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European elderberry (Sambucus Nigra L.) and American Elderberry (Sambucus Canadensis L.): Botanical, chemical and health properties of flowers, berries and their products



Export Date: 18 October 2014
European elderberry (Sambucus nigra L.) and American Elderberry
(Sambucus canadensis L.): Botanical, chemical and health properties
of flowers, berries and their products
Valentina Schmitzer, Robert Veberic, Franci Stampar
University of Ljubljana, Biotechnical Faculty, Department of Agronomy, Jamnikarjeva 101,
SI-1000 Ljubljana, Slovenia
Tel.: +386 13203000; fax. +386 14231088.
A full evaluation of elderberry botany, production, orchard establishment and technology
together with chemical composition of flowers, berries and elder products is presented. The
uses of American and European Elderberry are discussed and medical reports on both elder
flowers and berries highlighted. The antioxidant, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and cancer-
chemo preventive properties of elderberry products are reported. Chemical composition of
elderberry consists of primary metabolites (organic acids, sugars), secondary metabolites
(phenols) and several other constituents (vitamins A and C, cytokines). Elder flowers are
distinguished by their intensive, pleasant odor and serve as a basis for industrially produced
soft drinks and extracts. They are a rich source of potential bioactive flavonoids and phenolic
acids; quercetin-3-rutinoside (rutin), quercetin-3-glucoside (isoquercitrin), kaempferol-3-
rutinoside, isorhamnetin-3-rutinoside and isorhamnetin-3-glucoside were identified among
flavonoids and among phenolic acids, derivates of quinic acid containing caffeic or p-
coumaric acid moieties were determined. Flavonol glycosides rutin, kaempferol-3-rutinoside
and isorhamnetin-3-rutinoside are the major flavonoids in elder flowers, present in much
higher concentrations than in elder fruit. Elder flowers exhibit a much stronger neutralizing
activity of free radicals compared to elderberry fruit, which is characterized by high organic
acids levels, particularly citric acid, and the most abundant sugars in berries, fructose and
glucose. These make the ripe berries ideal for processing to juices, candy and concentrates.
Among phenolic compounds in elder berries, anthocyanins, quercetins and other polyphenolic
flavonoids are of great interest due to their health-beneficial properties. Cyanidin-3-glucoside
and cyanidine-3-sambubioside are the prevalent anthocyanins in elder berries, characterizing
their purple color and particularly important for natural pigment industry. Other anthocyanins,
such as cyanidin-3-sambubioside-5-glucoside, cyanidin-3,5-diglucoside and cyanidin-3-
rutinoside are only presented in minor concentrations. In the group of quercetins, quercetin,
rutin and quercetin 3-glucoside were detected; with rutin the predominant one. In elderberry
extracts and wine, a high content of both primary and secondary metabolites has also been
reported. Anthocyanins, as well as other flavonoids, exhibit antioxidant, immune-stimulating,
antibacterial, antialergic and antiviral properties; therefore, their consumption may contribute
to prevention of several degenerative diseases such as cardiovascular disease, cancer,
inflammatory disease and diabetes.
Berries are rich sources of primary and secondary metabolites, the latter particularly important
as they provide a number of beneficial functions for human health such as antioxidant
protection and therapeutic benefits including reduced risk of coronary heart disease, reduced
risk of stroke, anticarcinogenic activity, improved visual acuity, and improved cognitive
behaviour (Prior, 2003; Zafra-Stone et al., 2007; Ozgen et al., 2010). Small fruits containing
anthocyanins and other polyphenols, particularly strawberry, raspberry, blueberry, cranberry,
and currants, have received much attention; however, some species such as elderberry, are
still fairly unknown.
Elderberry flowers and fruit are now predominately used for various processed products and
many species and cultivars with high concentrations of organic acids, anthocyanins and other
phenolics have been bred for commercial growing. Historically, elderberries have been used
medicinally by many indigenous cultures. Native Americans even used the hollow stems and
bark of the American elderberry to make toys and musical instruments. The name Elder, is
probably derived from the Anglo-Saxon word aeld, meaning fire. Old names like Holler,
Hylder, Hyllantree, and the German word Holunder all refer to an ancient vegetation goddess
and elder-tree was even considered sacred. Therefore, elderberry was often planted around
the house and on the farm grounds. Since elders never seemed to get struck by lightning,
having it grow near the house was believed to protect the house as well. However, in
Christianity, the sacred elder tree became a tree of witches and the old stories were soon
distorted. The Church portrayed elder as a tree of sorrow because Judas supposedly hung
himself from one after betraying Jesus. Even the cross upon which Jesus was crucified was
said to have been made of elder wood. According to Christian mythology this was the reason
why elders never since could grow up straight and even to this day barely have the strength to
support themselves.
Elderberry cultivars are now planted for ornamental purposes, elderflower extracts are used
for beverage and food flavouring (Christensen et al., 2007), and elderberry berries are
globally utilised as a medicine or a source of dietary supplement (Dawidowicz et al., 2006;
Lee and Finn, 2007). The purple-black fruits of elderberries (Sambucus spp. L.) are one of the
richest sources of anthocyanic pigments and phenolic compounds among small fruits and
have strong antioxidant capacity (Koca and Karadeniz, 2009; Lee and Finn, 2007; Veberic et
al., 2009). High amounts of anthocyanins, especially cyanidin 3-sambubioside and cyanidin
3-glucoside are important constituents of elderberry fruit and make them ideal for processing
to elderberry juices, extracts and alcoholic beverages such as elderberry wine.
Elderberry (Sambucus) genus was previously classified in the honeysuckle family
(Caprifoliaceae) but due to new genetic research and reclassification (Donoghue, 2003) it now
belongs to moschatel family (Adoxaceae). Plants from this family are mostly woody
perennials and include vines, shrubs, and small trees with orange to black berries. Fruit
characteristics such as number of berries in umbels, the size and colour of berries as well as
branching patterns are found to be particularly important for the classification of individual
species (Jordheim et al., 2006).
The Sambucus genus consists of 5 to 30 species, native mostly to the Northern hemisphere,
although they have become naturalized throughout much of the temperate and subtropical
regions. Because their fruit are highly desirable to birds, elderberry rapidly colonizes moist
and sunny areas along railways, roadways, forest edges, and fence lines (Lee and Finn, 2007).
In most parts of Europe, black or common elder (Sambucus nigra L.), also called black
elderberry, elder, elderberry common elder, elder bush and European elder, is the most
widespread species, whereas in North America American elderberry (Sambucus canadensis
L.), also called common elder, sweet elder, pie elder, elder-blow and blackberry elder, is the
prevailing species. The American and European elderberry are closely related and are
combined as two subspecies of S. nigra (Finn et al., 2008). Other species and varieties
belonging to the Sambucus genus are grouped in five complexes: (1) S. nigra complex
comprising of S. australis, S. canadensis, S. cerulea, S. javanica, S. lanceolata, S. nigra, S.
palmenis, S. peruviana, S. simpsonii and S. valutina; (2) S. melanocarpa as an intermediate
between S. nigra and S. racemosa group; (3) S. racemosa complex comprising of S.
calicarpa, S. chinensis, S. latipinna, S. microbotrys, S. pubens, S. racemosa , S. sieboldiana,
S. tigranii and S. williamsii, (4) S.australasica and S. gaudichaudiana; and (5) S. adnata and
S. ebulus. Lesser known species of the Sambucus genus native to North and South Americas
are S. melanocarpa, S. neomexicana, S. Mexicana, S. velutina and S. coerula (Kearney and
Peebles, 1960). The most widely spread species are S. nigra and S. canadensis.
