In many parts of the world, elderberry concoctions of all sorts have been used to treat all kinds of ailments from head to toe for centuries.
I’m positive that – by now – the word about at least some of the remarkable properties of the increasingly popular elderberry has gotten to you as well, right?
You can find elderberry tea, wine or juice, jelly and jams, infusions, lozenges, tinctures, capsules, gummies, syrup, and likely other forms of elderberry at your local stores or online.
Elderberry syrup is a common wintertime remedy, and you can either buy one or you can make your own delicious elderberry syrup with just a few simple ingredients.
While many parts of the plant can be used for a number of different treatments, it is most notably the FLOWER and BERRIES that are used these days.
The following information relates specifically to products made from the FRUIT (BERRY) of the elderberry plant.
What is black elderberry good for???
Elderberry is like pure winter gold, dressed in bold shade of purple and ready to put up a fierce fight.
What makes elderberries so special?
Why do elderberry products fly off the shelves in the wintertime?
Elderberries seem to have anti-inflammatory, antiviral, and anticancer properties.
There may be many benefits to taking elderberry supplements.
And, whether you’re a holistic health nut or anything-holistic-doubter kind of person, current scientific research seems to validate the health-boosting properties of the humble elderberry.
FYI: Though the European elderberry (Sambucus nigra) has been studied more, the American elderberry (Sambucus canadensis) appears to have comparable medicinal properties.
4 HEALTH BENEFITS of the ELDERBERRY FRUIT:
1. Elderberries promote overall health
Elderberries may be tiny, but they sure pack a healthy punch!
Unless you talk to the FDA. Or the CDC. Or perhaps your medical provider. Then elderberries are pretty much good for nothing and perhaps extremely poisonous so you should definitely stay at least 12 feet away with your eyes closed and ask for a heavily promoted, potentially very dangerous, likely insufficiently tested and probably ridiculously overpriced drug instead.
On behalf of Wholesome Children, I’d like to apologize. The person that wrote the last paragraph has been demoted to clearing out the blog’s spam folder indefinitely.
On a serious elderberry note though…
Apart from vitamin A, vitamin B6, and vitamin C, elderberries contain minerals like iron, phosphorus, potassium and calcium, and a variety of other beneficial compounds. Elderberries are also very rich in flavonoids, particularly anthocyanins which may help protect cells against damage while supporting the immune system.
In fact, elderberries are one of the richest sources of anthocyanins among ALL small fruits and berries!
2. Elderberries may help prevent cancer
Edible berries that are rich in anthocyanins and other polyphenols – like elderberries – possess a broad spectrum of therapeutic, anti-carcinogenic properties.
Research indicates that elderberry has some CHEMOPREVENTIVE properties. A chemopreventive is able to inhibit, delay, or reverse carcinogenesis.
In one study1, both European elderberry (Sambucus nigra) and American elderberry (Sambucus canadensis) demonstrated significant chemopreventive potential.
3. Elderberry may be able to prevent infection
Extract from the elderberry fruit appears to have antiviral as well as some antimicrobial properties.
Research shows that elderberries may be able to stop an infection by preventing the virus from attaching to cells in the first place.
An article published in the 2009 issue of Phytochemistry showed that the flavonoids found in the elderberry fruit bind to the virus and block its ability to cause an infection2.
Another study3 points out that elderberry fruit extract is effective against influenza A and B viruses and bacterial infections that can accompany the flu.
Note, however, that neither Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA and MSSA) nor Streptococcus mutans were inhibited by the elderberry.
4. Elderberry syrup can shorten the duration of the flu or a cold
Elderberry extract has been shown to be an effective treatment for sore throats, coughs, colds and the flu.
A few studies4,5,6 have demonstrated its capability to reduce flu-like symptoms and to speed up healing.
On average, symptoms were relieved 4 days earlier for those on the elderberry protocol, and researches concluded that elderberry extract appears to be an efficient, safe, and a cost-effective treatment for influenza.
But don’t get too excited…
This is where the FDA comes barging in.
“Elderberry supplements have NOT been approved by the FDA for the treatment or prevention of ANY medical condition.”
There you have it.
The FDA truly cares about you and is committed to protecting your health from potentially unsafe or useless products.
Unapproved health claims are not only dangerous but may also cause delay in seeking an approved,
expensive heavily pushed LEGITIMATE treatment instead.
Like TAMIFLU, for example.
