Herb: Mexican Elder


Latin name: Sambucus mexicana


Synonyms: Sambucus caerulea mexicana, Sambucus coriacea, Sambucus orbiculata


Family: Caprifoliaceae (Honeysuckle Family)



Medicinal use of Mexican Elder:

An infusion of the blossoms has been used in the treatment of upset stomachs, fevers, sore throats, colds and flu. A decoction of the roots has been used in the treatment of constipation.

Description of the plant:



Plant:
Deciduous
Shrub

Height:
100 cm
(3 1/4 foot)

Flovering:
May to
June

Habitat of the herb:

Open flats and cismontane valleys and canyons below 1850 metres in California. Oak forests along streams and ditches, 1800 - 3000 metres in Mexico.

Edible parts of Mexican Elder:

Flowers - raw or cooked. Fruit - raw or cooked. It is usually dried before being used since this reduces a somewhat rank taste. The fruit can be used in making pies, preserves, winemaking etc. The fruit is about 6mm in diameter and is borne in large clusters. Some caution is advised, see the notes above on toxicity.

Other uses of the herb:

A purple to black dye is obtained from the fruits. An orange to yellow dye is obtained from the stems. Wood - soft and coarse-grained.

Propagation of Mexican Elder:

Seed - best sown as soon as it is ripe in the autumn in a cold frame, when it should germinate in early spring. Stored seed can be sown in the spring in a cold frame but will probably germinate better if it is given 2 months warm followed by 2 months cold stratification first. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle. If good growth is made, the young plants can be placed in their permanent positions during the early summer. Otherwise, either put them in a sheltered nursery bed, or keep them in their pots in a sheltered position and plant them out in spring of the following year. Cuttings of half-ripe wood, 7 - 10cm with a heel, July/August in a frame. Cuttings of mature wood of the current season's growth 15 - 20cm with a heel, late autumn in a frame or a sheltered outdoor bed.

Cultivation of the herb:

Open flats and cismontane valleys and canyons below 1850 metres in California. Oak forests along streams and ditches, 1800 - 3000 metres in Mexico.

Known hazards of Sambucus mexicana:

Although no specific mention has been seen for this species, the leaves and stems of some, if not all, members of this genus are poisonous. The fruit of many species (although no records have been seen for this species) has been known to cause stomach upsets to some people. Any toxin the fruit might contain is liable to be of very low toxicity and is destroyed when the fruit is cooked.

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.