Sambucus nigra
Sambucus nigra is a European species with an oceanic to sub oceanic, cool-temperate and
west Mediterranean range. The species is common in western and central Europe as well as in
North Africa, Scandinavia and Great Britain. Its naturalized distribution area reaches 63o N
latitude in western Norway (with scattered naturalized shrubs up to at least 68 o N) and
approximately 55° N in Lithuania (Atkinson and Atkinson 2002). The populations in the Atlas
Mountains of Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia have been introduced as well as that on the
Azores. S. nigra is present in the northern and western part of the Iberian peninsula, in Sicily
and mainland Greece but is absent from Crete. It occurs sporadically in western and eastern
Turkey, particularly in the northern coastal strip. The eastern limit of its distribution is
approximately 55° E. In mountainous regions, S. nigra cannot be found in the higher altitudes,
above 1500 m in the Alps, 900 m in the Tatra mountains, 2200 m in Morocco and 1200 m in
Caucasus. Its precise limits as a native shrub are difficult to establish, because in some places
S. nigra populates only areas near houses and roads (Tutin et al., 1976).
S. nigra is associated with moderately to highly eutrophic and disturbed soils, for example in
floodplains, coastal scrub or along forest margins and in forest gaps, or anthropogenically in
hedgerows, abandoned gardens, around farm houses and on post-industrial wasteland.
Sambucus nigra is less frequently found within forests, but it cannot survive under deep shade
(Atkinson and Atkinson 2002). In central Europe S. nigra is not a typical forest plant, because
the most important habitat factors are high light availability and nutrient-rich, neutral to basic
soils. It very easily colonizes both natural and man-made forests or shrublands, and in many
locations the species has an anthropogenic origin (Kollmann and Reiner 1995). In its
introduced range, S. nigra occurs mainly in anthropogenic habitats, e.g. parks and gardens,
near enclosures and countryside houses. In cities it is often found in abandoned places,
unmanaged parks, for example in old, disused dumping-grounds, deserted allotments, forest
margins, near streets and roads.
Sambucus nigra is a shrub or small tree up to 10 m high, with brownish-grey bark and white
pith. Strong erect shoots grow from the base and branches are often arching. Leaves are 20 cm
in length, with 5-7 leaflets. Leaflets are 3-9 cm long, ovate, pointy, serrate, and rarely
pubescent beneath. Typically they are dark green , although ornamental varieties and
selections have been identified that are variegated, lime green and purple and are popular
plants for landscaping (Lee and Finn, 2007). Stipules are absent or very small. Inflorescence
is flat topped, 10-20 cm in diameter, with 5 primary rays. Corolla is approximately 5 mm in
diameter; flowers are hermaphrodite and cream white with cream anthers. Individual fruit is a
3-8 mm black drupe and contains 3-5 seeds (Tutin et al. 1976). Collectively hundreds of fruits
produce very large clusters. Rubbing the leaf produces a strong odor. S. nigra reproduces by
seeds and also vegetative. Most shrubs produce copious amounts of fruit and viable seed
every year. S. nigra usually flowers in its third or fourth year, rarely in its second (Atkinson
and Atkinson 2002). Flowering is generally in June and July and flowers have a strong odor,
which may deter some visitors, but attracts others such as beetles, particularly longhorn
beetles and flies, which pollinate the flowers. Fruits ripen in mid to late summer (August or
September) and birds are considered the main dispersal agents of S. nigra seeds, which either
regurgitate or defecate the seeds after ingesting the fruit (Atkinson and Atkinson 2002).
Sambucus canadensis
Most of the botany, plant morphology and fruit development are very similar between S.
nigra and S. canadensis species, however American elderberry tends to spread more
aggressively by underground rhizomes and is usually multi-trunked. European elderberry, on
the other hand, is a single-trunked or few-trunked large shrub or small tree.
American elderberries (S. canadensis) are erect, stoloniferous, long-lived, perennial shrubs
native to eastern regions of North America. S. canadensis is spread east of the Rocky
Mountains in the United States and Canada. It ranges from Nova Scotia south to Florida and
west to Manitoba and Texas (Foote and Jones 1989). It is commonly found throughout the
mountain, piedmont, and coastal plain regions of the Southeast as it tolerates a wide variety of
climatic conditions, withstanding winter temperatures of -40 degrees C in the northernmost
part of its range to summer temperatures of more than 38 degrees C in the southern portion.
The species occurs in a variety of habitats from low bottomlands to high mountain elevations
(DeGraaf and Witman 1979). American elder is most often found on open or semi-open sites
with fertile, moist soils, such as stream edges, fencerows, old fields, pastures, disturbed sites,
swamps, bogs, and roadsides; however, it also occurs in alluvial forests and upland woods
(Foote and Jones 1989). It is a common species of southern bottomland hardwood forests,
where it grows in seasonally to intermittently flooded forests and in transition zones grading
from wetland to upland sites. S. canadensis thrives in fertile soils but will grow in sandy and
bottomland soils, heavy clays, peats, and muck. It is adapted to a wide variety of soil-moisture
combinations but generally prefers moist, well-drained sites (Vines 1960). American elder
prefers full sun but may occur on sites with partial shade during the day.
American elder is a deciduous flowering shrub that normally grows 2 to 4 m tall, but in
favourable conditions it can reach the height of 9 m (Vines 1960). The plant is stoloniferous
and thicket-forming, with many tightly clustered stems arising from the base (Vines 1960).
