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Elderberries have a long, rich history of use in traditional medicine. Several cultures have known about the health benefits of elderberries for hundreds of years. These nutrient-rich berries were commonly used to boost immunity and reduce cold and flu symptoms.
So what exactly are elderberries and what makes them such a powerful immune booster? Here’s what you should know about elderberry benefits and uses.
What are elderberries?
Elderberries are a type of dark purplish-black colored berry that grows in clusters on the Sambucus tree. There are several different varieties of Sambucus trees including the American elder, red-fruited elder, dwarf elder, antelope brush, and daneworth.
The most commonly used variety is the Sambucus Nigra tree. These berries are a rich source of antioxidants known as anthocyanins. The raw berries are tart and have to be cooked before eating.
Native Americans and European herbalists with native knowledge of elderberry benefits have long used these berries in various traditional treatments. They made their own elderberry syrup, preserves and tinctures to be used for a variety of purposes, from boosting the immune system to reducing inflammation and joint pain.
These tiny berries are packed full of nutrients, which is what makes them good for overall health and wellness.
Elderberries are rich in anthocyanins, a type of antioxidant that has potent anti-inflammatory properties. They also contain high levels of phenolic acids, another type of antioxidant that plays a powerful role in minimizing damage from oxidative stress in the body.
The high Vitamin C content gives elderberries their famed immunity-boosting and flu-fighting properties.
These little berries are also a rich source of antioxidant flavonols quercetin and kaempferol.
The exact nutritional composition of elderberries may vary depending on the plant variety, climatic and growing conditions, and ripeness of the berries.
5 Powerful Elderberry Benefits
1. Boosts Immunity & Reduces Severity & Length of Flu & Cold Symptoms
Several studies have suggested that elderberry may help boost the immune system and reduce the severity of influenza symptoms.
Elderberries work to strengthen immunity by slowing down the production of cytokines. These are a hormone-like substance in the body that causes inflammation, especially in influenza and arthritis.
Taking elderberry regularly during cold and flu season can be hugely beneficial.
If you already have a cold or flu, taking elderberry can help reduce the length and severity of the infection. This can prevent further complications.
Even WebMD, an authority health site, acknowledges the benefits of elderberry for boosting the immune system and taming inflammation.
You can find commercial preparations of elderberry for colds in several different forms, including syrups, gummies, capsules, and lozenges.
Please Note: This should not replace medical treatment for the flu, pneumonia, or more serious illnesses. It is meant to help you build up your immune system in conjunction with other methods of treatment and is not meant to be used as a replacement for medical advice or as a cure.
2. Relieves Pain
Elderberries are rich in anthocyanins, which have potent anti-inflammatory properties. Anthocyanins work by hindering the production of nitric oxide in the immune system, which slows down the inflammatory response. This helps to reduce swelling and pain.
Various cultures have been using elderberry salves and tinctures as traditional medicines to treat headaches, bruises, cuts, burns, and joint pain. There are also indications that it may have been used to soothe dental pain. Studies are still ongoing into the pain-reducing benefits of elderberries.
3. Soothes minor skin irritations
Topical application of elderberry tincture or salve soothes minor skin conditions such as irritation due to acne outbreaks or stress.
4. Regulates bowel movement
The high fiber content of elderberry makes this an excellent natural home remedy for digestive or bowel issues, especially with constipation or stomach cramps.
5. Supports Kidney Health
Consuming elderberries regularly helps to keep the kidneys healthy.
6 Ways to Get The Benefits Of Elderberry
Elderberry is available in several different forms including:
Elderberry syrup is one of the most popular forms of consuming this healthy berry. Elderberry syrup is a thick liquid made from elderberries, natural herbs, and honey. The herbs complement and boost the health benefits of elderberry.
You can make your own elderberry syrup with this easy recipe using fresh or dried elderberries. Or you can buy elderberry syrup from a reputed brand.
