Herbs & Plants

Sambucus Ebulus

Botanical Name :Sambucus Ebulus
Family: Adoxaceae
Genus: Sambucus
Species:S. ebulus
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Dipsacales
Synonyms: Danewort. Walewort. Blood Hilder.

Common Names: Danewort, dane weed, danesblood, dwarf elder or European dwarf elder, walewort, elderwort and blood hilder
(French) Hièble.
(German) Attichwurzel.

Habitat: Sambucus Ebulus is  native to southern and central Europe and southwest Asia.This species is found less frequently in hedges, but inclines to waste places, not infrequently among rubbish and the ruined foundations of old buildings. Gerard speaks of the ‘dwarf Elder’ growing ‘in untoiled places plentifully in the lane at Kilburne Abbey by London.‘ The celebrated natural historian of Selborne speaks of the Dwarf Elder as growing among the rubbish and ruined foundations of the Priory. Spots of equal interest with that of Selborne might be cited as favourite haunts of the Dwarf Elder. It grows profusely near Carisbrooke Castle, below the timeworn walls of Scarborough Castle, beside the old Roman Watling Street, where it is crossed by the footpath from Norton to Wilton, in Northamptonshire.

Its old names, Danewort and Walewort (wal-slaughter) are supposed to be traceable to an old belief that it sprang from the blood of slain Danes – it grows near Slaughterford in Wilts, that being the site of a great Danish battle. Another notion is that it was brought to England by the Danes and planted on the battlefields and graves of their slain countrymen. In Norfolk it still bears the name of Danewort and Blood Hilder (Blood Elder). In accounting for its English name, Sir J. E. Smith says: ‘Our ancestors evinced a just hatred of their brutal enemies, the Danes, in supposing the nauseous, fetid and noxious plant before us to have sprung from their blood.’


Sambucus Ebulus is  a Perennial plant, it grows to a height of 1–2 m and has erect, usually unbranched stems growing in large groups from an extensive  underground stem rhizome. The leaves are opposite, pinnate, 15–30 cm long, with 5-9 leaflets with a foetid smell. The stems terminate in a corymb 10–15 cm diameter with numerous white (occasionally pink) flat-topped hermaphroditeflowers. The fruit is a small glossy black berry 5–6 mm diameter. The ripe fruit give out a purple juice.


The name danewort comes from the belief that it only grows on the sites of battles that involved the Danes. The term ‘walewort’ or ‘walwort’ meant ‘foreigner plant.’ The plant’s stems and leaves turn red in autumn and this may explain the link with blood. The word Dane may link to an old term for diarrhoea

It is hardy to zone 5. It is in flower from July to August, and the seeds ripen from August to September. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Bees, flies, beetles. The plant is self-fertile.

Tolerates most soils, including chalk, but prefers a moist loamy soil. Grows well in heavy clay soils. Tolerates some shade but is best in a sunny position. Tolerates atmospheric pollution and coastal situations. A very invasive plant, sending up new shoots a metre or more away. It can be used for naturalising in the rougher parts of the garden, growing well on rough banks etc. The whole plant, when bruised, emits a most unpleasant fur-like smell. The bark, in particular, smells like stale perspiration.

Seed – best sown as soon as it is ripe in the autumn in a cold frame, when it should germinate in early spring. Stored seed can be sown in the spring in a cold frame but will probably germinate better if it is given 2 months warm followed by 2 months cold stratification first. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle. If good growth is made, the young plants can be placed in their permanent positions during the early summer. Otherwise, either put them in a sheltered nursery bed, or keep them in their pots in a sheltered position and plant them out in spring of the following year. Division of suckers in spring or autumn. Very easy.

Edible Uses:
Edible Parts: Fruit.

Edible Uses: Tea.

Fruit – cooked. It is used as a flavouring in soups etc. The fruit is about 6mm in diameter and is borne in large clusters. Some caution is advised, see the notes above on toxicity. Leaves are used as a tea substitute. Some caution is advised, see the notes above on toxicity.

Medicinal Uses:

Part Used: Leaves.

It is Antiphlogistic; Cholagogue; Diaphoretic; Diuretic; Expectorant; Homeopathy; Poultice; Purgative.

The leaves are antiphlogistic, cholagogue, diaphoretic, diuretic, expectorant and laxative. The fruit is also sometimes used, but it is less active than the leaves. The herb is commonly used in the treatment of liver and kidney complaints. When bruised and laid on boils and scalds, they have a healing effect. They can be made into a poultice for treating swellings and contusions. The leaves are harvested in the summer and can be dried for later use. The root is diaphoretic, mildly diuretic and a drastic purgative. Dried, then powdered and made into a tea, it is considered to be one of the best remedies for dropsy. It should only be used with expert supervision because it can cause nausea and vertigo. A homeopathic remedy is made from the fresh berries or the bark. It is used in the treatment of dropsy.

The fruits have been used in the traditional Austrian medicine for treatment of disorders of the respiratory tract and fever.

The homoeopaths use a tincture from the fresh, root and a fluid extract is also prepared from it. It has sudorific, diuretic and alterative properties and is regarded as very valuable in dropsy, gravel and in suppression of urine. It is particularly recommended as a diuretic in dropsy, being more acceptable to the stomach than other remedies of the same class

Other Uses:
Dye; Ground cover; Hair; Ink; Repellent.

A blue dye and an ink are obtained from the fruit. The root juice is used to dye hair black. The leaves are said to repel mice and moles. Plants make a dense ground cover when spaced about 1 metre apart each way. They are best used in large areas, roadsides etc. Our experience to date (1995) is that the plants spread vigorously but do not form a dense cover and so do not exclude other plants.

Scented Plants
Plant: Crushed
The whole plant, when bruised, emits a most unpleasant fur-like smell. The bark, in particular, smells like stale perspiration.

Known Hazards:  Although no specific mention has been seen for this species, the leaves and stems of some, if not all, members of this genus are poisonous. The fruit of this species has been known to cause stomach upsets to some people. Any toxin the fruit might contain is liable to be of very low toxicity and is destroyed when the fruit is cooked.

The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.