Unlike its cheap, ordinary, roadside cousin elderberry, Tamiflu HAS BEEN APPROVED by the FDA and HAS BEEN PROVEN SAFE AND EFFECTIVE in large studies. So don’t be silly, run to your doctor at the first sign of a sniffle and ask for a prescription of Tamiflu. The Roche Group thanks you.
No need to know that Tamiflu is actually pretty lousy when it comes to the flu.
It turns out that the manufacturer lied, manipulated data and withheld vital information from pretty much the rest of the world.
While the FDA-approved Tamiflu DOES shorten the duration of the flu by a whopping LESS THAN A DAY, it comes with a hefty list of unpleasant and uncomfortable side effects, including unusual neuropsychiatric issues such as seizures, delirium, and abnormal behavior including self-injury and suicide.
Kind of a big deal, you say?
Well, these events were seen primarily among pediatric patients, and you don’t need to worry because they were self-reported by concerned parents so they don’t really mean squat. Forget about all that, and do watch out for the dark berry!
Once more I’d like to apologize. The demoted writer has gone rogue, and I personally have nothing but respect for the dedication of the FDA to protect public health by developing appropriate action plans, addressing issues timely, and using cutting-edge science and heavy deliberation when approving products.
What? That’s not me laughing.
OK it is.
How safe is taking elderberry supplements?
There are no known drug interactions with elderberry.
According to scientific studies, elderberry extract/syrup in particular appears to be safe for short-term use.
However, some concern for certain risk groups does exist either because the use of elderberry hasn’t been studied in certain specific groups or based on theoretical interactions and speculative concern.
Elderberry/elderflower precautions and possible interactions:
- Taking elderberry supplements in pregnancy and lactation is not recommended. It’s not because a proof exists that it could be harmful. It’s suggested to avoid elderberry in pregnancy and while nursing because elderberry products have not undergone extensive research regarding their safety (but then again neither has the flu shot or other vaccines that are heavily pushed on pregnant women).
- Because the flower has diuretic effects, elderberry supplements may increase urination and intensify the effect of diuretic medications.
- Elderflower is naturally mildly laxative as well and may increase the effect of laxative products.
- Elder may lower blood sugar levels and could increase risk of hypoglycemia for those taking medications to regulate blood sugar.
- Be cautious about the use of elderberry supplements along with medications taken for asthma and other respiratory conditions as the elderberry may reduce the effect of theophylline.
- Elderberry might interfere with immunosuppressant therapy – consult with your doctor when taking immunosuppressant drugs.
- And, of course, avoid consuming unripe and raw elderberries which are toxic.
- Thole JM, Kraft TF, Sueiro LA, Kang YH, Gills JJ, Cuendet M, Pezzuto JM, Seigler DS, Lila MA. A comparative evaluation of the anticancer properties of European and American elderberry fruits. Journal of Medicinal Food, 2006 Winter; 9(4):498-504.
- Roschek B Jr, Fink RC, McMichael MD, Li D, Alberte RS. Elderberry flavonoids bind to and prevent H1N1 infection in vitro. Phytochemistry, 2009 Jul;70(10):1255-61. doi: 10.1016/j.phytochem.2009.06.003. Epub 2009 Aug 12.
- Krawitz C, Mraheil MA, Stein M, Imirzalioglu C, Domann E, Pleschka S, Hain T. Inhibitory activity of a standardized elderberry liquid extract against clinically-relevant human respiratory bacterial pathogens and influenza A and B viruses. BMC Complement. Alern. Med., 2011 Feb 25;11:16. doi: 10.1186/1472-6882-11-16.
- Evelin Tiralongo, Shirley S. Wee, Rodney A. Lea. Elderberry Supplementation Reduces Cold Duration and Symptoms in Air-Travellers: A Randomized, Double-Blind Placebo-Controlled Clinical Trial. Nutrients. 2016 Apr; 8(4): 182. Published online 2016 Mar 24. doi: 10.3390/nu8040182
- Fan‐kun Kong, PhD. Pilot Clinical Study on a Proprietary Elderberry Extract: Efficacy in Addressing Influenza Symptoms. OJPKTM Online Journal of Pharmacology and PharmacoKinetics ©; Volume 5: 32‐43, 2009. [pdf]
- Zakay-Rones Z, Thom E, Wollan T, Wadstein J. Randomized study of the efficacy and safety of oral elderberry extract in the treatment of influenza A and B virus infections. J Int. Med. Res. 2004 Mar-Apr;32(2):132-40.
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