The lateral roots form a fibrous, shallow system and upright stems spread vigorously forming
an elliptical to round shape. Main stems are thinly woody, with large white pith. Bark is light
brown, yellowish brown, or grayish brown and dotted with prominent cork-like lenticels
(Foote and Jones 1989). Smaller lateral branches have dark green bark and are nearly
herbaceous, usually dying back in the winter (DeGraff and Witman 1979). Buds are medium-
sized, conical and somewhat depressed (Harlow 1954). The opposite, pinnately compound
leaves have 5 to 11 (usually 7) bright- to medium-green with lanceolate to ovate 10 to 30 cm
long leaflets. The margins are finely toothed, and the lower leaflets are occasionally divided
into 3 segments (Foote and Jones 1989). Leaflets are rounded to wedge-shaped at the base and
tapered to the pointed tips, 6 to 15 cm long and 2.5 to 6 cm wide (Vines 1960). The upper leaf
surface is lustrous and smooth; the lower surface is paler and barely pubescent. Petioles are 3
to 10 cm long and may be naked or pubescent. The showy white flowers and dark purple
fruits, both borne in umbrella-shaped clusters, are outstanding seasonal features of American
elder. The 6 mm, star-shaped flowers are creamy to white and clustered in terminal convex or
flattened cymes 5 to 25 cm in diameter (Vines 1960; Foote and Jones 1989). Stalked glands
may be present in the forks of the cymes (Radford et al. 1968). The plants bloom in early
summer (June to August), bearing hermaphrodite flowers on large cymes produced laterally
on perennial canes and terminally on new canes. Individual cymes can have hundreds of
mature fruit, botanically described as berries, which ripen from late summer to fall, depending
on location. Individual berries are small (8 mm in diameter), with 4 oblong, tan to yellowish
There are several positive socio-economic benefits of growing elderberry, because of its
diverse uses. In Europe, it is cultivated for flower and berry production as well as ornamental
purposes. The flowers of S. nigra are used for the preparation of drinks and medicines;
elderberry-flower wine is very popular in England. Elderberry berries are mainly used for
food colorants and components in pharmaceuticals, processed to concentrates, syrups, jellies
and juices; frequently they are consumed in preserves and alcoholic beverages such as
elderberry wine. The flowers, fruits, leaves, bark and roots of S. nigra are thus often utilized
for medical purposes. For example, dried fruits, flowers and cortex have been used as
diaphoretic and diuretic medicines. Tea from S. nigra flowers is used against colds, flu, and
high temperature. Sambucus nigra bark and fruits are potent in the treatment of respiratory
problems such as hay fever and asthma. Berries are rich in vitamins and polyphenols and are
best used to ward of various winter illnesses. The leaves contain cyanogenic glycosides from
which hydrogen cyanide is released by enzyme action. Although European elderberry is not
generally considered poisonous, isolated cases of poisoning in animals and man have been
reported after eating bark, leaves, berries, roots and stems. Extracts from S. nigra are used in
horticulture as a repellent against insects as they have an unpleasant odor. Sambucus nigra
has also been planted for erosion control. It is not used as timber due to its small dimensions
and soft wood properties. However, because of its whiteness, close grain, good cutting and
polishing properties, the wood is suitable for making pegs and other small wooden items such
as musical instruments and toys (Atkinson and Atkinson 2002).
Similarly, Sambucus canadensis has been used for a variety of purposes: the dark, juicy
berries for making wines, jellies and pies; the flowers for flavouring candies and jellies; the
bark for making a black dye; and the leaves, bark and flowers for making a variety of
homemade medicinal remedies (Vines 1960). Although the cooked ripe fruit is edible, raw or
unripe berries and other plant parts are somewhat toxic with a laxative effect. American
elderberry is also a good plant species to use for wildlife habitat improvement and is
considered one of the best low, summer-fruiting shrubs for wildlife. Easily established, it can
be planted singly or in numbers to form thickets and hedges and can be used in a variety of
habitat settings.
Commercial elderberry production is scattered across Denmark, Italy, Hungary, and Austria
in Europe (S. nigra cultivars) and in central Chile (S. canadensis cultivars). Historically, the
production of American elderberry was concentrated in Oregon in the USA, but production
has rapidly decreased in the past few decades. In the last 50 years only, only a few producers
in the USA managed to establish small orchards generally for local processing into pies, jams,
jellies, and particularly wines. Elderberry wine production in the USA and Canada probably
started with the arrival of the first European settlers who brought this tradition from their
homeland. Since the early 1990s, elderberry production is slowly increasing in Canada with
orchards being established in Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and
Newfoundland (Charlebois, 2007). In some parts of the world (Midwestern USA), wild
harvested flowers and fruit is also an important aspect of elderberry processing. The majority
of the S. nigra cultivars have been developed in Denmark (‘Allesø’, ‘Korsør’, ‘Sambu’,
‘Sampo’) but the origin of the most popular cultivar ‘Haschberg’ can be traced to
Klostenburg, Austria. Sambucus canadensis cultivars have been developed decades ago at the
New York Agricultural Experiment Station and at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada in Nova
Scotia (‘Adams I’, ‘Adams II’, ‘Nova’, ‘York’, ‘Johns’) (Finn et al., 2008).
For commercial harvest, the whole umbel or fruit cluster is picked and the entire crop either
processed to flower extract or into juices and purees, when fruit is harvested. Flowers are
harvested in early summer (mid June) and berries when fully ripe, reaching a purple black
color in late summer and are harvested over a 2 week period. In European countries there is a
practice to hand-pick approximately one third of the umbels for flowers so that the rest of the
fruit crop increases in size and also attains a better chemical composition. Elderberry fruit is
mainly picked by hand, although mechanical harvesting is a possibility. A few umbels are
borne in the first year; however, plants reach full production in the third or fourth year after
planting. After the fruit is harvested, it must be transported to the processing plant as soon as
possible to prevent internal heating in the containers or preferably frozen immediately. Fruit
yields from a commercial orchard of 6 to 12 tons per hectare have been reported (Roger,
European and American elderberry can be propagated by seed, seedlings, or cuttings, all of
which are commercially available (Vines 1960). Fruits and cuttings can also be easily
removed from wild plants without injury to the plant; however, virus free material should be
ensured for commercial orchards (DeGraaf and Witman 1979). Stem cuttings from vigorous
1-year-old canes may be taken from spring through fall. They should be approximately 25 to
46 cm long and include 3 sets of opposite buds. Cuttings taken in mid-summer and treated
with 0.5% indolebutyric acid powder will root readily, but fall cuttings should be placed in
peat moss, kept at 4.4 degrees C through the winter, and transplanted outside in the spring
(Bir 1992). Rooted stolons can be severed from the parent plants in early spring or late fall
and, if possible, left in place to establish new root systems. When removed, fragile roots of
the new plants should be wrapped in plastic or burlap until replanting. Elder is easily grown
from seeds, and a young plant will bloom in 3 years. Seeds can be collected by stripping or
cutting clusters from the branches as soon as the fruit is ripe. Seeds can be prepared for
storage or immediate planted by simply crushing the fruit and drying it or by macerating the
seeds with water to remove the pulp before drying. Seeds stored in sealed, airtight containers
at cool temperatures will remain viable for several years (Young and Young 1986).
Elderberry seeds vary considerably in germination requirements across the plant’s range (Bir
1992). The seeds are difficult to germinate because of the hard seed coats. To speed
germination, seeds can be scarified with a 10- to 15-minute soak in concentrated sulfuric acid,
washed, and chilled at 2.2 to 4.4 degrees C for 2 months before planting. Seeds may also be
prepared for planting by placing them in moist sand for 90 days at 20 to 30 degrees C,
followed by 90 days of prechilling at 2.2 to 4.4 degrees C (Bir 1992, Young and Young
1992). Treated and untreated seeds should be planted 6 mm deep at a rate of 35 seeds per
30-cm intervals. Seeds may be planted in the spring, or in the late fall if well mulched.
Untreated seeds usually will not germinate until the second growing season (Young and
Young 1992). Larger seedlings should be transplanted as soon as possible after they are
obtained, either in the fall or spring. Late fall or early winter are the best planting times since
the plants are dormant, and some root growth may occur during the winter (Foote and Jones
1989). Roots of bare-root seedlings should be soaked in water for a couple of hours prior to
Because elderberries do not bloom until late June, it is not necessary to select a site with
excellent air drainage, as is the case with most other fruit crops, such as apple and pear.
