Elderflowers (the flowers of elder tree, Sambucus nigra) have been traditionally used for treating cough, asthma, and all sorts of respiratory disorders, as well as for stomach, liver, and gallbladder aches. Their diuretic and laxative properties were also valued and used in cases of water retention and obesity. But what makes elderflowers probably unique is their multifaceted activity of preventing and treating type II diabetes and its clinical complications.
Composition and properties of elderflowers
Elderflowers contain cinnamic acid, beta-amyrin, erythrodiol, sambunigroside, lectin, rutin, lupeol, beta-sitosterol, ethyl, isobutyl and isoamyl amines, mucilages, and vitamin C, all of these substances contributing to their antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, antiallergenic, expectorant, diaphoretic, diuretic, laxative, galactagogue, and antinociceptive properties. They also contain a number of compunds that are responsible for their multifaceted antidiabetic activity: naringenin, alpha-linolenic acid, linoleic acid, 5-O-caffeoylquinic acid, quercetin-3-O-rutinoside, quercetin-3-O-glucoside, quercetin-3-O-5″-acetylglycoside, kaempferol-3-O-rutinoside, isorhamnetin-3-O-rutinoside, isorhamnetin-3-O-glucoside, and oleanoic acid.
Some scientific studies that confirm the antidiabetic activity of elderflowers
The results of a study published in The Journal of Nutrition in 2000 “demonstrate the presence of insulin-releasing and insulin-like activity in the traditional antidiabetic plant, Sambucus nigra.”
A study published in Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry in 2013 demonstrated that “elderflower extracts contain bioactive compounds capable of modulating glucose and lipid metabolism, suitable for nutraceutical and pharmaceutical applications.”
A study published in Phytotherapy Research in 2010 identified three of “the bioactive compounds from flowers of black elder (Sambucus nigra L.) that activate the human peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor (PPAR) gamma.” Through the activation of PPARgamma, these three compounds (naringenin, alpha-linolenic acid, and linoleic acid) can stimulate insulin-dependent glucose uptake, a fact which makes them useful for “the prevention and/or treatment of insulin resistance.”
The results of a study published in Chemico-biological Interactions in 2010 suggested that oleanoic acid “ameliorates visceral adiposity and improves glucose tolerance in mice and thus has an antiobese potential through modulation of carbohydrate and fat metabolism.”
Other medicinal uses of elderflowers
- Earache, sore eyes
- Common cold, flu
- Cough, asthma, sinusitis, laryngitis, bronchitis
- Water retention
- Kidney and bladder disorders
- Arthritis, rheumatism
- Constipation, stomach, liver, and gallbladder aches
- Boils, burns, phlyctenes
Preparation and administration
- Infusion: Add 1-2 teaspoons of dried plant in a cup of hot boiled water and let steep for 10-15 minutes. Drink warm, 3 cups a day. For external use, double the quantity of flowers and add the infusion into your bath or use it to make poultices.
Do not consume fresh or raw flowers, as they contain a cyanide-producing compound which can cause symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.