European Elder (Elderberry)



Sambucus nigra, European Elder, commonly known as Elderberry, originates in most of Europe, but has also been found thriving in parts of Asia and North America (Sambucus, wikipedia). The species of elderberry found in Asia and North America are considered subspecies to the European Elder, since there are similarities, but the plants are not identical. Elderberry is able to grow in a array of different environmental conditions, from wet to dry. However, European elder grows well in areas with ample sunlight (Sambucus, wikipedia).

external image Sambucus_nigra_004.jpg

DESCRIPTION OF PLANT
The shrub or small tree can grow up to thirty feet tall (Sambucus, Wikipedia). The leaves are deciduous, meaning the leaves fall off before winter begins. They grow in opposite pairs and have five to seven leaflets. The flowers are white and flat topped with five primary rays (Sambucus, wikipedia). The flowers bloom in the summer and then berries form. All green parts of the plant including the leaves are poisonous to humans. The bark and leaves contain cyanide, which is poisonous (Sambucus, wikipedia).

external image Sambucusnigra_SAitken-1_lg.jpg external image Sambucus_nigra0.jpg


FRUIT

The fruit of the European elder are berries. They are first green, then turn to red and eventually to dark purple or black when ripe (Sambucus, wikipedia). The berries are ripe in the late autumn. There are many uses of the fruits of the elderberry. The ripen fruits can be eaten when fully cooked and are slightly poisonous when unripe or raw. The berries form dropping clusters in the late autumn. These fruits are an important fruit for certain birds, such as Blackcaps (Sambucus, FineGardening.com).
external image Sambucus_nigra2.jpg external image 400_F_1399590_fg3ZEXCzWByrWJcHisXydw6lYMep7m.jpg
(Brzostowska, Maria, np)

SCIENTIFIC CLASSIFICATION
Scientific classification
Kingdom:
Plantae
(unranked):
Angiosperms
(unranked):
Eudicots
(unranked):
Asterids
Order:
Dipsacales
Family:
Adoxaceae
Genus:
Sambucus
Species:
S. nigra
Binomial name
Sambucus nigra

The chart above was found on wikipedia from the European elder page. The chart explains all of the classifications of the edler plant. From knowing the family name, other species can be found that are similar in size, shape, colors or chemical properties.
There are several subspecies of the European elder that are found in Asia and North America. The Mexican elder, which was once a subspecies, is now separated and treated as two different subspecies.

FAMILY
Adoxaceae is a small family of flowering plants consiting of four genera and about 150-200 species (Adoxaceae, wikipedia). The characteristics of the Adoxaceae family are opposite toothed leaves, small five petalled flowers, and fruit that are drupes (Adoxaceae, wikipedia). Earlier, this entire family was under the Caprificoliaceae family, which is the honeysuckle family. The first genus to come from this family are Sambucus and Viburum. The other two genera are Adoxa and Sinadoxa. Adoxa are small periennal herbacious plants. The Sambucus and Viburum genus are mostly shrubs (Adoxaceae, wikipedia).
external image 393px-Adoxa_moschatellina01.jpg
This picture is of a Adoxa Moschatelina (Adoxaceae, wikipedia). It is slightly different compared to Sambucus and Viburum genera.
Plants from the Sambucus family are, of course, one of much used supplements in herbal medicine. Sambucus nigra, the European elder, specifically is used most often for medicinal purposes (Adoxaceae, wikipedia).


GEOGRAPHICS
European elder, like the name says, is found most commonly in Europe. It is native to Europe, Northern Africa, and Western and Central Asia (Sambucus, Wikipedia). The berries have a long tradition in European herbal medicines for centuries. American Elder is a subspecies of the European Elder. It can be found all across North America and has some of the same qualities as European elder has.


USES OF ELDER
There are a plethra of uses for the European elder plant. For many centuries in Europe, Europeans have been and continue to use elderberries as herbal medicines. All parts of the plant could be used as medicnal products with no harmful effects if correctly used.
The stem bark, leaves, flowers, fruits, roots extract can be used to help treat bronchitis, coughs, upper respiratory cold infections and fevers (Sambucus, wikipedia). Even though the herb will not fully cure and stop the illness, it will help the patient recover more quickly than no herbs used. In a small study, this reasoning was confirmed when patients who received elderberry syrup had reduced signs of flu-like symptoms than other patients who did not take the elderberry syrup (UMMC 2011).
Specifically Ukrainian and Russian drugstores sell elderberry flowers to help relieve chest congestion. The flowers are boiled for fifteen minutes and then drunk as tea for the desired effect (European Elder).
From a chemical standpoint, elderberries and flowers increases "hemagglutination inhibition titers to influenza B in the sera of flu patients" (American Botanical Council, 2004).
Even though some people truly believe that elderberries and its flowers are able to cure certain illnesses, there is not enough evidence to support this claim. There is no reliable information that confirms the use of elderberries and its flowers (UMMC 2011).

SIDE-EFFECTS
As said before uncooked or unripe elderberries are toxic and cause nausea, vomiting, or severe diarrhea (American Botanical Council, 2004). Like most medications, elderberry should not be taken by pregnant or lactating women, as there may be a chance of adverse and unknown side effects to the baby and mother (American Botanical Council, 2004). The bark, leaves and stems are all poisonous and contain cyanide(Sambucus nigra, Wikipedia). Taking elderberry with diabetic medication may lower your blood sugar (UMMC 2011). Also, taking elderberry while using diuretic medications, which get rid of excess water from the body, may cause you to become dehydrated, since elderberry is also a diuretic (UMMC 2011). Elderberry should not be taken while a patient is undergoing chemotherapy, since there is a chance that the elderberry would interact with the chemotherapy (UMMC, 2011).


VIDEO EXPLAINING ELDERBERRIES


(Deane, 2008)


Works Cited
Adoxaceae. Wikipedia, 2011. Web. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adoxaceae. 11 Jan 2012.

American Botanical Council. The ABC Clinical Guide to Elderberry. Herbaigram, 2004. Journal.

Brzostowska, Maria. Cluster of elderberries on an elderbush. np. digital file. http://eu.fotolia.com/id/1399590

Deane, Green. Eattheweeds: Episode 29: Elderberries. 2008 Digital File. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WXFVfQMfZ8w.

Elderberry. University of Maryland Medical Center, 2011. http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/elderberry-002880.htm. 11 Jan 2012.

European Elder. National Center for Complementary And Alternative medicine. 2010. http://nccam.nih.gov/health/euroelder/. 11 Jan 2012.

Sambucus nigra. Wikipedia, 2011. Web. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sambucus_nigra#cite_note-0. 11 Jan 2012.

Sambucus nigra. Fine Gardening. tauten Press, 2012. Web. http://www.finegardening.com/plantguide/sambucus-niger-black-elder.aspx. 11 Jan 2012.