However, late frosts tend to damage young shoots and locations with heavy winds should also
be avoided. Higher altitudes (over 600 m) are also not suitable for elderberry production
because of uneven fruit ripening and flower drop due to lower temperatures and high
humidity levels. Otherwise, the plants will grow in any good soil, from sandy loamy, with pH
levels of about 5.5 to 6.5. Planting should be done in early spring and prior to planting the site
should be plowed, well tilled, and soil amended with organic matter similarly to apple
orchards (P2O5 10-25 mg per 100 g soil, K2O 10-32 mg per 100 g soil). Fertilizer needs are
dependent on the quantity of nutrients previously available in the soil. If the humus level in
soil is too low (lower than 2 %), organic matter should be incorporated. The usual planting
distance is 4 m apart in the row with rows 5-6 m apart. Preferably two year old plants should
be planted in orchards, because pruning is easier and plants can already be commercially
harvested in the third or fourth year after planting. After the planting, elderberry branches
should be pruned back to 2 buds, and can either be trained as a bush or small tree. The latter
training system is prevalent in Europe, in the USA elderberry is mostly pruned back every
year as a bush. In the second year after planting, branches are thinned out during the winter;
up to 7 are left to form a compact canopy and later 15 to 20 strong branches should be
maintained. Healthy, vigorous elderberry plants send up a number of new canes each year and
these new shoots attain full height in one season. New canes do not have side shoots (laterals)
the first year, but often bear single, large, late-ripening clusters on their terminals. The most
fruitful canes are those in their second year, when they produce several lateral branches. Fruit
clusters are borne terminally on the wood of the current season's growth. The older trunks of
elderberries lose vigor and become weak after two or three years. Little pruning is required.
All dead, broken and weak canes should be cutoff before growth starts in the spring. An equal
number of 1-, 2- and 3-year-old canes may be left; canes older than 3 years should all be
removed to encourage the emergence of new, more fruitful canes. Although, elderberry is
winter hardy and rarely dies because of winter injury, small lateral twigs near the tops of
canes often freeze back. Bushes will live for 30 years or more but it is not the general practice
to keep them that long (Roger, 1981).
Birds can be a serious problem in commercial orchards. In larger plantings, the percentage
loss may be less and the destruction less noticeable. Placing nets over the bushes is the only
effective control measure for birds. Small plantings should not be located near wooded areas
where birds can hide. Other problematic pests include leaf borers, mites, mice, voles and cane
borers. These can cause considerable damage to branches. However, the damage is usually
not serious enough to justify spraying. When the top of a cane is broken off by wind or during
harvest, the adult borer lays its eggs in the exposed pith. The larvae hatch and bore down to
the bottom of the cane causing the cane to die. Burning the infested canes can discourage the
multiplication of the insect and helps greatly in its control. Mildew on the leaves and berries
just before harvest can be a problem, especially if the weather is cool during ripening and if
the bushes are planted to closely where air circulation is poor. When mildew is serious, a
fungicide spray could control it. Tiny eriophyid mites, visible only under the microscope,
sometimes attack the leaves and cause yellow bands which resemble the symptoms of a
mottle virus. These can be controlled by dormant sprays but their damage is not usually
extensive. Diseases and insects are not generally serious on elderberries and sprays usually
are not applied (Roger, 1981).
As elderberry roots are formed very close to the surface caution should be put with
mechanical tillage for weed removal. Usually it is best to apply contact herbicides for weed
control in the row and mulch the remaining site as often as possible. This often also helps to
prevent voles from inhabiting the orchard and supplies elderberry bushes with additional
nitrogen. Mineral fertilizers should be used in small doses from March to June, and when
flowering is abundant additional nitrogen can be added later in the season to encourage new
vigorous growth for the next year.
Elderberry flowers and their products
Elderberry flowers are distinguished by their intensive, pleasant odor and serve as a basis for
industrially produced soft drinks and also as extracts to increase the nutritional value of
different foods and diets. Elderflowers are a rich source of potential bioactive flavonoids and
phenolic acids; Christensen et al. (2007) reported six flavonol glycosides and eleven phenolic
acids in fresh elderflowers and their extracts. Among flavonoids, quercetin-3-rutinoside
(rutin), quercetin-3-glucoside (isoquercitrin), kaempferol-3-rutinoside, isorhamnetin-3-
rutinoside, isorhamnetin-3-glucoside and quercetin-3-6-acetylglycoside were identified; and
among phenolic acids derivates of quinic acid containing caffeic or p-coumaric acid moieties
were determined. Similar results were also obtained when analyzing elderflower extracts.
Flavonol glycosides rutin, kaempferol-3-rutinoside and isorhamnetin-3-rutinoside are the
major flavonoids in elderflowers contributing as much as 90% to the total flavonoids content.
The major phenolic acids in elderberry flowers are 5-caffeoylquinnic acid and 1,5-di-
caffeoylquinnic acid comprising over 70% of the total phenolic acid content. As much as 21.0
mg per g dry weight of rutin is reported in elderflowers (Christensen et al., 2007). Opposed to
the chemical composition of elderberry fruit, which is especially rich in anthocyanins, flowers
do not contain any pigments from this group. The concentration of flavonoids, however, is
greatest in elderberry flowers (Dawidowicz et al., 2006). According to the research of
Dawidowicz et al. (2006) elderflowers exhibit a much stronger neutralizing activity of free
radicals compared to elderberry fruit and DPPH values between 91.95 and 94.15 are reported.
Products such as cough syrups ad infusions made from elderberry flowers are quite common,
and safe taken in moderate doses; however, for bests results, it is recommended that only 30%
(m/m) elder flowers are to be used in teas and infusions in mixtures with other plant materials
(Cejpek et al., 2009).The consumption of tea infusion is among the most commonly used
ways of elderflower antioxidant’s intake; the prevalent phytocemicals being quercetin-
rutinoside (rutin) and other flavonols, chlorogenic acid, caffeic acid and flavan-3-ols
(catechins). The reported electrochemical activity (EA) of elderflower infusion is equivalent
to 21 g ascorbic acid equivalents (AAE) per kg dry flowers and the content of rutin in the
infusion 10.9 g per kg of dry flower weight (Cejpek et al., 2009). This compound is mostly
responsible for the distinct yellow color of the infusion. Free radical scavenging capacity,
using the DPPH assay, revealed a 5.2% antiradical activity of L-ascorbic acid (Cejpek et al.,
Elder flower syrup has a somewhat different composition with compounds from the group of
phenolic acids (protocatechulic acid and derivates of caffeic acid) and flavan-3-ols (catechins)
are most abundant. When compared to elder flower infusion, the EA was only about 42%
(Cejpek et al., 2009). However, EA of elder flower syrups depends greatly on the technology
used and the content of elder flower and other ingredients in the maceration process. For
example, the addition of citric acid adjusting the pH level to 3.1 very much affects the
polyphenoloxidase (PPO) activity and affectively decreases subsequent browning of the
syrup. Traditionally prepared syrups from fresh flowers (flower heads soaked in cold water,
addition of citric acid lemons, and sucrose) posses much less EA and are very pale
compared to commercially available syrups, where other flower extracts (such as hibiscus and
apple concentrate) have been added or prepared from dried elderflowers or extracts.
