This section of the book is from "The Complete Herbalist" by Dr. O. Phelps Brown. Also available from Amazon: The Complete Herbalist: The People Their Own Physicians By The Use Of Nature's Remedies.
MEDICINAL PARTS. The flowers and berries.
Description. -- This is a common, well-known native American plant, from five to twelve feet high, with a shrubby stem, filled with a light and porous pith, especially when young. The bark is rather scabrous and cinereous. The leaves are nearly bipinnate, antiposed. The flowers are numerous, white, in very large level-topped, five-parted cymes, and have a heavy odor. The European Elder, though larger than the American kind, is similar in its general characteristics and properties.
History. -- It is an indigenous shrub, growing in all parts of the United States, in low, damp grounds, thickets, and waste places, flowering in June and July, and maturing its berries in September and October. The officinal parts are the flowers, the berries, and the inner bark.
Properties and Uses. -- In warm infusion the flowers are diaphoretic and gently stimulant. In cold infusion they are diuretic, alterative, and cooling, and may be used in all diseases requiring such action, as in hepatic derangements of children, erysipelas, erysipelatous diseases etc. In infusion with Maiden-hair and Beech-drops, they will be found very valuable in all erysipelatous diseases. The expressed juice of the berries, evaporated to the consistence of a syrup, is a valuable aperient and alterative; one ounce of it will purge. An infusion of the young leaf-buds is likewise purgative, and sometimes acts with violence. The flowers and expressed juice of the berries have been beneficially employed in scrofula, cutaneous diseases, syphilis, rheumatism, etc. The inner green bark is cathartic; an infusion of it in wine, or the expressed juice, will purge moderately in doses from half a fluid ounce to a fluid ounce. Large doses produce emesis or vomiting. In small doses it producs an efficacious deobstruent, promoting all the fluid secretions, and is much used in dropsy, especially that following scarlatina and other febrile and exanthematous complaints, as well as in many chronic diseases. Beaten up with lard or cream, it forms an excellent discutient ointment, of much value in burns, scalds, and some cutaneous diseases. The juice of the root in half-ounce doses, taken daily, acts as a hydragogue cathartic, and stimulating diuretic, and will be found valuable in all dropsical affections. The inner bark of Elder is hydragogue and emetico-cathartic. Has been successfully used in epilepsy, by taking it from branches one or two years old, scraping off the gray outer bark, and steeping two ounces of it in five ounces of cold or hot water for forty-eight hours. Strain and give a wineglassful every fifteen minutes when the fit is threatening: the patient fasting. Resume it every six or eight days.