Use of Elderberry in Aromatherapy

Use of Elderberry in Aromatherapy

An article about the use of elderberry in aromatherapy. Written by professional aromatherapist and author Sharon Falsetto.

Elder (Sambucus nigra) is a popular herb used by herbalists. But what about its use in aromatherapy? You might be surprised to learn that elderberry has several uses in aromatherapy. Both the flowers and berries of elder (Sambucus nigra) can be used medicinally. Let’s tale a look at the following chart to help breakdown specific use of the berries and flowers:

Elderberry Elder Flowers
Syrup Infused Oil
Tea Infusion Tea Infusion
Juice Hydrosol
Wine Salve
Poultice Poultice (with leaves) and Compress
Jam Tincture
Honey Honey

Therapeutic Properties of Elderberry in Aromatherapy

Although the berries of elder are often associated with treating coughs, colds, and other ailments, elder flowers are just as important for therapeutic use. Chevallier writes that elderberries “have an established antiviral activity” to treat colds and flu. The flowers are used to stimulate sweating and to break a fever by cooling down the body.1 Elder tea is often the best way to treat such conditions.

Elder flowers can also be used for congestion, allergies and arthritis. Elderberries are believed to be a strong immune support due to their high content of vitamin C.

Tierra writes that elder flowers are a good remedy for treating skin issues such as burns, rashes, and even wrinkles.2 The flowers should be used in a salve for this purpose.

Green, in his book The Herbal Medicine-maker’s Handbook,3 states that elder leaves are emollient and vulnerary. A cold infusion of the flowers produces diuretic and cooling effects whereas a warm infusion of the flowers can be gently stimulating and diaphoretic. He also writes that elderberries are aperient (relieve constipation) in addition to the other usual stated therapeutic properties.

Hutchens, in A Handbook of American Herbs,4 writes that Sambucus canadensis can be called “the herbalist’s cosmetic tree, as every part will aid in complexion beauty, removing spots, allaying irritation, removing freckles, and preserving and softening the skin if applied faithfully, internally and externally.” She recommends using a poultice made of any part of the elder tree (leaves, flowers, berries, bark, even roots) for swollen skin and burns. A tincture of elder flowers or leaves can also be made to treat asthma.

I personally like infusing elderberry in honey for skincare products such scrubs, infusing it in oils, and using elderflower hydrosol as a face toner. There are many ways to use elderberry in aromatherapy, in addition to its herbal uses, and the use of elderflowers.

The Difference between European Elderberry and American Elderberry

European elderberry (Sambucus nigra L.) is the traditional (black) elderberry mentioned in most ancient herbaria for its medicinal uses. The American (black) elderberry (Sambucus canadensis) is a close relative of its European cousin, native to North America, parts of Mexico and further south. Some references may list Sambucus canadensis as a subspecies of Sambucus nigra, i.e. Sambucus nigra subsp. Canadensis, but The Plant List references it as a separate species.5

Either way, the two are very similar in appearance and uses. In addition, there are other species of elderberry including blue elderberry (Sambucus cerulea) and red elderberry (Sambucus racemosa) which also may be listed as a subspecies.



You may experience nausea, diarrhea, and/or vomiting if you eat any part of elderberry (Sambucus nigra) raw. Only the berries, when fully ripe and purple-black in color, and the flowers are safely edible.

Continue Reading in Sedona Aromatics Botanical Aromatherapy™ Membership School

Information in this article is an excerpt of the full article, Elder (Sambucus nigra) in Aromatherapy, which is available for full viewing in the Sedona Aromatics Botanical Aromatherapy™ Membership School. Learn more about elder including its growing profile, aroma and chemistry profile, historical use, therapeutic use, and more!

Do you want to learn how to make Elderberry-infused Honey Sugar Scrub, elderflower infused salve and toner? Check out our recipes in the Sedona Aromatics Botanical Aromatherapy™ Membership School! 


  1. Chevallier, Andrew, 2016, Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine (3rd Edition), US: DK Publishing, p.132.
  2. Tierra Michael, L.Ac., O.M.D., 1998, The Way of Herbs, New York: Pocket Books, p. 133.
  3. Green James, Herbalist, 2000, The Herbal Medicine-maker’s Handbook, New York: Crossing Press, p. 32.
  4. Hutchens, Alma R., 1992, A Handbook of Native American Herbs, Boston: Shambhala Publications, Inc., p. 85.
  5. The Plant List website, Sambucus, accessed from:

About the Author:

The author of this article has been working in the health care industry since the 1990’s and in the aromatherapy industry since the 2000’s. She is UK-certified aromatherapist and a NAHA Certified Professional Aromatherapist®. She is both a published author and editor in aromatherapy, a consultant, custom blend formulator and herbal studies and natural perfumery student. She is the author of Authentic Aromatherapy and the current chief editor of the NAHA Aromatherapy Journal. Sharon works from her garden studio in Sedona, Arizona, where she gardens and distills plants from her own aromatic gardens, surrounded by natural fauna and flora on an original pioneer, semi off-grid, homestead property.

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