• Home
  • /
  • Blog
  • /
  • Which Elderberry Bush is Best For Medicinal Uses?

Which Elderberry Bush is Best For Medicinal Uses?

Michael Gonzales
December 11, 2023

Although elderberries have received most of the research focus, other cultivars such as Sambucus canadensis and Sambucus cerulea shrubs are gaining in popularity with homesteaders for their immune-enhancing benefits. But which cultivar should be chosen as medicine?

Many growers recommend the ‘Johns’ variety, which produces large clusters and thrives in zones four to eight. Another compact option, York offers late August harvest.

1. Adams

Elderberries (Sambucus nigra) tend to get most of the scientific attention, but many other native species such as Sambucus canadensis and Sambucus cerulea also possess medicinal qualities (1). When growing elderberries for medicinal use, however, cultivars with desired characteristics should be preferred over random seedlings as you could end up with plants in your garden for decades (or more!). Cultivars will thrive better within your growing zone while providing you with size and yield that suits your preferences (2).

As medicinal elderberry cultivars go, Adams, Johns, Nova and York are some of the top choices. Each offers compact options with large yields in zones 4-8 (3).

Elderberry syrups and lozenges have been reported to shorten the duration of flu symptoms and reduce cold symptoms for air travelers, as well as reduce sinus, nerve, joint, fevers, nausea, as well as reduce sinus, nerve, joint, fevers and nausea (4). Other purported elderberry benefits include relieving allergies, improving blood circulation, alleviating rheumatism symptoms and relieving coughs (5). Elderberries’ leaves, flowers and berries are used medicinally while their fruit can be made into jellies jams pies juice or wine production (5).

Notably, elderberry products must be cooked before being consumed, due to high levels of cyanic glucosides present in raw berries (6). Furthermore, those on immune suppressant medication should avoid elderberry products, since unripe fruits contain toxic levels of cyanogen glycosides (cyanotoxins). (1)

2. Johns

Sambucus canadensis and its cultivars, such as Johns, produce delicious berries that make an ideal ingredient in jellies, pies, juices, wines, cordials, syrups and medicinal preparations. Their flowers and foliage add beauty to landscapes. Furthermore, these perennial plants attract birds as food source as well as being popular perennial perennial garden plants for songbirds, turkeys and quails alike.

Elderberry bushes are hardy in USDA zones 3 through 9, tolerate wet locations, and once established are drought tolerant once established. Their vigorous growth makes them excellent border plants; after two years the plants begin producing fruit. It is easy to start from seed but will need care during their first year; elderberries do not like competition from weeds and benefit from mulches which help retain soil moisture levels for maximum soil moisture management; additionally they prefer full sun over partial shade locations as well as consistent watering to stay alive and well.

Elderberries have long been used for various medicinal purposes. Elderberry extract may help reduce flu symptoms and colds, reduce sinus congestion, lessen arthritis or muscle soreness pain relief, act as diuretics, and dilute urine effectively. Furthermore, elderberries contain high concentrations of Vitamin C with strong antioxidant properties.

Elder bushes contain edible berries, but all other parts are toxic to both humans and livestock when consumed in large quantities. Their branches, twigs, leaves, roots and unripe berries contain cyanogenic glycosides which are toxic if consumed raw; cooking removes this risk; however it’s best to consult your physician prior to using any herbal remedies, particularly if taking medications yourself or expecting mother. Elderberries should also be avoided while pregnant/lactating or nursing or having respiratory problems;

3. Nova

Nova’s late summer harvest includes delicious dark purple-black berries that can be used in jams, jellies, syrups and wines. Packed full of antioxidants, vitamins and other beneficial compounds, Nova is an easy care plant ideal for woodland gardens, mixed borders and hedgerows while drawing both birds and butterflies alike to its fruitful branches.

This cultivar of American elderberry can produce great yields when planted alongside another variety for cross pollination, producing more consistent fruit with each season. It boasts a hardy, multi-stemmed, upright growth habit which reaches 6 feet tall at maturity – ideal for cool climate areas but not drought resistant like other cultivars.