Top-Rated Elderberry Syrup Varieties
Elderberry gummies are among the most popular way to enjoy the benefits of elderberries. These chewable, gummy supplements contain the extract or juice of the berries from the Sambuca Nigra tree. They also contain other ingredients to make them more palatable and pectin, which is used as a thickening agent.
Elderberry supplements are especially great for children who may fuss about taking syrups or swallowing supplements.
Top-Rated Elderberry Gummies
Sucking on elderberry lozenges is another super easy and tasty way to get the benefits of elderberry. As you suck on the lozenges, the nutrients get slowly absorbed into your bloodstream so you get the healing benefits of Vitamins A and C, iron, and folate.
Elderberry lozenges can be especially soothing when you have a sore throat.
Top-Rated Elderberry Lozenges
If you just want something you can take like regular over-the-counter medicine, you might prefer getting your elderberries in capsule form. These are regular gel-coated capsules filled with concentrated elderberry extract. Some may have some other natural ingredients mixed in for additional benefits.
When buying elderberry capsules, always check the list of ingredients on the box so you know exactly what you’re taking.
Top-Rated Elderberry Capsules
You can buy elderberry tea or make your own with dried elderberries. This is a great way to get the immune-boosting benefits of elderberries during the cooler fall and winter months.
Top-Rated Elderberry Tea Varieties
Elderberry Skincare Products
If you want to use elderberries for their skincare benefits, look for natural and organic skincare products that contain elderberry as one of the ingredients. You’ll rarely find skincare products with only elderberry. They are usually added to complement other ingredients with skincare benefits. Elderberry-containing skincare products are specially formulated for sensitive skin.
Top-Rated Elderberry Skincare Products
Before you start consuming elderberry for its many benefits, it is really important to understand the potential cautions and side effects.
When it comes to elderberry precautions, the most important thing to know is that raw elderberries can be poisonous. Never eat raw berries even if you grow your own plant in your backyard. Raw berries contain small amounts of lectins and cyanogenic glycosides, both of which are toxic. Eating raw berries can cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
The right way to eat elderberry is to consume it in the form of syrup, preserves or any other cooked concoction. Cooking destroys these toxins and makes the cooked product safe to eat.
The only part of the elderberry shrub that you can eat raw is the elderflowers.
Another precaution to take note of is that not everyone should consume elderberries.
While these berries are safe for most people, they can be dangerous for:
- Children under 18 years of age
- Women who are pregnant or nursing
- People with sensitive immune systems
- People with underlying health conditions
If any of the above apply to you, you must speak to your doctor before consuming elderberries for immune support.
In fact, even if you do not fall into any of the categories mentioned, it is always a good idea to talk to your doctor before you start taking elderberry for flu, colds or any of its other health benefits.
Tips for Buying Commercial Elderberry Preparations
Check the Ingredients First – The safety and effectiveness of elderberries start with what you purchase. Look for natural, organic elderberry products that don’t contain any preservatives or additives. Common and safe ingredients used in most elderberry products are dried organic elderberries, water, honey, herbs, and spices. Avoid elderberry syrup with ingredients like high fructose corn syrup. This increases the sugar content, which is bad for health in the long run.
Always Buy the Best Quality – You definitely do not want to compromise on quality when buying elderberries. This does not necessarily mean the most expensive. Check out this 1lb pack of Organic Dried Elder Berries by Starwest Botanicals. That’s a lot you get for the price and 1 pound will last you a long time.
Check the Label for Usage – Like any other medicine you would take, you must read the label for proper dosage and guidelines. This may vary from one brand to another so don’t make the mistake of generalizing. Just because it is natural, that does not mean you should just use it as much as you want. You still need to be careful.
Have you used elderberries and what was your experience? Which form of elderberries are your favorite? Let us know in the comments below.
Disclaimer: This information is not intended to serve as medical advice. Please consult your doctor before using any natural medication or if you experience any unusual symptoms. See Full Disclaimer here.