Elderberries contain a variety of potent health benefits. Many individuals have consumed this dark berry in juice, jams, wine, or other culinary preparations without being aware of the health benefits of elderberry. Known scientifically as Sambucus Nigra, this medicinal berry comes in many varieties, the most popular being the European elder and the American elderberry. Both of these varieties contain powerful health benefits. Elderberry is also referred to as sambucus— its botanical name. Elderberries do contain low levels of naturally-occurring cyanide so it’s important to source them from a reputable seller.
What Is Elderberry?
Elderberry is a genus of flowering plants. It grows in various varieties, the most popular being the European elder and the American elderberry. The elderberry tree is identifiable by its clusters of tiny, flat, white flowers and bundles of elderberries. Common names for elderberry are Elder, American Elder, Black Elderberry, Boor Tree, Common Elder, Ellhorn, European Elder, Holunder, Holunderbeeren, Sambucus, Sambuci, and Sureau. Both the American and European elderberry contain the anthocyanin and polyphonol-rich black berries from which jams, juice, syrups, and other foods are made from. The flesh of the berry is the only edible part of the plant; in fact, the seeds, stems, leaves and roots of the black elder contain a cyanide-inducing glycoside that is poisonous to humans. Cooking the elderberries eliminates the glycosides present in the seeds, making them safe to eat. Additionally, exposing the berries to heat concentrates the anthrocyanins and polyphenols.
Health Benefits of Elderberry
1. Elderberries are rich in various beneficial compounds including:
Anthrocyanins– Anthrocyanins are a subgroup of the flavonoid class. Research has shown they have an ability to reduce cancer cell proliferation as well as inhibiting tumor formation. These phytochemical can be found abundantly in cereals, cocoa, honey, fruits, nuts, olive oil, teas, vegetables, and wines. Anthrocyanins have also demonstrated a strong link to cardiovascular disease protection.
Antioxidants– Molecules that prevent or delay some types of cell damage.
Flavonoids– Also known as bioflavonoids, these compounds are a class of plant and fungus. In vitro studies have shown flavonoids to have anti-allergic, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antibacterial, anti-fungal, antiviral, and anti-cancer activity. Common foods containing flavonoids are: black tea, blueberries, citrus, cocoa, parsley, peanuts, and wine.
Phenolic acids– Phenolic acids are a type of polyphenol. Other polyphenols include flavonoids. Phenolic acids have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits. These polyphenols are found abundantly in plant-based foods.
Quercetin– A flavonoid rich in antioxidants. Quercetin has an antihistamine effect which helps alleviate watery eyes, a runny nose, and swelling. Quercetin has also been found to support cardiovascular health.
Rutin– A flavonoid that helps with vitamin C absorption and collagen production in the body. This flavonoid can help with treating hemorrhoids, high blood pressure, and reducing cholesterol levels.
Additionally, elderberries contain a high level of vitamins C, A, and B6 and are also naturally high in iron, potassium and betacarotene.
2. Elderberry provides cold and flu relief
Elderberries are rich in anthrocyanidins which are known to have immunostimulant effects. Stimulating and strengthening the body’s natural fighting mechanisms makes for a much more speedy recovery. When it comes to cold and flu relief elderberry reduces swelling in the mucus membranes, helping to reduce cold and flu symptoms as well as sinusitis. A 2016 double blind placebo controlled trial of 325 people showed that using elderberry reduces the duration of a cold and its symptoms by 2 days. Other studies have shown the flavonoids present in elderberry extract to bind to the H1N1 human influenza virus. Repeat findings of elderberry extract’s ability to significantly improve most flu symptoms has led researchers to conclude that the extract is effective in controlling influenza symptoms. The extract was found to be so effective that it was compared with Amantadine and Oseltamivir (Tamiflu)— prescription medications.
3. Elderberry relieves allergies
Since elderberry stimulates immune function and reduces inflammation, it’s a great natural remedy for allergies. Elderberry can help effectively relieve allergy symptoms such as inflammation of the sinuses, sneezing, swelling, itching, watery eyes, runny nose or stuffy nose. This potent herbal remedy also aids in detoxification.
4. Elderberry naturally lowers blood sugar
Elderberry has traditionally been used as a natural remedy for diabetes. Studies have shown elderberry extract naturally helps lower blood sugar levels in two ways, a) by stimulating the metabolism of glucose, b) stimulating the secretion of insulin.
How to consume elderberry
Elderberry is available in a wide variety of preparations, including:
For best results, pair elderberry with echinacea and olive leaf.
Sources for this article include: