People have been making use of the incredible healing benefits of the elderberry for thousands of years. Records show that this natural remedy dates back in time to Ancient Egypt, Ancient Greece, and possibly even as far back as the ice age.
The elderberry commonly used for medicinal purposes, or the Sambucus nigra, is native to Europe and North America. For hundreds of years, Europeans and Native Americans have been using the flowers of the sambuca plant to cure colds, boost immunity, and improve overall health.
The vast health benefits of the elderberry can be attributed to its rich supply of antioxidants and antiviral compounds. The deep purple color of these berries is an indication of just how concentrated they are in flavonoids, including anthocyanins, which support immune system functioning.
Various Ways to Consume Elderberry
Elderberry is a widely distributed and incredibly popular natural medicine; thus, it is available in many different forms.
Depending on your needs, the elderberry market offers syrups, tinctures, tablets, capsules, gummies, lozenges, teas, jams, and even wines. Many companies sell specialized children’s immune-boosting supplements that contain elderberry as the main ingredient.
Let’s find out all the ways you can benefit from “nature’s flu fighter.”
Benefits of Elderberry
1. Fights Common Cold and Flu
Elderberries are bursting with nutrients, most notably with pigment flavonoid antioxidants called anthocyanins. They have the highest antioxidant strength of all edible berries. They’re also an excellent source of many vitamins and minerals, including vitamin A, vitamin C, B vitamins, iron, potassium, phosphorus, and more.
Research shows that elderberry possesses antiviral properties, helping the body to fight off foreign invaders and reducing the severity and duration of cold and flu symptoms.
In one study, 312 economy passengers were given either elderberry or a placebo. The people who were given elderberry had significant reduction of cold duration and severity while traveling. (1)
Another study on flu patients showed similar results, with the elderberry group experiencing a significant reduction of severity and duration of flu symptoms, including fever, headache, muscle aches, nasal congestion, and mucus discharge when compared with the placebo group. (2)
2. Provides Immune System Boost
This berry contains powerful antibacterial and antiviral properties that make it a perfect immune-boosting supplement. Not only does elderberry directly fight symptoms of the common cold and flu, but it also protects against autoimmune disorders, symptoms associated with AIDS, infection, and other complications that people may experience when exposed to bacterial, viral, or fungal pathogens.
3. Protects against Cardiovascular Disease
Research suggests that elderberry may provide protection to heart health due to its high levels of anti-inflammatory anthocyanins.
A 2015 study on mice found that elderberry supplementation caused an improvement in “good” HDL cholesterol function and an overall decrease in total cholesterol levels. These markers slow down the progression of atherosclerosis—a buildup of plaque in the arteries that can lead to cardiovascular disease, heart attack, or stroke. (3)
Elderberries may also help to maintain healthy blood pressure. Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is another major risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Since elderberries are rich in potassium, a mineral that helps to lower blood pressure, they may help to prevent cardiovascular disease in this way as well.
4. Prevents Cancer
One of the best ways to protect yourself from cancer is by eating antioxidant-rich foods, like elderberry. These vibrant color of these berries can be attributed to their rich supply of pigment flavonoid antioxidants, which fight free radical damage and oxidative stress in the body.
Free radicals are toxins that cause damage to healthy cells in the body, altering cell DNA, which can lead to cancer cell growth.
Studies indicate that elderberry has specific chemopreventive properties that cause the initiation of cancer cell death and inhibition of cancer cell growth.
In a study conducted at King’s College London, researchers found that elderberry showed chemopreventive agents specifically for colon cancer, both in rodents and in humans. (4)
5. Treats Diabetes
Type 2 diabetes is a relatively new disease that is caused by poor diet and fitness habits. With the increase in processed foods and desk jobs over the past century, type 2 diabetes is becoming increasingly prevalent. In the year 2015, 30.3 million Americans had diabetes. (5)
Elderberry is considered an anti-diabetic food because it lowers blood sugar levels by stimulating glucose metabolism and insulin secretion.
The antioxidants in elderberry lower inflammation and oxidative stress in the body, which can cause diabetes long term.
Research supports the long-standing claims that elderberry is a powerful anti-diabetic food. (6)(7)
6. Relieves Constipation
The elderberry is rich in fiber and in enzymes that support digestion and improve bowel function, preventing constipation, bloating, gas, and cramping.
The Sambucus nigra is often used to treat constipation in Brazil, and a 2010 study confirmed that the laxative effects of elderberry may be used to treat chronic constipation safely. (8)
7. Supports Weight Loss
These tiny berries are bursting with nutrients that may aid your weight loss efforts. The high level of dietary fiber in elderberries helps to fill you up and keep you satisfied for a long time after eating, preventing you from snacking on unhealthy foods throughout the day.
In addition, the rich supply of vitamins and minerals provides you with a metabolism boost for faster and more efficient calorie-burning—both when you’re exercising and when you’re at rest.
Snack on high-fiber and nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables when trying to shed that extra weight.
8. Keeps Skin Looking Young
Antioxidants are powerful because they improve your health from the inside out. A diet rich in antioxidant foods will show on your glowing, youthful skin.
Not only do the antioxidants in elderberries benefit skin health—their vitamin A content also provides a boost to your skin. The elderberry reduces wrinkles, fine lines, age spots, and inflammation. It prevents early aging and keeps that complexion smooth and even for years to come.
9. Improves Bone Health
The high levels of minerals in elderberries support bone health and prevent joint pain, inflammation, and osteoporosis. This is especially important for postmenopausal women, a quarter of whom are diagnosed with osteoporosis. (9)
Eat foods that are rich in bone-strengthening vitamins and minerals, like elderberry, and your risk of being diagnosed with low bone density later in life can be significantly decreased.
Elderberry is a natural, safe, and effective immune-boosting supplement that can not only help to prevent the common cold and flu but also improve your overall health.
There are so many different ways to consume elderberry that you’re bound to find it in a form you love. Give your children an immune system boost this flu season with some kid-friendly elderberry gummies or syrup. Take it every day, and you’ll enjoy immune protection all year round!