Elderberry fruit and their products
The fruit of Sambucus nigra and Sambucus canadensis contains several constituents
responsible for its pharmacological activity. Among these are the flavonoids quercetin and
rutin, anthocyanins identified as cyanidin-3-O-glucoside and cyanidin-3-O-sambubioside
(Veberic et al., 2009), the hemagglutinin protein Sambucus nigra agglutinin III (SNA-III)
(Mach et al., 1991), cyanogenic glycosides including sambunigrin, (Buhrmester et al., 2000)
viburnic acid, and vitamins A and C (Duke, 1985).
The juice pressed from elder berries contains many primary metabolites: various sugars and
organic acids. High concentrations of organic acids are important in processing, since, unlike
sugars, they cannot be added to the final product. Among secondary metabolites, elderberry
juice is predominantly characterised by high amounts of anthocyanins. These are a class of
flavonoids responsible for the attractive orange to blue colour of flowers, as well as an
important fruit quality indicator, since they greatly influence fruit appearance and flavour
(Lee and Finn, 2007). They have gained an increasing interest as functional compounds in
food colorants and as potent agents against oxidative stress, reducing oxidative damage to the
human body. Anthocyanins, as well as other flavonoids like quercetins, exhibit antioxidant,
anticarcinogenic, immune-stimulating, antibacterial, antialergic and antiviral properties;
therefore, their consumption may contribute to prevention of several degenerative diseases
such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, inflammatory disease and diabetes (Dawidowicz et al.,
2006; Thole et al., 2006). These compounds are well known free radical scavengers, reported
as potential chemo-preventive agents.
Elder berry chemical composition has been thoroughly explored and compounds from the
groups of primary and secondary metabolites determined (Veberic et al., 2009). The former
group consists of various sugars and organic acids. The most abundant sugars in black
elderberry fruit are fructose and glucose, sucrose is detected only in small amounts (Veberic
et al., 2009). The total sugar content in elderberry fruit averages from 68.53 to 104.16 g per
kg fresh weight (FW) and is, like in other fruit, such as sweet cherry (Usenik et al., 2008) and
peach (Colaric et al., 2005) strongly dependant on cultivar. Elderberry fruit contains moderate
amounts of sugars compared to apple, which contains 115-183 g per kg total sugars (Hofer et
al., 2005) and significantly lower amounts of total sugars than sweet cherry, which averagely
contains 150-230 g per kg (Usenik et al., 2008). The content level of sugars in elderberry fruit
is comparable to sour cherry fruit (Prunus cerasus L.), which contain approx. 90 g per kg
total sugars and are also mainly used in processing (Bonerz et al., 2006). The amount of sugar
in elderberry fruit, however, is not the focal chemical compound for technological processing,
as fructose and sucrose can easily be added to the final products (i.e. juices, concentrates,
spreads and beverages).
Among organic acids, four have been identified in elder berries: citric acid, malic acid,
shikimic acid and fumaric acid (Veberic et al., 2009). Citric acid is the most abundant organic
acid, followed by malic acid and minor concentrations of shikimic and fumaric acid. The
concentration of citric acid in the fruit of black elderberry is reported in range from 3.11 g per
kg to 4.81 g per kg FW (Veberic et al., 2009). Compared to apple, which contains between
0.07-0.52 g per kg FW citric acid (Hofer et al., 2005), sweet cherry, which contains between
0.11-0.54 g per kg FW citric acid (Usenik et al., 2008) and sour cherry, which contains
between 0.08-0.14 g per kg FW citric acid (Bonerz et al., 2006), elderberry fruit is
exceptionally rich in this organic acid. The content of citric acid in fruit is a particularly
important parameter and although elder berries contain lower amounts of total organic acids
than apple, which on average contains between 6.00 and 14.00 g per kg FW organic acids
(Hofer et al., 2005) and sweet cherry, which on average contains between 3.50 and 8.20 g per
kg FW organic acids (Usenik et al., 2008), it is widely used for processing purposes due to the
high levels of citric acid.
Berries are particularly rich in flavonoids compounds, including anthocyanidins and
proanthocyanidins as well as flavonols. The most important polyphenols in elderberry fruit
are thought anthocyanins, being responsible for the colour (Cejpek et al., 2009). Total
monomeric anthocyanin content of different S. nigra cultivars is reported in range from 170 to
343 mg cyanidin-3-O-glucoside per 100 g and for S. canadensis in range from 106 to 444 mg
cyanidin-3-O-glucoside per 100 g (Lee and Finn, 2007). Much higher values of total
monomeric anthocyanin content were determined in elder berries in a study of Kaack (1997),
where values ranged from 518 to 1028 mg cyanidin-3-O-glucoside per 100 g.
High performance liquid chromatography analysis of European elder (Sambucus nigra) fruit
revealed the presence of four main anthocyanins: cyanidin-3-O-sambubioside-5-O-glucoside,
cyanidin-3,5-O-diglucoside, cyanidin-3-O-sambubioside, cyanidin-3-O-glucoside; cyanidin-
3-O-rutinoside, cyanidin-3-O-rhamnoglucoside and cyanidin-3-O-xyloglucoside have also
been reported (Thole et al., 2006;Veberic et al., 2009). Lee and Finn (2007) reported the
presence of non-cyanidin-based pelargonidin-3-O-glucoside and delphinidin-3-O-rutinoside
in S. nigra berries and Wu et al (2004) also pelargonidin-3-O-sambubioside, although these
were only present in trace amounts. According to Wu et al. (2004) and Veberic et al. (2009)
the two prevalent anthocyanins in S. nigra are cyanidin-3-O-glucoside and cyanidin-3-O-
sambubioside, with the major anthocyanin cyanidin-3-O-sambubioside, accounting for more
than half of all determined anthocyanins, approximately. In comparison to sweet cherry,
which contains, on average, 100-120 mg total anthocyanins per 100 g FW (Usenik et al.,
2008) elderberry fruit has significantly higher anthocyanin content as it reaches levels
between 602.90 and 1265.30 mg per100 g FW (Veberic et al. 2009). While berries of S. nigra
contain primarily four anthocyanins, berries of S. canadensis contain seven (Thole et al.,
2006). In addition to cyanidin-3-O-sambubioside-5-O-glucoside, cyanidin-3,5-O-diglucoside,
cyanidin-3-O-sambubioside and cyanidin-3-O-glucoside they also accumulate more stable
acylated anthocyanins cyanidin-3-O-(6-O-E-p-coumaroyl-2-O-β-D-xylopyranosyl), cyanidin-
glucopyranoside, and cyanidin-3-O-(6-O-E-p-coumaroyl-2-O-β-D-xylopyranosyl)-β-D-
glucopyranoside (Thole et al.,2006). Lee and Finn (2007) determined the presence of
petunidin-3-O-rutinoside in berries of S. canadensis present only in trace amounts.
Both S. nigra and S. canadensis contain many polyphenolic compounds; among those
cinnamic acids (neochlorogenic acid, chlorogenic acid, and cryptochlorogenic acid) and
flavonol-glycosides (quercetin-3-O-rutinoside, quercetin-3-O-glucoside, kaempferol-3-O-
rutinoside, isorhamnetin-3-O-rutinoside and isorhamnetin-3-O-glucoside have been identified
(Lee and Finn, 2007). The main quercetin in berries is quercetin-3-O-rutinoside (rutin), with
values ranging from 35.6 mg per 100 g FW to 52.0 mg per 100 g FW in berries of S. nigra
(Veberic et al., 2009). Similar values (15.0 to 41.9 mg per 100 g FW) are reported for S.
canadensis berries (Lee and Finn, 2007). The other two quercetins are present in considerably
lower amounts, especially the aglicon quercetin; the concentration of this was approximately
1/10 of the amount of rutin. Total quercetins are reported in range from 51.9 mg per100 g FW
to 73.4 mg per 100 g FW(Veberic et al., 2009), total cinnamic acids in range from 28.7 to 42.8
mg per 100 g FW and total polyphenols in range from 85.7 to 140.3 mg per 100 g FW (Lee
and Finn, 2007). A series of proanthocyanidins (dimers, trimers and tetramer) as well as
gallocatechin, and other flavonols have been reported in S. nigra berries (Thole et al. 2006;
Cejpek et al., 2009). There is a slight difference in polyphenolic composition of S. canadensis
berries; mainly they contain quercetin based glycosides. Specifically, rutin, epigallocatechin,
and quercetin monoglucoside (Thole et al., 2006) as well as neochlorogenic and chlorogenic
acid (Lee and Finn, 2007) are the predominant constituents.
S. nigra and S. canadensis fruit have higher antioxidant capacity than vitamin C or E and are
thus capable of enhancing immune system response through elevated production of cytokines
(Thole et al., 2006). Dawidowitz et al. (2006) report the antioxidant activity (calculated by the
DPPH method) of elder berries in range from 50.3 to 67.7, mainly attributed to the presence
of flavonols and anthocyanins. Thus, their antioxidant capacity ranks high when compared to
other well known small fruit, such as cranberry (Cejpek et al., 2009). Using the ORAC
method, Wu et al., (2004) showed that especially S. canadensis berries posses a much higher
potential than cranberry and blueberry, two fruits praised for their high antioxidant potential.
Among elderberry products, elderberry juice, spreads and wine are most widely marketable.
Elderberry juice pressed from S. nigra berries are characterized by the two major
anthocyanins (cyanidin-3-O-sambubioside and cyanidin-3-O-glucoside) as well as high levels
of catechins and phenolic acids such as chlorogenic acid, neochlorogenic acid, rutin and other
flavonols (Kaack et al., 2008; Cejpek et al., 2009). The average content of cyanidin-3-O-
sambubioside in elder berry juice pressed from different S. nigra cultivars is 379 mg per 100
ml, 331 mg per 100 ml cyanidin-3-O-glucoside, 81.7 mg per 100 ml cyanidin-3-O-
sambubioside-5-O-glucoside and 24.9 mg per 100 ml cyanidin-3,5-O-diglucoside (Kaack et
al., 2008). Fruit juice pressed from fresh or frozen elder berries has a concentration of soluble
solids above 13% w/w, indicating a satisfactory content of sugars, and titratable acidity of
between 0.6 and 1.7 (Kaack et al., 2008), an important parameter for a balanced taste.
Comparing the beneficial effects of fresh fruit with processed ones, it should be kept in mind
that especially anthocyanin stability is affected by numerous factors during processing and an
almost total destruction of these pigments as well as chlorogenic acid is reported during
production of elderberry spread (Cejpek et al., 2009).
During the elderberry fruit wine making process, significant changes take place in the
composition and content of polyphenolic compounds resulting from fruit disintegration as
well as fermentation and aging. Alcoholic fermentation of elderberry fruit yields an intensely
purple-red colored elderberry wine with a high content of anthocyanic pigments and total
phenolic content similar to red wines (Schmitzer et al., 2010). The beneficial compounds
present in elderberry juice, have also been determined in elderberry wine. The compositional
analysis of organic acids revealed malic and citric acids the predominant organic acids in fruit
wine from S. nigra berries (Schmitzer et al., 2010). Ten phenolic compounds were identified
in elderberry must and wine; chlorogenic acid and neochlorogenic acid, quercetin-3-O-
rutinoside, quercetin-3-O-glucoside, kaempferol-3-O-rutinoside and five cyanidin based
anthocyanins. Anthocyanins were the predominant polyphenols in elderberry must and wine.
Cyanidin-3-O-sambubioside is the major anthocyanin in elderberry must; however, in
elderberry wine cyanidin-3-O-glucoside is detected in highest concentrations (Schmitzer et
al., 2010). During elderberry wine making process, significant transformations in phenolics
take place and the composition of anthocyanic pigments is altered. Vinification results in a
minor decrease of anthocyanin content but, formation of new, more stable, polymeric
pigments has been reported (Schmitzer et al., 2010). Quercetin-3-O-rutinoside is the most
abundant quercetin followed by quercetin-3-glucoside, which is comparable to the
compositional analysis of elderberry fruit as well as elderberry juice. Similar to compositional
analysis of elderberry juice, neochlorogenic acid and chlorogenic acid have been detected in
elderberry must and wine; the latter was significantly higher in elderberry wine compared to
must and aged wine (Schmitzer et al., 2010).
As a result of chemical reactions of monomeric and dimeric phenolics during processing from
musts to wine as well as aging, many polymeric compounds are formed causing differences in
both total phenolic content (TPC) and antioxidative potential (AP). Both parameters are
significantly higher in elderberry wine compared to elderberry must (Schmitzer et al., 2010).
TPC of elderberry wine is reported to be 2004.13 mg GAE per L, comparable to TPC
measured in different red wines, which on average contain 2000 mg GAE L (Minussi et al.,
2003). AP of elderberry must is reported to be 8.18 mM trolox per L and increases
significantly in elderberry wine to 9.95 mM trolox per L (Schmitzer et al., 2010). Elderberry
wine is therefore an appealing alcoholic beverage not only because of its intense red
coloration but mostly due to its high total phenolic content. It could be used as a potential
additive to other alcoholic beverages, with inadequate coloration.
Elder flowers
In folk medicine, Sambucus nigra flower was traditionally suggested as a remedy for diabetes
(Atkinson, 1979). Researchers in Northern Ireland conducted an in vitro study to evaluate the
effect on blood sugar. In the two-armed study, aqueous extract of elder flower significantly
increased glucose uptake, glucose oxidation, and glycogenesis in rat abdominal muscle. Elder
flower extract incubated with rat pancreatic cells also had a dose-dependent stimulatory effect
on insulin secretion. The researchers concluded elder flowers contain water-soluble
constituents capable of direct stimulation of insulin secretion and glucose metabolism (Grey
et al., 2000). Further clinical studies are required before elderberry can be recommended for
use in diabetes.
Elder berries
As mentioned before, the fruit of Sambucus nigra and Sambucus canadensis contains several
constituents responsible for pharmacological activity. Among these are the flavonoids
quercetin and rutin, anthocyanins identified as cyanidin-3-glucoside and cyanidin-3-
sambubioside (Veberic et al., 2009), the hemagglutinin protein Sambucus nigra agglutinin III
(SNA-III) (Mach et al., 1991), cyanogenic glycosides including sambunigrin, (Buhrmester et
al., 200) viburnic acid, and vitamins A and C (Duke, 1974). Due to limited research, the
pharmacokinetics of many constituents of elderberry is not completely understood. Available
research has focused on the absorption and urinary excretion of the anthocyanin constituents.
Historically, researchers were uncertain whether anthocyanins were absorbed unless they
were first hydrolyzed in the gastrointestinal tract. Recently, however, several small
pharmacokinetic studies of elderberry extract in healthy volunteers demonstrated elder berry
anthocyanins are indeed absorbed and excreted in an intact form. Within four hours of
consuming 12 g elderberry extract containing 720 mg total anthocyanins, the two major
anthocyanins in elderberry extract were identified in the urine of four elderly women (Wu et
al., 2000). A similar study involving 16 healthy volunteers confirmed the presence of the
same two anthocyanins in the urine of study subjects after oral administration of elderberry
extract (Mulleder et al., 2007). One study investigated the absorption of elderberry
anthocyanins in a single male subject given 25 g elderberry extract (1.5 g total anthocyanins);
high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) analysis detected two anthocyanin peaks in
his plasma collected 30 minutes after consuming elderberry extract (Cao and Prior, 1999), and
this was later confirmed in a study by Milbury et al. (2002).
While there are several mechanisms responsible for the beneficial effects of Sambucus nigra
and S. canadensis and extracts of their berries, perhaps the most important and best studied
are the antiviral effects. A powerful antioxidant activity in vitro has been demonstrated and
Youdim et al., (2000) have reported that elderberry anthocyanins can be taken by endothelial
cells, which are subsequently effectively protected against oxidative stress. Sambucol®, a
syrup containing 38-percent standardized extract of elder berries, was developed and studies
have shown it to neutralize and reduce the infectivity of influenza viruses A and B (Zakay-
Rones et al., 2004), HIV strains and clinical isolates (Sahpira-Nahor et al., 1995), and Herpes
simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) strains and clinical isolates. It probably does so in the same
manner as with influenza viruses, via neutralization of the virus resulting in reduced
Elderberry extracts also have immune-modulating activity in healthy individuals as well as in
those with viral infections or other diseases characterized by immunosuppression. Production
of certain cytokines leads to activation of phagocytes and facilitates their movement to
inflamed tissues (Janeway et al., 2001) Elder berries also contain several anthocyanin
flavonoids known to possess significant antioxidant properties. Research has demonstrated
that even low-level concentrations of elderberry anthocyanins can efficiently regenerate
alpha-tocopherol from alpha-tocopheroxyl radicals in models of copper-mediated LDL
oxidation (Abuja et al., 1998). Since it has been observed that anthocyanin glycosides are
indeed absorbed in humans, it is likely that supplementing with elderberry extracts containing
anthocyanins provides significant antioxidant benefit in increased protection against oxidative
Numerous disease conditions are characterized by oxidative stress, including cardiovascular
disease, cancer, neurodegenerative disease, peripheral vascular disease, autoimmune diseases,
and multiple sclerosis. Bioactivity relevant to inhibition of both the initiation and promotion
stages of carcinogenesis was detected in fruit extracts from S. nigra and S. canadensis (Thole
et al., 2006). The ability of elderberry extract to provide antioxidant protection via inhibition
of LDL-oxidation and scavenging of free radicals makes it a potentially valuable tool in the
treatment of disease resulting from oxidative stress (Abuja et al., 1998).
Thus, we can conclude that elderberry, its extracts and products can be regarded as potent
medicinal additives in the future as many traditional applications have been proven with
clinical and in-vitro studies. Recent findings promote the use of elderberry mostly due to its
high antioxidative status and favorable phenolic profile for novel pharmacological studies and
later on for clinical applications.
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... Black elder fruits are a rich source of antioxidant compounds, mainly anthocyanins [3,4]. They are also an excellent source of vitamins, minerals, and carbohydrates [5]. Scientific reports indicate that the Sambucus nigra L. fruits can be used as a functional food in the prevention and the treatment of disorders associated with the deficiency of certain elements in the human diet. ...
... Black elder fruits are used in the treatment of psoriasis and all skin changes, thus they have found a wide application in cosmetics and the production of natural creams. Quite often, black elder is associated with anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, soothing edema, and inflammation properties, therefore it is a component of syrups for sore throat and expectorants in the treatment of mild inflammation of the upper respiratory tract [5,6,9]. Black elder fruits and flowers also have the potential to treat respiratory problems such as hay fever and asthma. ...
... Due to the high content of vitamins and polyphenols, they are often used to ward winter illnesses and strengthen immunity [10]. Further, dried fruits and flowers are used as diuretic and diaphoretic medicines [5]. ...
Full-text available
The aim of the study was to obtain a dye from black elder fruits and flowers and to study their potential in production of jellies with high antioxidant activity. Three dyes were produced by lyophilization of aqueous extracts: (1) fruits dye (F), (2) flowers dye (FL), and (3) fruits and flowers dye (F + FL). Their polyphenol profiles were compared by means of ultra-performance liquid chromatography (UPLC). The antioxidant activity [ferric reducing/antioxidant power assay (FRAP) and DPPH radicals scavenging test and total phenolics were compared by spectrophotometric methods. Jellies were produced from agar and gelatin with the addition of three obtained dyes, and their antioxidant water- and lipid soluble fractions were tested with a Photochem device. Results indicated that black elder fruits are rich in anthocyanins, especially cyanidin-3-O-sambubioside (7.56 mg/g d.w.), while flowers are rich in polyphenols, especially chlorogenic acid (2.82 mg/g d.w.) and rutin (4.04 mg/g d.w.). FL dye exhibited higher antioxidant activity compared to F dye (for about 30–40%), regardless of the used method, whereas F + FL dye was characterized by intermediate antioxidant activity. Jellies produced with the addition of FL dye had better antioxidant properties but unattractive color and unpleasant taste, but the use of F + FL dye created a product of favorable organoleptic properties and antioxidant activity comparable to jellies with F dye addition.
... The elder (Sambucus nigra L.) is an important berry worldwide crop plant widely transformed in jam, jellies and beverages broadly used in gastronomy (Baudar, 2016) and has been used for a long time for his potential benefits to health (Schmitzer et al., 2016). Lipids from this plant additionally contain allelochemicals which have been reviewed by De Albuquerque et al. (2011). ...
