Dwarf Elder

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Dwarf elder berries are toxic, and it is crucial that you know them so as not to mistake them for those of black elder. Both plants belong to the same botanical family and have similar uses, though the black elder is more widely used because of its more tolerable smell.

dwarf elder fruit berries

Dwarf Elder Scientific Facts

  1. Other names – Blood elder, danewort, walewort, wild elder.
  2. French – Hieble.
  3. Spanish – Yezgo.
  4. Environment – Spread along forest borders and cool fields all over Europe and naturalized to America.
  5. Description – Vivacious plant, with a disgusting odor, of the Caprifoliaceae family, with an upright stem that grows up to 1.5 m high. Its flowers are small, white in color, and grow in umbels. The fruit are blackberries that appear in upgrowing clusters.
  6. Parts of the plant used medicinally – The root and the leaves.

Healing Properties

The whole plant contains glycosides, essential oil, tannin, and saponin. It has strong sudorific, diuretic, and laxative properties, and therefore it is used as:

  1. Diuretic – for edema (retention of fluid in tissues) or renal insufficiency.
  2. Sudorific – for febrile afflictions (colds, influenza, malaria, etc.).
  3. Antirheumatic – a decoction or alcoholic extract of dwarf elder is externally applied as compresses or massage to ease rheumatic aches.
  4. Insect repellent – fresh dwarf elder leaves, or their decoction, sprayed, repel mosquitoes.

WARNING! Never exceed the recommended doses of root or leaves. Its berries are incredibly toxic.

How to use Dwarf Elder

  1. Decoction with 30 g of leaves and/or root per liter of water. Boil for 5-10 minutes. Drink up to three cups daily.
  2. Compresses soaked in a decoction similar to the one mentioned above. These compresses can also be soaked in dwarf elder alcoholic extract.
  3. Massage with this decoction or the alcoholic extract.


George D. Pamplona-Roger, M.D. “Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants.” George D. Pamplona-Roger, M.D. Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants. Ed. Francesc X. Gelabert. vols. 2 San Fernando de Henares: Editorial Safeliz, 2000. 590. Print.

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