Sambucus nigra


Elderflower – the flower of the Eldertree has been documented in medical handbooks and scientific literature dating back to the time of the Ancient Greeks. Elderflower is of value as both a flavouring agent in food and as a treatment for the common cold. In manufacturing, elderflower extracts are used in perfumes.

Parts used

An extract of the flower is used to make medicine.


Elderflower contains flavonoids, triterpenes, volatile oils, caffeic acid derivatives and sterols. The main components are quercetin, rutin, isoquercitrin, kaempferol, astragalin, nicotiflorin and hyperoside.

Medicinal uses

Elderflower is prescribed to:

  • Soothe the symptoms of allergies, such as swollen sinuses and rhinitis.
  • Ease symptoms of colds, flu and bronchitis, such as congestion, fever, inflammation, headaches and swollen glands.
  • Act as a diuretic, easing bloating caused by fluid retention.


Talk to your medical practitioner before taking any herbal supplements.
Elderflower appears to be safe for most people when used in small amounts as part of a combination product. Little information exists to show whether it is safe when used in medicinal amounts on its own. Some products containing elderflower can upset the digestive system. The side-effects of elderflower on pregnant or breast-feeding women is unknown. Always consult your healthcare provider before embarking on a course of natural remedies. Elderflower may lower blood sugar levels and if taken with diabetes medications may cause blood sugar to fall too low.

Flora Force Products containing Elderflower

Domestic & culinary uses

Edlderflower cordial
Elderflowers are used to flavour numerous dishes and beverages, and is a popular wine in Europe. Elderflower cordial is an easy-to-make, deliciously cooling summer drink.


Elderflower Cordial

Ingredients (serves 4):
1 kg sugar
1.5 litres boiling water
4 medium lemons, washed
30 large elderflower heads, shaken to remove any insects
55g citric acid (available from your pharmacy and many supermarkets)


  1. Place the sugar and boiling water into a large saucepan. Stir until all the sugar has dissolved. Leave to cool.
  2. Grate the rind of the lemons with a fine grater and add to the sugar water. Slice the lemons thickly and add to the mixture.
  3. Add the citric acid and stir, then add the flower heads. Stir well to mix.
  4. Cover the saucepan with a clean cloth and leave to steep in a cool place for 48 hours.
  5. Strain the mixture into a clean bowl through clean fine muslin cloth. Using a funnel, pour the cordial into sterilised bottles.
  6. Seal and store in a cool, dark place (not the refrigerator) for a few weeks.
  7. Dilute with still or sparkling water to serve. The cordial can also be used to flavour cocktails, as well as ice creams and other sweet dishes.


The elder is a deciduous, tall-growing tree that bears aromatic flowers in early summer. The species grows well in summer-rainfall areas where winters are cold. It will grow in other areas, provided it is kept well watered in summer. It is not suited to the humid areas of KwaZulu-Natal.

Photo credits

  1. By Karduelis (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
  2. By Jim Champion from Southampton, UK (Elderflower cordial) [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Information in our herb library is intended only as a general reference for further exploration. It is not a replacement for professional health advice and does not provide complete dosage information, format recommendations, toxicity levels, or possible interactions with prescription medicines. Accordingly, this information should only be used under the direct supervision of a suitably qualified health practitioner such as a registered homeopath, naturopath or phytotherapist.