Take a walk through any cold and flu aisle at the drugstore these days, and you’ll see a variety of elderberry options. Research indicates that elderberries contain virus-fighting and antioxidant effects. With a long history as an immune booster, this dark purple berry makes an ideal addition to any diet. (01)
What is an Elderberry?Elderberries grow on the Sambucus tree, which grows worldwide. The most widely used elderberries are called Sambucus nigra, which have some of the highest levels of antioxidants among all the elderberry types. A flowering Sambucus tree has beautiful clusters of small white elderflowers, which become small blue or black elderberries.
Five Elderberry Health BenefitsUsed throughout history as a natural health remedy, Hippocrates – known as the Father of Medicine – considered elderberries his “medicine chest.” Since then, people worldwide have been using elderberries to alleviate cold and flu symptoms. In addition, elderberries also have anti-inflammatory, diuretic, and fever-reducing properties. (02)
1. Elderberries are Potent AntioxidantsFree radicals are chemicals that damage cells and the genetic material within them. Humans are exposed to free radicals from external sources, like pollution, sunlight, or cigarette smoke. Some free radicals form as byproducts as the body processes energy. These free radicals destroy healthy DNA and can cause illnesses like cancer. Antioxidants defend the body against free radicals. Elderberries, in particular, are chock full of antioxidants. Dark-colored fruit, like elderberries, have a higher antioxidant content than other lighter-colored fruits and vegetables. (03) The dark purple-black color in elderberries comes from the antioxidants within them, namely the anthocyanins and polyphenols. Data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture indicate that one cup of elderberries has the following additional antioxidants: (04)
- 2 grams iron
- 7.3 grams magnesium
- 52 grams vitamin C
- 406 grams potassium
- 44 grams vitamin A
2. Elderberries Boost the Immune SystemThe immune system protects the body from harmful pathogens, so it’s vital to keep the immune system healthy and strong. One of the most recommended ways to boost the immune system is through diet. Consuming a variety of foods that are high in antioxidants helps to strengthen immunity. Including elderberries into the diet can fortify the immune system through their high antioxidant content. A study conducted on air travelers examined whether elderberry helps avoid colds. The study of a little over 300 participants found that the participants who took elderberry supplements experienced fewer cold symptoms than those who did not. (06)
3. Elderberries Reduce WrinklesMuch of the attention on elderberries focuses on their effect on the immune system. However, elderberries also improve skin texture and elasticity. Much of the damage to skin cells comes from the sun’s UV rays, which cause free radicals. These free radicals change DNA in skin cells, making skin look wrinkled and mottled. These free radicals may also cause skin cancer. The antioxidants in elderberries reduce signs of sun damage and help heal injured cells. (07)
4. Elderberries Have Anti-Inflammatory PropertiesInflammation is the immune system’s way of fighting pathogens and healing the body. Unfortunately, sometimes the immune system overdoes its inflammatory capabilities, making a person feel uncomfortable and, sometimes, doing more harm than good. Studies investigating the relationship between elderberries and inflammation find that this berry helps to boost the immune system without overstimulating it. (08) Therefore, elderberry limits inflammation, preventing the immune system from causing harm or discomfort. Elderberry’s anti-inflammatory properties are made possible due to its phytochemical profile (e.g., anthocyanin, phenolic acid). (09) Consuming elderberries may improve overall health, reducing inflammation in general.
5. Elderberries Fight Cold and Flu SymptomsRecent studies indicate that elderberries can assist in shortening the duration of a cold or flu infection, sometimes up to 4 days. Specifically, sixty participants who had influenza A or B infections during the randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled research study were given 15ml of elderberry syrup or a placebo for five days. The participants who were administered elderberry syrup displayed a shorter duration of illness and fewer symptoms than those who were administered the placebo syrup. (10) This berry’s power against flu and cold symptoms may come from its anti-inflammatory properties. The discomfort people experience during respiratory illnesses occurs because of inflammation in mucous membranes and blood vessels. Elderberries may limit inflammation, therefore alleviating cold and flu symptoms.
What chronic condition can Elderberries prevent?Its powerful antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties make elderberries an excellent addition to a healthy diet. Consuming a varied diet high in vegetables and dark-colored fruit, like elderberries, may prevent:
- High cholesterol
- Various types of cancer
- Heart disease
- Type 2 diabetes