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Black elderberry – the “tree of life”

The elder is one of the most common shrubs in Central Europe. It is also found in the rest of Europe, in India, North Africa, Western Siberia and Asia Minor. In the Alps, it can be found at altitudes as high as 1500 metres. When taken in tea or syrup form, elderberry is regarded as a household remedy for colds and flus and to support the circulatory system. These ascribed benefits are due above all to the high vitamin C content of elderberries. They are also rich in vitamin B, fruit acids and essential oils. Black elderberries are used in natural cosmetics, and elderflower extract is used for its reputed skin-calming effect.

About black elderberry

  • INCI name (International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients name): Sambucus Nigra Fruit Extract
  • Natural (black elderberry)
  • Uses: Lip care, creams, cleansing foam, body lotions
  • Special properties of black elderberry: Skin-calming, cell-activating and cell-regenerating, softens and smoothens the skin

Elderberry beliefs and folk tales

For centuries, the elder tree has not just been associated with beneficial effects for the human body, but it has also been the subject of many folk myths and tales. For example, the ancient Germanic peoples believed that the protector goddess Holda lived in the shrub and was able to protect local people against black magic. The elder was also reputed to provide protection against thunder and lightning. For this reason, many people planted the tree on their property or against the wall of their house. An elder planted in a domestic garden was regarded as the “tree of life”. All of these protective properties culminated in the old German saying: “You have to take your hat off to the elder!”.

Other uses of elder

The elder has not been widely used in the cosmetics industry up to now. Elderflower extract or oil is used in select natural cosmetics. Elderberry was also used in the past as a hair colouring and to dye leather. The juice of the berries was also sometimes used to deepen the colour of red wine. Today, elderberry is used as a natural food colouring (e.g. in sweets) and as a dye in the textile industry.

The statements about properties, effects and effectiveness made here refer exclusively to the plant and its components/products.

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