health benefit of elderberry

Health benefits of elderberry

Remember when antioxidants were all the rage in the health world? Once upon a time they seemed like the latest new and exciting thing, a vital ingredient to any new superfood. Fast forward a few decades later, and here they still are. Said to be found in high amounts in dark berries and rich leafy greens, antioxidants are natural food compounds that are said to have shocking immune system health benefits.

But much, much longer before a health-conscious public got excited about goji berries, blackberries, or acai, elderberry was used as an ancient healing remedy for all the very same things that people rave about with antioxidants today. As it so happens, elderberry could be one of the darkest-pigmented berries used for food purposes, making it incredibly chock full of antioxidants. It also has a long tradition of being used to empower the immune system in other ways, far beyond what simple antioxidants are capable of.

Some could say that elderberry is the ultimate antioxidant-rich dark berry for immune boosting! Nowadays, the berry is found in a wide range of immune-boosting foods, supplements, syrups, extracts, gummies, and more.

What is elderberry?

Uses of Elderberry | McPeak Market

Elderberry bush | Credit: Katie Biesendorfer

Elderberry is the name given to fruits harvested from elder plants, medium to tall bushes that belong to the Sambucus genus. There are native and introduced species of elder found in many parts of the world, including Europe, Asia, and North America. The species considered the most medicinal is the darkest-colored berry variety, Sambucus nigra, also called black elderberry. There are other types that are lighter blue, purple, even pink or red.

While most elder species with berries have some medicinal properties, the benefits of black elderberry are considered (and shown by science) to be the most powerful of all species in terms of health properties. This very likely has to do with its dark color, a sign of its higher anthocyanin content— anthocyanins being darkly pigmented antioxidants that are also found in other dark red, purple, or black-colored berries like raspberries, blueberries, acai berries and the like.

Black elderberry contains the highest level of antioxidants, and thus it drew the most attention for medicinal use in old times. Now scientific study of the berry has also attracted its value to supplements and other health products, especially for antioxidant tonic effects and immune boosting.

Uses of elderberry

A fascinating fact about elderberry: it cannot be eaten raw! Well, technically it can, but you really shouldn’t eat it— the seeds of the berry contain cyanide-inducing glycosides, which can make people feel sick or experience symptoms of food poisoning if you eat too much. That said, black elderberry is known to contain less glycosides than other colored varieties, and when extracted into foods, supplements, and vitamins from very ripe berries, it is perfectly safe.

Before you think this sounds scary, keep in mind that these glycosides can be found in the seeds of other fruits like apples and peaches. We simply avoid eating these seeds and can enjoy the sweet fruit with no problems. With elderberry, however, the berry is so small along with the seed that it is difficult (or extremely impractical) to try and eat the

Elderberry Plant | McPeak Market

Credit: Adrian White | Unripened elderberries

berry while avoiding the seed. That’s why the most popular uses of elderberry are to make it into a juice, a tea, or even a syrup or extract for medicinal or ingredient use only.

Our ancestors figured this out as they perfected their preparations of elderberry for food and medicine, utilizing its sweet yet medicinal flavor for appetizing dishes or for giving the weak in the community extra nutrition and an immune boost.

The ancient traditional herbalism uses (not all supported by science) of elderberry include:

  • Providing extra nutrients (vitamins and minerals)
  • Strengthening the weak
  • Preventing illness
  • Supporting colds and flu symptoms
  • Bringing on or breaking fevers
  • Improving kidney health
  • Reducing risk of viral infection
  • Supporting respiratory health and breathing
  • Soothing cough or sore throat symptoms
  • Boosting the immune system
  • Fighting and healing anemia and other nutritive deficiencies
  • Acting as a digestive tonic
  • Aiding heartburn and flatulence
  • Boosting women’s health
  • …and much more

Health benefits of elderberry

How do the ancient uses of elderberry translate for people today, seeking out its benefits in a more scientific sense? How can we use elderberry’s modern preparations and what health benefits can we expect? Are they the same as the healing benefits of old?

As it turns out, scientific studies have been able to confirm many of the ancient or “folk” uses of elderberry. But none of the benefits are stronger or more prominent than the berry’s ability to strengthen the immune system and provide a plentiful supply of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients for the sick or weary.

That said, research has confirmed even more ancient health benefits of elderberry— and possibly even some newer ones! A set of antioxidant compounds called phenolic acids have been found in elderberry, and are shown to reduce the risk of diabetes, blood sugar issues, chronic inflammation, and even neurodegenerative diseases (like Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and more). While elderberry cannot cure cancer of course, as an antioxidant, it could reduce your cancer risk.

Healing compounds, antioxidants, and nutrients in elderberry

What makes elderberry so healthy for immunity, the property it is so well known for? The herbal berry contains many compounds, including the well-known immune-boosting vitamin C. Alone, vitamin C is good for the same things that elderberry is known for— and this may have very much to do with elderberry’s vitamin C content, but that’s not all.

Besides vitamin C, elderberry also contains a unique compound called cyanidin 3-glucoside, which has a powerful antioxidant effect— along with the many other dark blue-purple anthocyanins found in the berry. It also contains natural fiber, which is great for gut and heart health, and also contains trace amounts of zinc, one of the most immune-supporting trace minerals. All these together make elderberry supplements, powders, and other preparations an incredible part of a plant based whole food diet.

Trace Dietary Minerals | McPeak MarketYou’ll also find these other important trace minerals in elderberry for good health:

  • Potassium
  • Calcium
  • Magnesium
  • Copper
  • Iron
  • Manganese

Elderberry for immune boosting

Studies today show that elderberry has a powerful effect on the immune system, in many ways and for many possible health purposes related to immunity. As we said earlier, this is the benefit that elderberry is best known for— and has been used reliably as a functional food to boost the immune system for hundreds (maybe thousands!) of years.

Researchers have found that the berry has antiviral effects, even against the common flu (influenza), and could help the body recover nutritively after dealing with viral illness like cold or flu— which is right in line with its ancient traditional use as a cold and flu fighter. If you’re aiming to boost immune system with supplements, classic vitamins that boost the immune system used along with elderberry could support a very nutritive and powerful tonic effect for recovery.

Great foods, herbs, vitamins, and supplements for immune boosting combined with elderberry include:

  • Acerola cherry
  • Amla (Indian Gooseberry)
  • Blackberries

    anti inflammatory natural

    Boost your immune system with McPeak anti-inflammatory natural drink powders with elderberry!

  • Blueberries
  • Chaga mushroom
  • Cordyceps mushroom
  • Garlic
  • Ginger
  • Goji berries
  • Holy basil
  • Maitake mushroom
  • Rhodiola
  • Rosemary
  • Schisandra
  • Shiitake mushroom
  • Turkey tail mushroom
  • Turmeric
  • Zinc

Elderberry may be the most popular natural herbal immune booster right now— and it’s absolutely delicious, too.