The Incredible Health Benefits of Elderberries!
Page Medically Reviewed and Edited by Cyrus Khambatta, PhD
Elderberries are a fruit that has been used throughout history for their medicinal properties. In fact, in the olden days, they were often one of the first remedies prescribed by doctors to help treat cold and flu symptoms.
But unlike many folk remedies, these berries have been proven time and time again to actually live up to their medicinal reputation, and actually have an incredible amount of health benefits that you should know about!
Read on to find out more about this little-known fruit and how it can benefit your entire body (especially your immune system!) today.
Table of Contents
What Is An Elderberry?
Elderberries, also known as black elderberry, elderberry plant, or Sambucus nigra, are a fruit that is found in temperate regions of the world, including North America, Europe. They are known for their deep purple-black color, which is where they get the name “black elderberry”.
Elderberries can reach up to two inches in length and are found on the elder tree during summer, their once annual bloom.
They have a tart flavor that resembles cranberries but elderberries are also notable for the fact that they have an earthy, slightly bitter flavor.
Elderberries are known for their immune system boosting properties and have been used in medicinal preparations since ancient times.
While there are many different fruits in the Sambucus family (a close relative of the blueberry), black elderberries are some of the most commonly sought after because they have an exceptionally high concentration of antioxidants.
Elderberry Nutrition Facts
Elderberries are packed with key nutrients like:
- Vitamin C
- Beta Carotene
- Folic acid
- And Vitamin B12.
Each of these nutrients has its own health benefits (which we'll explore below), but it's the antioxidant properties of this tiny berry that make them so desirable.
As a powerful antioxidant, elderberries provide resistance to free radicals in your body - which are unstable molecules that damage cells' DNA by oxidizing their healthy fats (like cholesterol) into harmful compounds like peroxides. These toxic substances can lead to chronic diseases such as cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.
This is a major reason why elderberry has been used as a common remedy throughout history.
The History of Elderberry Supplementation
Sambucus Nigra has been used for a variety of purposes for centuries, with most originating in Europe. In fact, it is thought that the first use was to help heal wounds and as an antiseptic due to its antibacterial properties.
A few hundred years ago elderberry syrup would be given to children from time to time if they showed signs of illness like flu symptoms, or if they needed protection from the common cold.
The use of elderberry persisted well into the 1900s when it was discovered that elderberry could also be used to treat eye inflammations and help with asthma symptoms.
Now, in modern times, elderberry is still used for a variety of purposes, including increasing immune response.
The Modern Take on Elderberry Health Benefits
Today, modern medicine has discovered that elderberry can help you with anything from a cold to allergies and even ulcers. We'll touch on just a few below.
Boost Kidney and Urinary Health
Elderberry helps boost kidney and urinary health by preventing bacteria from sticking to the cells found in these areas. This, in turn, helps avoid kidney infections and reduces symptoms of urinary tract infection.
Protect Against Heart and Cardiovascular Disease
Elderberry can also help protect your heart and cardiovascular health by preventing cholesterol and fatty deposits from attaching to the cells. This helps block cholesterol production which can lead to heart disease.
Lower Your Risk of Cancer
Elderberry can also help mitigate factors that lead to cancer. This is because it helps stimulate the immune cells to attack cancerous cells, and also helps your body fight off viruses that could lead to tumor growth.
Helps Lower Your Blood Glucose (Fights Diabetes)
Elderberry also helps your body fight diabetes, by helping lower blood glucose levels. The way this works is that elderberry has been shown to help reduce insulin resistance (a key factor that can lead to diabetes) and also slows the breakdown of sugar in your digestive system.
Elderberry has also been shown to significantly reduce inflammation, which helps all around your body. For example, inflammation in your digestive tract can lead to ulcers, and inflammation in the joints can cause arthritis. In fact, elderberry can even help with eye inflammations or asthma symptoms, showing how versatile this berry is.
However, the most powerful benefits from Elderberries come from its work in your immune system.
Elderberries and Your Immune System
Elderberries help your immune system in a few ways:
First, their antioxidant value is incredibly high, which helps your body fight against free radicals, toxic cells that can otherwise occupy your immune system. With these antioxidants working overtime to keep your body clean, your immune system can focus on the real threats, like viruses and bacteria.
Second, elderberries offer both antifungal and antibacterial properties. This means that elderberries don't just clear the way for your body to fight potential infections and disease, they also actively help fight these contagions themselves!
How Elderberries Help Fight a Disease
When faced with a powerful contagion, your body can trigger reactions that cause increased production of inflammatory agents called cytokines. Usually, these cytokines help to produce a fever, which is necessary for fighting off certain infections.
When you have low levels of antioxidants in your body, these cytokines can grow out of control, leading to severe inflammation and damage to your cells.
However, if you have high levels of antioxidants in your body, then your immune system doesn't need to produce quite so many cytokines. This decreased production leads to decreased inflammation, which in turn reduces the fever and pain that can often be caused by inflammation.
And the whole time, your body's defense system is being boosted by the elderberry's antifungal and antibacterial properties. This is why elderberries are such a valuable addition to any immune-enhancing regimen!
Why Add Elderberries to Your Diet
Why choose elderberry? After all, what can this tart treat of Sambucus Nigra do for you?
Well, elderberries are:
- Easy to take with no gastrointestinal effects. That's right, elderberry is the perfect food for those with a sensitive stomach or anyone who doesn't want to deal with any potential digestive issues.
