Elderflower, also known as elderberry or simply elder, is a medicinal tree. The parts used for medicinal purposes are the bark, the berries or fruit, the inner bark, the roots and the leaves. Sambucus canadensis is the scientific name for this tree, which contains a variety of organic chemicals, such as albumin, volatile oils and nutrients such as vitamin C. A variety of health conditions and problems have been successfully treated for thousands of years using the different parts of this tree.
The specific medicinal properties of the elderflower tree depends on the part employed. For example, the bark is an emetic, which refers to the ability to produce vomiting that might be needed in the natural cleansing process of the body. The flowers have diaphoretic properties, which refers to the ability to produce perspiration, and they can be a stimulant and a diuretic. An infusion can be made from the flowers for twitching eyelids or inflammation of the eyes, and it is considered an effective tonic and purifier of the blood. The flowers also are used in the treatment of kidney ailments and diseases because of their diuretic properties.
Cholera, diarrhea and flu-like symptoms are among other health problems that are treated with elderflower infusion, which is another term for tea. If flu symptoms are present, it is recommended to combine peppermint with elder for the best results. Any part of the elder tree can be used to prepare an ointment that is used to treat minor burns, scalds and skin diseases.
Medicinal properties are not the only benefits offered by the elderflower tree. The berries of the tree can be cooked and used to make jams and pies, for example. Use of the fresh plant requires great care, however, because poisoning could result. The stems that contain cyanide and should be completely avoided because they are toxic enough to cause death. The herb can be stored for long periods of time if it is kept cool and dry.
Known effects of elderflower that have been officially established include its ability to causes vomiting, act as a diuretic, produce perspiration and stimulate the gastrointestinal tract to act as a purgative. Benefits of the herb that are not scientifically recognized include treatment of headaches, arthritis, gout, the common cold, sore throat and fevers. Infants, children younger than 2, adults older than 55, pregnant women and lactating women should not be treated internally with elderflower herb because the risks usually outweigh the benefits.