Sambucus Canadensis. Elder.
Description: Natural Order, Caprifoliaceae. This is the rank shrub so troublesome to farmers in many sections of the country, growing in moist and rich clays. Stem five to seven feet, with a large pithy center. Leaves of seven to eleven pinnate leaflets, which are oblong-oval, acute, and serrate. Flowers numerous, small, white, lightly fragrant, in very large, compact, and compound cymes; calyx and corolla five-parted. Fruit a round, smooth, juicy, deeply purplish-black berry. Flowering in June, and ripening the berries in September.
Properties and Uses: The flowers contain a small quantity of volatile oil, which may be obtained by distillation, and becomes as stiff as butter on cooling. Their aroma, when fresh, is strong and rather pleasant; but becomes feeble by age. An ounce to a quart of water makes an infusion that is diffusibly relaxant and mildly diaphoretic, gently nervine, and useful in measles, recent colds, and as a soothing diuretic. It .is used in erysipelas; and the leaves are also reputed an alterant, but are of little service as such. They make a useful fomentation and soothing poultice.
The berries are sweetish, and by many are used as food. Their medicinal action is that of a mild laxative and secernent. Some physicians value them in eruptive and gouty maladies; and Dr. W. T. Craig, of Illinois, used to value them above blackberries when prepared as a cordial with the spices. They make a light and very pleasant wine, but lack sufficient saccharine material to yield a preservative quantity of alcohol; whence it is necessary to add two pounds of brown sugar to each gallon of the expressed juice, and treat in the general manner directed for wines. It is slightly laxative, and deserves preference over the greater portion of poisoned wines brought from abroad.
The inner bark, when fresh, is a strong hydragogue cathartic and emetic, reputed powerful in dropsy, but not worthy of use. When dried, it is much less active, and acts upon the bowels and the secretions in general as a relaxing and stimulating alterant. Though at one time in much repute in dropsy, syphilis, and herpetic skin diseases, it is now seldom employed. A pound of this bark slowly digested with a pound of warm lard and four ounces of spermaceti, makes a green ointment that deserves the good opinion of the profession in burns, scalds, ringworm, and similar cases.
The Physiomedical Dispensatory, 1869, was written by William Cook, M.D.
It was scanned by Paul Bergner at http://medherb.com