Sambuco nigra is a plant with very ancient origins; traces of elderberries have in fact even been found in Neolithic settlements.
It is a deciduous shrub belonging to the Caprifoliaceae family, which grows spontaneously in wild areas such as clearings, woods, walls and vineyard margins, easily reaching a height of up to 10 meters.
The consistency of the trunk and branches of this plant is very characteristic: in fact it has a central pith of white color, soft and elastic, which makes it very convenient and practical to work to create small handicrafts or precious musical instruments .
The most used part, both in the kitchen and in the phytotherapeutic and herbalistic field, are the flowers : small, creamy white, very fragrant and star-shaped, they are gathered in umbrella-shaped inflorescences, which can reach up to 20 cm in height. diameter.
The fruits of the elderberry, on the other hand, are very small berries, dark purple in color once they have reached maturity in August, which remain on the tree until late October.
Active components and properties of the elderberry
In folk medicine, elderberry was considered a real panacea.
In fact, elder flowers contain flavonoids , tannins and triterpenes which determine their diaphoretic , diuretic , anti- inflammatory and bronchial secretion properties. Their consumption is therefore often recommended in the herbalist tradition for the treatment of colds, usually in the form of herbal tea.
Thanks to the active ingredients contained, the flowers also exert an astringent and soothing action on the skin and can be used on boils, irritations and burns : it is sufficient to boil them and then apply the poultice on the skin in sterile gauze tablets.
Raw ripe fruits are strongly laxative and purifying : they contain high amounts of vitamin A , vitamin C , beta-carotene , vitamins B1, B2 and B6 and some organic acids . Given the strong laxative power, however, it is strongly recommended to consume the berries after cooking; in this way, in fact, this effect is attenuated.
A study from a few years ago (1) also highlighted a very interesting effect of this plant. The experiments carried out on a berry extract by the Justus Liebig University in Giessen, Germany, have shown how some pathogenic microorganisms can be effectively combated with elderberry. It can therefore be considered a sort of natural antibiotic capable of blocking the growth of bacteria up to 70%. In particular, its action was highlighted against Streptococcus pyogenes and Catarrhalis Branhamella, responsible for various respiratory tract infections.
- Relieves flu and cold symptoms:
The presence of mucilage in the flowers seems to have soothing effects on the nasal sinuses and irritated mucous membranes , while the berries are credited with favoring bronchial secretions, making elderberry-based preparations (such as syrup for example) useful for soothing an irritated throat . and nasal congestion .
- Strengthens the immune system
Bioflavonoids, present in flowers and berries,strengthen the immune system by increasing the levels of antioxidants; Elderberry extract in particular significantly increases the synthesis of inflammatory cytokines, protein molecules capable of stimulating the immune system.
- Increase diuresis and regulate pressure
The elder, thanks to the presence of quercetin , is able to increase the excretion of sodium with the urine, stimulating diuresis and thus lowering blood pressure.
A bit of history
It is a very ancient plant, already known to prehistoric peoples who used the berries to prepare fermented drinks or dyes for fabrics , as evidenced by some findings in Neolithic settlements in Italy and Switzerland. In ancient times, some Germanic peoples crushed elderberries to make a dye used to paint the body during hunting trips and wars .
Sambuco: between folklore and legend
In Germany it was also called " the Holda tree ".
Holda was a fairy of medieval Germanic folklore , with long golden hair, who lived in elder trees located near lakes and streams. Beliefs greatly exalted its beneficial virtues, so much so that until the beginning of the 1900s , German peasants, when they encountered an elderberry plant along their path, would take off their hats as a sign of respect.
His talents were so well known that the famous magic flute of Germanic legends was actually nothing more than an elderberry twig adapted to a musical instrument.
Probably it is precisely on the basis of ancient folk traditions like these that for the creation of the most famous wand of the Harry Potter literary saga, the focus was on elderberry, as in many areas once populated by Celts it was believed that this tree had the ability to protect from the forces of evil. The druids themselves respected this plant by attributing this property to it and before cutting off a branch to create their wand they made offerings to ask for permission.
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