As one of the most commonly used plants today, elderberry can be found in medicine cabinets all over the world. It’s known for its ability to alleviate cold and flu symptoms, and stimulate immune response, so what makes this berry so much more healing than others? Here, we take a closer look at the history, benefits, and science of this powerful berry.
Elderberries are found on the sambucus nigra plant, which is a flowering shrub or tree native to Europe and North America. The colloquial name elderberry can be traced to the Anglo-Saxon word “aeld,” meaning fire, as the plant’s stem was hollow and could be easily used to blow air into a fire.
Like many herbs, elderberry’s history is steeped in folklore. The sambucus nigra was thought to be inhabited by Hyde Moer—or Elder Mother—who was the goddess or nymph of vegetation, life, and death in Scandinavian culture. Anyone who harmed the sacred tree was suspected to be struck with disaster.
The Benefits & Science
While elderberry has long been used as a remedy, there’s a pretty good reason why you won’t find it as an ingredient in your favorite smoothie. Raw elderberries are actually toxic—they contain sambunigrin, which can be poisonous to humans. A word to the wise, don’t experiment with elderberries at home!
So why are elderberries good for you in their medicinal form? Primarily due to their high concentration of antioxidant compounds like polyphenols and anthocyanins. Anthocyanins found in elderberries have 3.5 times the antioxidant power of vitamin E. You need antioxidants to fight against free radicals (unstable atoms that can damage your cells) in the body, aiding in the prevention of developing illness. Meanwhile, polyphenols are also regarded for their antioxidant properties and have been linked to reduction in blood pressure.
The body of clinical research on elderberries is growing and many studies point to the positive role that the herb plays in the improvement and reduction of cold and flu symptoms. One study conducted on 60 participants with flu-like symptoms found that people who took elderberry showed improvement in two to four days, while the control group took up to twice as long to show improvement. Another study on over 300 air travelers showed that participants who got sick and took elderberry extract experienced a shorter duration of illness and less severe symptoms.
All in all, elderberry is, without a doubt, an ingredient to consider adding to your daily health routine for reliable (and tasty) support.
This information is for educational purposes only and should not be taken as medical advice. Please consult a physician before treating any disorder.
- Medical News Today
- Bioactive properties of sambucus nigra L. as a functional ingredient for food and pharmaceutical industry
- Elderberry Supplementation Reduces Cold Duration and Symptoms in Air-Travellers: A Randomized, Double-Blind Placebo-Controlled Clinical Trial
- Advanced research on the antioxidant and health benefit of elderberry (Sambucus nigra) in food – a review
- A Review of the Antiviral Properties of Black Elder (Sambucus nigra L.) Products
- Randomized study of the efficacy and safety of oral elderberry extract in the treatment of influenza A and B virus infection
- Herb Society of America: Elderberry