- Safe for most people -- including children and pregnant women. Despite this plant's incredible power, its active ingredients are very benign, meaning almost anyone can take advantage of elderberry.
- One of the few plant-based medicines that have been extensively tested for efficacy and safety. Elderberry has been studied extensively for everything from cold and flu to immunity-boosting for centuries, meaning we know what it can do and how it works.
- Elderberry has no known clinical side effects. That's right: elderberries have no known clinical side effects, and all of the nutrients that they give you are ones that your body craves already!
This leads to maybe the best benefit of elderberries, which is that they're a natural supplement that can be taken daily as a prevention measure, rather than just medicine.
There's no reason not to add elderberries to your diet!
Best Ways to Enjoy Elderberries
There are a number of different ways that you can take elderberry, including fresh, as juice, as a jam or an extract, as a syrup, or in tea! We go into our favorites below (with one bonus at the end!).
Fresh elderberries are a great addition to any meal or just as a snack on their own. They are juicy and delicious and taste a bit like a raisin. For a quick and easy snack, try them in a fruit salad, or a smoothie!
You can find fresh elderberries at most farmers' markets and grocery stores. To enjoy them, wash the berries and then dry them off with a paper towel or dishcloth before transferring to an airtight container. You can keep fresh berries in your refrigerator for up to two weeks without any risk of spoilage.
If you want easy access, you can also buy dried elderberries, which are found at most major grocery stores. Dried elderberries can be kept for up to a year in an airtight container and then used as needed!
The antioxidant-rich juice of elderberries is perfect for those looking to get all the benefits we've talked about today without having to eat them directly.
Records of elderberry juice date back to the late 1800s. The juice is made by soaking berries in water for two days and then straining them out over a cheesecloth or mesh sieve.
You can enjoy this delicious elderberry juice with meals, as a snack on its own, mixed into your morning cereal (it's especially great if you like fruity flavors!), or blended with other fruits.
Elderberry juice is available for purchase at most grocery stores, and you can buy it as a concentrate that you dilute with water in order to make fresh juice.
Oral elderberry extract is one of the oldest ways to take advantage of the benefits of elderberry and is a great option for those who have digestion challenges.
Elderberry extract can be made using the berries themselves as well as dried or candied fruit. It can also be bought pre-made from specialty health food stores.
Elderberry extract is made by steeping elderberries in alcohol for a period of time. This extract is then used to flavor drinks, sauces, jams, and pastries!
Interestingly enough, you'll find that many chefs use an elderberry-flavored sauce as the base for their duck dishes at upscale restaurants because it has a subtle sweetness with just enough savory notes to balance out the dish.
If you can find some elderberry extract (or even want to try making elderberry extract yourself), give it a try!
Elderberry syrup is another age-old way to enjoy cooked elderberry fruit. And much like the strategies above, it's a great way to combine the flavors of elderberries with this powerful plant's health benefits.
To make elderberry syrup: simmer a cup of fresh elderberries in one quart of water for about 30 minutes (or until the berries pop and become soft). Allow cooling slightly before straining into a pitcher with enough room to mix two cups of cold water. Add honey if desired.
Making elderberry syrup is easy and can be done in about an hour! Also, you'll find that it's possible for your syrup to last up to six months if stored properly
A Key Part of the New Amla Green Immunity Formula!
Did you know that elderberries are a key part of the new Amla Green Immunity Formula? It's true, and elderberry joins the list of powerful ingredients such as vitamin D, amla, zinc, and green tea extract that are all part of the blend.
We live in a time where we're more aware than ever of how important our immune systems are. That's why we've worked so hard to bring you Amla Green Immunity Formula, which takes the already amazing immune-boosting power of Amla Green and takes it to an entirely new level.
Add the benefits of elderberry to the incredible health benefits of amla like weight loss, lower blood glucose, healthier skin, and hair, and better cardiovascular and you've got a recipe for maybe the most powerful natural immunity supplement on the planet.
But we don't want you to just take our word for it. That's why we offer a 30 day risk-free guarantee the first time you want to try Amla Green Immunity, so you can experience the incredible benefits yourself.
Amla Green has strict guidelines for scientific references in our articles, and we rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, governmental organizations, and reputable medical organizations. We do our best to avoid using non evidence-based references in all articles. The references in this article are listed below.
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Page Medically Reviewed and Edited by
Cyrus Khambatta, PhD
Cyrus Khambatta, PhD, is a cofounder of Mastering Diabetes and Amla Green is an internationally recognized nutrition and fitness coach who has been living with type 1 diabetes since 2002. Using an evidence-based approach to nutrition and fitness, he first reduced his own insulin usage by more than 40%, and has educated thousands of people with all forms of diabetes how to reverse insulin resistance using food as medicine. Cyrus earned a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from Stanford University in 2003, then earned a PhD in Nutritional Biochemistry from the University of California at Berkeley in 2012. He is the co-host of the annual Mastering Diabetes Online Summit, a featured speaker at the Plant-Based Nutrition and Healthcare Conference (PBNHC), the American College of Lifestyle Medicine (ACLM) Conference, Plant Stock, and has been featured on Forks Over Knives, NPR, PBS, KQED, Fast Company, and is the author of the upcoming book Mastering Diabetes.
- Cyrus Khambatta