Elderberries: Get to Know These Micro-Powerhouses
If you’ve been to a health store lately, you’ve probably noticed a new section of immune boosting supplements. The packaging might have purple elements to it, with a picture of small, dark-colored berries.
Say hello to elderberries!
What was once categorized among the honeysuckle, these micro-powerhouses have been hailed for many generations as a great addition to your natural medicine cabinet.
These small berries are a great source of Vitamin C, Vitamin A, and potassium. They even have a bit of iron and fiber in them (6).
There are about 10 different elderberry shrubs found in many places of the world (1). But of all the varieties out there, the European elder (black elderberry, Sambucus nigra) is the species used most often for supplements and natural remedies.
Because of their medicinal qualities, elderberries are most often used internally. Some of its most popular uses throughout history are:
- Common cold
- Hay fever (seasonal allergies)
- Sinus infections
- Chronic fatigue
- Upper respiratory issues
If you look closely, you might notice many plants in nature carry a healing theme. Elderberry is no different. This shrub produces berries that help fight inflammation and keep you healthy.
And what makes elderberries a great choice for your health? The secrets lie in a chemical component called anthocyanin. These phytonutrients are high in antioxidants, which can:
- Have antiviral properties: A study from the University of Sydney found that elderberry can help disrupt the replication process virus, an important part in illness recovery (4).
- Combat oxidative stress: Chronic inflammation from poor diet and lifestyle leads to problems like obesity and stress throughout the body. Research has found that elderberry extract shows promise in the fight against obesity and oxidative stress (2).
- Provide pain relief: In traditional German medicine, elderberries have been used to relieve headaches, as well as toothaches. Ancient Egyptians also used it for burns (5).
- Shortens illness duration: A systematic review of several studies showed that taking elderberry can help reduce the severity of the common cold. It can also help shorten the duration of those who had influenza (3).
- Anti-aging: Because they contain Vitamin A, elderberries may be helpful in fighting age-related skin issues like age spots, acne, and wrinkles.
Are there any risks to eating elderberries? In moderation, elderberries can be safely consumed when cooked. But, it's important to note that eating too many could result in digestive upset (8). If you experience diarrhea, nausea, dizziness or vomiting, stop and give your body a break.
Can you eat raw elderberries? Yes, as long as they're ripe. Unripe, raw elderberries contain cyanogenic glycoside, a poisonous chemical that can make you very sick. This chemical is also found in the leaves, stems, roots and bark, and should not be consumed (7).
If you're pregnant, nursing, or taking medication, consult with your healthcare provider before eating the berries or taking supplements.
Elderberries do have the potential to interact with certain medications, specifically those designed to suppress your immune system. If you have an autoimmune disease, talk with your doctor to determine the best course of action.
Elderberry supplements come in a variety of different forms:
- Topical ointments
Depending on your preferences, you can find different preparations that will suit your needs.
Ideally, you should begin treatment as soon as you begin feeling symptoms of a cold or flu. Try not to wait longer than 48 hours if you can help it (9).
When it comes to appropriate dosing, most products will have manufacturers instructions. Don't take more than the recommended amount.
Things to Look For
If you're looking for elderberry supplements, how can you make sure you're buying a quality product?
While the FDA doesn't regulate the production of natural supplements, independent companies can certify quality and safety.
Elderberry bushes are among the many nutritious and medicinal plants that have been used for centuries. These micro-powerhouses have been used both internally and externally for ailments like burns, toothaches, upper respiratory ailments, and general anti-inflammation.
The supplement industry has recently taken notice, and now there are many different ways you can take elderberries. From syrups to lozenges, supporting good health has never been easier!
Cold, flu, and allergy season is upon us. Nature offers gentle, effective solutions that help keep you healthy now, and for years to come.
What’s your favorite way to take elderberries? Let us know, we’d love to hear from you!
References & Disclaimers
✝✝This noted statement is based on independent research and is not necessarily the opinion of the author