This section is from the book "An Experimental History Of The Materia Medica", by William Lewis.
Elder: a plant, with finely ferrated sharp-pointed leaves, set in pairs on a middle rib, with an odd one at the end; producing, on the tops of the branches, umbel-like clutters of small white flowers, followed each by a juicy berry, containing generally three seeds.
1. Sambucus Pharm. Lond. & Edinb. Sam-bucus fruftu in umbella nigro C, B. Acte. Sam-bus nigra Linn. Elder tree: with nearly oval leaves, of which five or seven stand on one rib. It is a small tree or shrub, covered with an ash-coloured chapt bark, under which lies a thinner green one, and under this a white: it grows wild in hedges, flowers in May, and ripens its black berries in September.
The bark of this tree is recommended as a strong hydragogue in hydropic cases. Sydenham directs three handfuls of the inner bark to be boiled in a quart of milk and water till only a pint remains, of which one half is to be taken in the morning, and the other at night, and this repeated every day: he observes, that this medicine operates both upwards and downwards; and that if it does not vomit or purge at all, or but gently, it does no service. Boerhaave says, that the expressed juice of the middle bark, given from a dram to half an ounce (some go as far an ounce), is the best of hydragogues where the viscera are found; and that it so powerfully dissolves the humours, and procures so plentiful watery discharges from all the emunctories, that the patient is ready to faint from the large and sudden inanition. The decoction and juice are recommended also, in smaller doses, as useful aperients and deobstruents in different chronical disorders. This bark has scarcely any smell, and very little taste: on first chewing, it impresses a kind of sweetishness, which is followed by a very slight but very durable acrimony, in which its medical activity leems to reside, and which it imparts both to watery and spirituous menstrua.
The leaves, of a faint unpleasant smell, and a strong, very nauseous, bitter kind of taste, are said to be purgative and emetic like the bark. They are celebrated externally against burns and inflammations, and for these purposes an ointment has been prepared for them in the shops: four ounces of the leaves, and the same quantity of the inner bark, fresh, were thoroughly bruised, and boiled in a quart of lin-seed oil till the watery moisture was consumed and the oil tinged of a green colour: the oil was then pressed out, and brought to the consistence of an ointment by melting in it six ounces of white wax.
The flowers of elder have an agreeable flavour, which they give over in distillation with water, and impart by infusion both to water and rectified spirit: on distilling with water a large quantity of the flowers, a small portion of a butyraceous essential oil separates. Infusions made from them while fresh are gently laxative and aperient; when dry, they are said to promote chiefly the cuticular excretion, and to be particularly serviceable in erysipelatous and eruptive disorders. From these also an unguent is prepared, probably of equal efficacy with the other, and preferred by some as being more elegant, by melting three pounds of mutton suet with a pint of oil-olive, and boiling in this mixture four pounds of the full blown flowers till they are almost crisp.
The berries, in taste sweetish and not unplea-sant, yield on expression a fine purplish juice, which infpissated to the consistence of honey, either by itself or with the addition of half a pound of fine sugar to two pounds and an half‡ , proves an useful aperient and resolvent in recent colds and fundry chronical disorders, gently loosening the belly, and promoting urine and perspiration.
2. Ebulus. Sambucus humilis five ebulus C. B. Chamaeacte. Sambucus Ebulus Linn. Dwarf-elder or Dane wort: an herbaceous plant, dying to the ground in winter; with longer leaves than those of the elder tree, and nine leaves on one rib. It grows wild in some parts of England, flowers in July, and produces ripe black berries in the beginning of September.
It is said that this species has the same virtues with the preceding, but differs somewhat in degree: that the bark (that of the root has been chiefly used) and the berries, are respec-tively more efficacious, and the leaves less so: that the rob or infpiffated juice of the berries, in doses of half an ounce to an ounce, acts as a strong hydragogue, and in smaller doses as a powerful resolvent and deobstruent.