Sambuci Flores, B.P. Elder Flowers. Sambuci Folia. Elder Leaves.


Elder flowers are obtained from the common elder, Sambucus nigra, Linn. (N.O. Caprifoliaceae). The flowers are borne in large cymose inflorescences, which are collected and thrown into heaps; after a few hours the corollas become loosened and can then be removed by sifting. They are either used in the fresh state, or preserved for future use (pickled) by the addition of 10 per cent. of common salt; occasionally also they are dried. The "flowers" consist of the small, white, rotate, five-lobed monopetalous corollas, in the short tube of which five stamens with short filaments and yellow anthers are inserted; a few pedicels and immature fruits are also present. When fresh, the flowers have a slightly bitter taste and an odour that is scarcely pleasant; the pickled flowers, however, gradually acquire an agreeable fragrance, and are therefore generally used for the preparation of elder-flower water; a similar change also takes place in the water distilled from the fresh flowers. The flowers of S. Ebulus, Linn., a comparatively rare plant, are distinguished by their dark red anthers.

Constituents.—The most important constituent of elder flowers is a trace of volatile oil, which is of buttery consistence at ordinary temperatures and appears to contain a terpene and a paraffin.

Action and Uses.—Elder flowers are used in the preparation of Aqua Sambuci, which is employed in making lotions and collyria.


Elder flowers, fresh, 100; water, 500. Add the flowers to the water, and distil 100. If fresh elder flowers are not obtainable, an equivalent quantity of the flowers preserved with common salt may be used. Elder-flower water is mildly astringent and is used as a vehicle for eye and skin lotions. The product gradually acquires an agreeably aromatic odour, and it is preferable not to use it until this change has taken place,
Unguentum Sambuci, P.L., 1851.—ELDER OINTMENT.
Elder flowers, fresh, 100; lard, 100. Heat the elder flowers with the lard until they become crisp, then strain through a linen cloth with pressure, and allow to cool. Elder-flower ointment is used as a basis for pomades and cosmetic ointments.


Elder leaves are obtained from the common elder, Sambucus nigra, Linn. (N.O. Caprifoliaceae), a small tree widely distributed in Britain. The leaves are imparipinnate, with usually two or three pairs of very shortly stalked leaflets; the latter are from 3 to 8 centimetres long, oval to lanceolate in outline, acuminate, finely and closely serrate and glabrous; upper surface dark green, paler beneath.

Constituents.—The leaves and bark of Sambucus nigra contain an alkaloid, sambucine, a purgative resin, and the cyanogenetic glucoside, sambunigrin, which is the glucoside of l-phenylglycollic (mandelic) acid (compare Laurocerasi Folia). Sambunigrin crystallises in white felted needles, and is readily hydrolysed by emulsin, which is also present in the leaves, with production of hydrocyanic acid, benzaldehyde, and glucose; by the action of small quantities of barium hydroxide it is readily converted into prulaurasin. Fresh elder leaves yield about 0.16 per cent. of hydrocyanic acid. They also contain cane sugar, invertin, and a considerable quantity of potassium nitrate.

Action and Uses.—Elder leaves are used in the preparation of Unguentum Sambuci Viride, a domestic remedy for bruises, for use as an emollient, and for application to wounds.


Unguentum Sambuci Viride, PhD., 1826.—GREEN ELDER OINTMENT.
Elder leaves, fresh, 3; lard, 4; prepared suet, 2. Heat the elder leaves with the melted lard and suet until the colour is extracted, then strain through a linen cloth with pressure, and allow to cool. Green elder ointment is a domestic remedy for sprains, bruises, chilblains, etc., and is used as an emollient cooling ointment.

The British Pharmaceutical Codex, 1911, was published by direction of the Council of the Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain.