An Eco-sustainable World
HerbaceousSpecies Plant

Sambucus ebulus

Sambucus ebulus

Danewort, dane weed, danesblood or dwarf elder (Sambucus ebulus L.) is a herbaceous species belonging to the Caprifoliaceae family.

Systematics –
From a systematic point of view it belongs to:
Eukaryota Domain,
Kingdom Plantae,
Subarign Tracheobionta,
Spermatophyta superdivision,
Magnoliophyta Division,
Magnoliopsida class,
Order Dipsacales,
Caprifoliaceae family,
Genus Sambucus,
S. ebulus species.
The terms are synonymous:
– Ebulus humile Garcke;
– Sambucus deborensis Košanin;
– Sambucus ebulus var. africanus Engl.;
– Sambucus herbacea Stokes, 1812;
– Sambucus paucijuga Steven.
Within this species, the following subspecies and varieties are recognized:
– Sambucus ebulus subsp. africana (Engl.) Bolli;
– Sambucus ebulus subsp. ebulus;
– Sambucus ebulus var. deborensis Košanin, 1930;
– Sambucus ebulus var. ebulus.

Etymology –
The term Sambucus comes from sambucus, the Latin name of the elder in Pliny and Columella; according to some, the Latin name derives from the Greek σαμβύκη sambúke sambuca, a stringed musical instrument that is supposed to have been made using elder wood; according to others for the similarity of the epicormic shoots of the elderberry with the strings of the elderberry.
The specific epithet ebulus comes from ebulum, the Latin name of the ebbio in Virgil, Pliny and other authors.

Geographic Distribution and Habitat –
Danewort is a plant native to Central Europe and South West Asia. The species has naturalized in many parts of North America (New York, New Jersey and Québec).
In Europe it is present in the southern air and in Italy in all regions except in the Aosta Valley.
Its habitat is that of uncultivated land, woods, hedges and scrub where it also forms almost pure populations in pioneer vegetation, on deep, fresh loamy-clay soils, sometimes with stagnation of water, from subacid to neutral, rich in nitrogen compounds, from sea level to about 1300 m, with optimum below the lower mountain belt.

Description –
Sambucus ebulus is a perennial herbaceous plant that reaches a height of 1.20 and over cm.
It has an usually unbranched erect stem with an extended perennial root system.
The leaves are opposite, pinnate, 15-30 cm long with 5-9 leaflets of fetid odor.
The stem ends in a 10-15 cm diameter corymb with numerous flat white (rarely pink) hermaphroditic flowers.
The fruit is a small 4-7 mm spherical drupe, black-purplish, hairless, shiny, with 3-4 prismatic and wrinkled stones measuring 3-3.5 x 1.5-1.8 mm.

Cultivation –
Sambucus ebulus is a perennial plant that is harvested in nature for local use as a food, medicine and source of materials.
It is a plant that grows on many types of soil but prefers moist and clayey ones.
It can grow in a partially shaded area but prefers sunny locations.
It is a plant that tolerates air pollution and winds from the sea.
Due to its characteristics it can become a very invasive plant.
Propagation occurs by seed. Sowing should be done immediately after the seed has matured in autumn and the young seedlings usually germinate in early spring. The seeds can be stored and sown in spring but germinate better if they undergo a period of 2 warm months followed by 2 months of cold stratification before sowing.
If sowing in seedbeds, the individual plants must then be placed in single pots and then transplanted in the open field in the mid-spring period.
This plant can also be easily propagated agamically by dividing the suckers in spring or autumn.

Customs and Traditions –
Sambucus ebulus is a plant that has long been used for use in traditional medicines.
Some traditions are known about this plant such as that of the English name danewort which derives from the belief that it grows in the sites where battles were fought against the Danes (from walewort or walwort, which means “foreign plant”).
Furthermore, the fruits of Sambucus ebulus are used in the Austrian tradition to treat disorders of the respiratory system and fever.
All the aerial parts of this plant contain a still not well identified and thermolabile gastro-toxic principle.
The fruits can be eaten after cooking, and the plant has the reputation (to be proven) of repelling mice and moles. The leaves contain a protein synthesis inhibitor of interest for medical research (ebulin 1). It is a protein very similar to ricin in castor oil but which, unlike this rapidly absorbed poison (even through the skin), has poor absorption at the intestinal and cellular level. For this reason, ebulin 1 is not toxic.
However, the plant, especially the berries, is to be considered poisonous.
The substances contained are: an alkaloid (sambucina), essential oil, glucoside, anthocyanins, flavonoids, saponins. In the green fruits there is also the sambunicina; in the mature ones many anthocyanosides and in the roots a saponin, ursolic acid and phenolic acids.
The fruit of this plant is drastically purgative, so it should not be confused with that of Sambucus nigra, which, as is known, is used in the packaging of liqueurs and jams and as a colorant for wines or other edible products.
However, this plant has many medicinal properties; for this purpose the roots, bark, flowers and leaves are used.
The fruits, on the other hand, are little used in popular medicine due to the intense coloring of their juice, their ungrateful taste and their dangerousness.
The root is laxative-purgative, effective diuretic and anti-edematous, the bark, always dried and never fresh, is used as an antirheumatic or as a diuretic (less effective than the root but more practical to collect); the leaves relieve rheumatic pains.
The flowers are mainly sudoriferous and used in bronchial and respiratory diseases in general, but they too must always be used dried. They have a reputation for increasing the milk secretion of nurses.
From the fruits a blue dye and an ink are obtained. The juice of the root is used for dyeing black hair.
Elderberry Sambucus ebulus has much more intense actions than Sambucus nigra and is able to regenerate tocopherols, antioxidant agents, which help reduce the level of cholesterol in the blood.
Food uses are also known.
The fruits, after cooking, are used as a condiment in soups, etc.
The leaves are used as a substitute for tea but should be consumed with caution, taking into account the toxicity of the plant.
The leaves are anti-inflammatory, cholagogue, diaphoretic, diuretic, expectorant and laxative.
Sometimes the fruit is also used, but it is less active than the leaves.
The herb is commonly used in the treatment of liver and kidney ailments.
The crushed leaves can be transformed into a poultice for the treatment of swellings and bruises.
The root is diaphoretic, slightly diuretic, and a drastic purgative.
From an ecological point of view, in addition to being a plant capable of rapidly colonizing marginal areas, it is, albeit rarely, visited by bees for pollen and nectar.

Preparation Method –
Sambucus ebulus is a plant used for some time, by various populations for medicinal use and marginally for food use.
The leaves are harvested in the summer and can be dried for later use.
The fruits, after cooking, are used in the dressing of soups, etc.
A tea substitute is prepared from the leaves but should be consumed with caution, taking into account the toxicity of the plant.
The fruits and roots are also used and the latter are used as purgatives.
From fresh berries or bark a homeopathic remedy is obtained which is used in the treatment of dropsy.
The root extract is used to dye the hair black.

Guido Bissanti

– Acta Plantarum – Flora of the Italian Regions.
– Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
– Useful Tropical Plants Database.
– Conti F., Abbate G., Alessandrini A., Blasi C. (ed.), 2005. An annotated checklist of the Italian vascular flora, Palombi Editore.
– Pignatti S., 1982. Flora of Italy, Edagricole, Bologna.
– Treben M., 2000. Health from the Lord’s Pharmacy, Advice and experiences with medicinal herbs, Ennsthaler Editore.
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Warning: Pharmaceutical applications and alimurgical uses are indicated for informational purposes only, they do not represent in any way a medical prescription; therefore no responsibility is taken for their use for curative, aesthetic or food purposes.

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