Allelochemical compounds were detected in leaves and inflorescences of Sambucus nigra L. by means of GC-EIMS. The identified compounds were characterized by their mass spectra and relative retention times as their trimethylsilyl derivatives. The pheromone L-isoleucine methyl ester extracted from inflorescences can attract pollinator insects during the flowering period and together with uncommon n-alkyl and benzyl esters were firstly identified in S. nigra. On the other hand, mandelonitrile, which is used by the plant to avoid herbivore attack, was observed as the most abundant compound from the leaf extracts. In the present work are described 154 compounds from leaves and 196 from inflorescences including alkanes, alcohols, acids and terpenoids from elder aerial parts.
... It usually blooms from May to July and the berries ripen from August to late September. The creamy-white flowers and shiny, purplish-black berries have been used for centuries for medicinal purposes and are traditionally consumed to prevent or diminish the effects of several diseases (Schmitzer, Veberic, & Stampar, 2012). The potent healing effects of elderberry has been linked to its many phytochemicals, such as flavonoids, phenolic acids, different organic acids, major and trace elements (K, Ca, P, Mg, …) and vitamins. ...
Elderberry fruit and its food products are not only a rich source of phenolics, boosting their antioxidant activity, but also contain harmful cyanogenic glycosides. In order to assess the potential positive/negative effects of consuming elderberry-based products their biochemical profile and levels of individual compounds were identified with the aid of high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) coupled with mass spectrophotometry (MS). Cyanidin-3-sambubioside and cyanidin-3-glucoside were the prevalent compounds among phenolics and sambunigrin among cyanogenic glycosides in all analyzed elderberry products. Processing considerably affects the content of elderberry phenolics and cyanogenic glycosides. The levels of phenolics decreased from 958 mg/kg in unprocessed control berries to 343 mg/kg in elderberry liqueur, 337 mg/kg in spread, 162 mg/kg in tea and 114 mg/kg in elderberry juice. Higher temperatures not only reduced the content of beneficial compounds, but also decreased the levels of harmful cyanogenic glycosides for 44% in elderberry juice, for 80% in tea and for as much as 96% in elderberry liqueur and spread.
Background: Elderberry (Sambucus nigra L.) possesses high antioxidant activity and has been used to ail numerous medicinal disorders. In addition to their antioxidant properties, elderberry parts accumulate toxic cyanogenic glycosides (CGG). It has been proven that altitude influences the biosynthesis of many secondary metabolites. In the present study we investigated the change of phenolics and CGG in elder leaves, flowers, and berries induced by different altitudes and locations. Results: The data indicate that the accumulation of CGG and phenolics is affected by the altitude of the growing site. An increase of anthocyanin content was recorded in elder berries collected at higher elevations in both locations. Fruit collected at the foothill of location 2 contained 3343 µg g(-1) anthocyanins as opposed to fruit from the hilltop, which contained 7729 µg g(-1) . Elder berries contained lowest levels of harmful CGG compared to other analyzed plant parts. However, more cyanogenic glycosides were always present in plant parts collected at the hilltop. Accordingly, berries accumulated 0.11 µg g(-1) CGG at the foothill and 0.59 µg g(-1) CGG at the hilltop. Conclusion: Elder berries and flowers collected at the foothill were characterized by lowest levels of both beneficial (phenolics) and harmful compounds (CGG) and are suitable for moderate consumption.
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Antioxidant capacity of foods and food supplements based on berries and flowers of medicinal plant elderberry (Sambucus nigra L.) was assessed. Reducing properties of the samples and extracts were evaluated using amperometric detection at working electrode potential -0.8 V after HPLC separation. Moreover, antiradical activity of selected samples was determined by the means of Spectrophotometric DPPH radical scavenging method. Electro-chemical activity (EA) of fresh juice pressed from elder fruits amounted to 0.71 g AAE/1 with anthocyanins as minor contributors (10.2%). Catechins and phenolic acids were the major active groups. During production of elder berry spread, even more than 90% of the EA compounds found in raw elder berry material can be destroyed. Comparable activity may be found also in the products from elder flowers. Although elder blossom syrups possessed similar EA regardless of the technology used (0.033-0.054 g AAE/kg), their chromatographic patterns were often very different. For example, no flavonols were present in the syrups, if traditional preparation comprising 24-h maceration with citric acid was applied. Analyzing the chromatographic patterns, one can distinguish different base materials and technology, which can be used for the authenticity confirmation. Herbal infusions from elder flowers, which contain more flavonols than are in syrups, were 16-27 times richer in EA than drinks prepared from the syrups after recommended dilution. Only the syrup designed for preventing and treating upper-respiratory viral infections showed the EA (0.09 g AAE/kg) comparable to that of herbal infusion (0.13 g AAE/1).
In 1989-95 two field experiments with eight Danish and throe foreign cultivars of elderberry, Sambucus nigra, L. were carried out with the objective of comparison of yield, umbel weight and the contents of anthocyanin, soluble solids and titratable acid. To obtain a high economic value per hectare and in order to keep the manual picking costs at a minimum, the fruit yield and umbel weight were used as the most important criteria for selection of cultivars with high contents of anthocyanin and soluble solids which are necessary for processing of high quality fruit concentrates. Compared to 'Sampo' and 'Samdal' the yield, umbel weight and content of anthocyanin of 'Allesoe.' and 'Korsor' were significantly lower, but the content of soluble solids were high in 'Korsor' and low in 'Allesoe.' By growing of 'Sampo' it is possible to obtain a high yield, medium size umbels, high content of anthocyanin and medium content of soluble solids. With respect to yield and content of anthocyanin the differences between 'Sampo' and 'Samdal' were not significant. Compared to 'Sampo' the cultivar 'Samdal' had a higher umbel weight but a lower content of soluble solids and titratable acids.
Light demands, i e. shade tolerance and response to light, of seedlings of six shrub species (Berberis vulgaris L., Cornus sanguinea L., Crataegus monogyna JACQ., Ligustrum vulgare L., Rosa canina L., Sambucus nigra L.) were investigated during establishment beneath scrub. Four methods were used: (1) microclimatic measurements in two patches of a scrub sere, (2) recording of density and survival of seedlings of the six species naturally occurring in this sere, (3) transplantation of seedlings of Rosa to these sites, and (4) gas exchange measurements on seedlings of all six species grown in a glasshouse. Penetration of light decreased strongly with scrub development whereas temperature and relative air humidity were only slightly different in old scrub compared to pioneer stages. Density and survival of naturally occurring seedlings were highest in an intermediate stage of scrub development, while growth and survival of transplanted seedlings decreased significantly with increasing cover of scrub. The seedlings of the six shrub species differed in their light demands, indicated by dark respiration, light compensation point, photosynthetic capacity, and quantum efficiency near light-saturated photosynthesis. Cornus and Rosa were slightly more shade-tolerant, whereas Berberis, Crataegus, Ligustrum and Sambucus apparently had higher light demands, but none of them was particularly adapted to establish in a strongly shaded environment. The differences among species in survival of the naturally occurring seedlings did not agree generally with the results of the gas exchange experiment. However, we conclude that light availability is a crucial factor for growth and survivial of seedlings in old scrub, but additional factors (e.g. soil water content) have to be considered in order to explain the species-specific differences.