It’s always a good day when you can find a natural remedy that can decimate infections without the use of toxic prescription medications. Fortunately, there is no shortage of these natural remedies, and elderberries happen to be one of them.
Used extensively since the early 1900s, this powerful berry can be traced back to Hippocrates, the ancient Greek known as the “father of medicine” who described this plant as his medicine chest due to the wide variety of illnesses it appeared to heal. It is only of late that these medicinal properties have been further explored and as a result you can now find its extract in many forms in health food stores across the world.
The health benefits of elderberries
Elderberry is commonly known as one of the most potent antivirals on the planet. However, due to it’s high antioxidant content and beneficial amounts of vitamin A and C, it can be used for much more than just its antiviral properties. Let’s take a look at all the health benefits derived from this tiny purple berry.
Treats cold and flu
Due to its antiviral and immune boosting properties, elderberries have been shown to be a safe and cost effective treatment for cold and flu. Studies have shown that the reason for this enhanced immune function is due to the boost in production of cytokines, unique proteins that help the immune system regulate immune response to help defend the body from disease.
Several studies have also confirmed its antiviral capabilities and ability to mitigate flu-like symptoms. It was shown that the flavonoids in elderberries bind to the H1N1 human influenza virus as well as the H5N1 avian influenza virus. In a study that involved two groups (one given four doses of a 175-milligram elderberry extract and the other receiving a placebo) it was found that the extract treated group showed significant improvement in flu symptoms while the placebo group showed no improvement or an increase in severity of symptoms. They concluded that elderberry extract is effective at controlling influenza symptoms.
In addition to this, another study published in the Journal of Medical Research showed that when elderberry extract is used within the first 48 hours of flu symptoms, it shortens the duration of the symptoms by an average of four days.
Helps lower blood sugar
Both the flower and the berry have been used to treat diabetes. In research published by the Journal of Nutrition, they found that an aqueous extract of elder significantly increased glucose transport, glucose oxidation and glycogenesis without any added insulin. This is important because glycogenesis is a process in which excess sugar is cleared out of the bloodstream and into the muscles and liver which helps maintain normal blood sugar.
Since elderberry extract is rich in anthocyanins (antioxidants) and has shown to have chemopreventative properties (which inhibits, delays, or reverses cancer formation), it has been more heavily investigated as a natural treatment for cancer.
A study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food took the extracts of European and American elderberry fruits and tested their anticancer potential. Both extracts demonstrated considerable chemopreventative potential and showed inhibition of ornithine decarboxylase, an enzyme marker related to the promotion stage of cancer.
Since allergies involve an overreaction of the immune system as well as inflammation, the immune boosting and anti-inflammatory properties of elderberry can provide relief. Many herbalists consider it one of the most effective herbs for treating hay-like fever symptoms.
Elderberries have also been shown to promote the production of urine, due to their natural diuretic effect. This is incredibly important for those who may have issues with retaining fluid as it stimulates urinary system function which in turn can help solve fluid retention issues.
In addition to all these benefits, elderberries have also shown to be helpful in relief of upper respiratory infections (coughs), sinus infections, constipation, and skin issues.
How to consume elderberry
There are several ways to consume elderberry, but the most common ways to take it therapeutically is through tea, syrup, lozenges, pills, and capsules. When colds, flu, or upper respiratory issues are noticed, a syrup is a common treatment, especially for children. You can purchase this from many health food stores, or you can make your own as well!
Homemade Elderberry Syrup
- ⅔ cup dried black elderberries (about 3 ounces)
- 3½ cups of water
- 2 tablespoons fresh or dried ginger root
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon powder
- ½ teaspoon cloves or clove powder
- 1 cup raw honey
- Pour water into medium saucepan and add elderberries, ginger, cinnamon and cloves (do not add honey!)
- Bring to a boil and then cover and reduce to a simmer for about 45 minutes to an hour until the liquid has reduced by almost half.
- At that point, remove from heat and let cool enough to be handled. Mash the berries carefully using a spoon or other flat utensil. Pour through a strainer into a glass jar or bowl.
- Discard the elderberries and let the liquid cool to lukewarm. When it is no longer hot, add 1 cup of honey and stir well.
- When honey is well mixed into the elderberry mixture, pour the syrup into a quart sized mason jar or 16 ounce glass bottle of some kind.
Standard dose is ½ tsp to 1 tsp for kids and ½ tbsp to 1 tbsp for adults. If the flu does strike, take the normal dose every 2-3 hours instead of once a day until symptoms disappear.
Precautions to consider before using elderberry
If choosing to pick elderberries, please note that not all are edible, and those that are should not be eaten raw. They contain a cyanide-inducing chemical and eating these uncooked berries can result in diarrhea and vomiting.
Elderflowers and elderberries can also occasionally cause allergic reactions, so seek medical attention if you have one. Those with autoimmune conditions may also want to consult their doctor due to the immune stimulating properties of elderberries. People with organ transplants, and who are pregnant and breastfeeding should also avoid them.
Overall, elderberry extracts seem to have very few side effects if taken for short periods of time (up to five days).
Thank you mother nature, for another incredible healthy “product”!
Sources for this article include: