other conditions. Warning: Fruits from related species that are red, unripe fruits, leaves and other parts of the plant may be dangerously purgative and should not be ingested. (Foster & Duke) (Dobelis)