American elderberries are easy to care for perennial plants that adapt well to various growing conditions, from full sun exposure to moist soil conditions. A regular application of organic mulch will help retain soil moisture levels and improve plant health, while proper management techniques may prevent insects and diseases from taking hold.

Elderberry bushes make wonderful additions to any landscape, not only as versatile culinary and medicinal plants but also with their decorative qualities. Elderberries can easily be identified by their large clusters of white flowers with distinctive black berries on each.

North American native shrubs have long been utilized by prehistoric humans for natural remedies and medicinal uses, namely their use as natural remedies and immune system boosters. Blueberries in particular are known to possess both anti-inflammatory and antiviral properties as well as being an excellent immune system booster; all attributes which make the berry an invaluable addition to any diet; try including it in salads, baked goods or homemade syrups, tinctures or medicines or simply leaving it out for bluebirds to snack upon them in your garden!

4. York

Elder berries may not be common on homesteads, but they can be invaluable medicinally. To make sure you’re planting the correct kind of elder (Sambucus nigra or Sambucus canadensis) for your location; generally speaking, American elders tend to perform better.

Ideal, you should plant both American and European elders on your homestead, or at least keep the two types close by each other. Both cultivars work well together and help each other produce larger berries; having both cultivars nearby also ensures you always have fresh elderberries available for medicinal or other uses.

Many varieties of American elder can be purchased at nurseries. Popular varieties are ‘Johns, Nova and York. Each variety produces large quantities of fruit while offering other attractive features; compare their descriptions carefully to identify which qualities matter most for you, such as flower heads or fruit sweetness.

Other American elderberry cultivars to consider are Ranch and Bob Gordon, as both were highly recommended by growers I spoke to for their adaptability and resilience as well as exceptional yields. Ranch is especially recommended because of its compact stature at 5 to 6 feet, bearing fruit earlier than most cultivars – perfect for medicinal harvesting needs! Bob Gordon produces sweeter berries than most varieties and both cultivars are hardy in zones 3-8.

5. Samyl

Denmark has introduced several cultivars that reach 6-8 feet tall and make excellent choices for gardens or commercial cultivation. Their large late summer berries contain high levels of anthocyanin pigmentation, making them ideal for jams, jellies and juices as well as medicinal use. Plant two different varieties to ensure pollination efficiency.

Sambucus nigra plants (commonly referred to as black elderberry and European elderberry) produce berries with high anthocyanin levels that contain anti-inflammatory compounds, making it an effective immune-enhancing herb. Unfortunately, raw berries contain cyanide-inducing glycosides which may cause skin rashes, vomiting and diarrhea when consumed raw; cooking reduces this toxicity making the fruit safer to consume in larger quantities.

Black Lace’ is a deciduous elderberry suitable for partial to full sun locations that produces soft pink flower clusters in spring, followed by dark-red berries in fall. The finely cut dark green foliage has an exquisite appearance. Instant Karma’ is another hybrid variety featuring variegated leaves; both varieties can withstand temperatures from zones 4-7.

No matter which variety you select, always plant them in well-draining soil in full sun to partial shade for best results. Elderberries require cross-pollination in order to produce fruit; plant near other species for the best results. If harvesting for medicinal use is part of your plan, make sure your plants aren’t being raided by birds; bird netting could prove useful especially during late summer and early autumn when their fruit may be at its most vulnerable.


  • Michael Gonzales

    Michael has a diverse set of skills and passions, with a full-time career as an airline pilot and a dedicated focus on health and fitness consulting. He understands the importance of balancing a busy lifestyle with maintaining a healthy mind and body, and is committed to helping others achieve the same success. Michael's expertise in health and fitness is not just limited to physical training, but also extends to nutrition, stress management, and overall wellbeing. He takes a holistic approach to health and fitness, helping clients to achieve their goals in a sustainable and fulfilling way. With a strong desire to inspire and motivate others, Michael is always ready to share his time and knowledge with those who seek his guidance. Whether in the air or on the ground, Michael is dedicated to helping others live their best lives.

    https://www.linkedin.com/in/michael-gonzales-07bb4b31/ [email protected] Gonzales Michael


You may also like

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}