Consumers are constantly searching for the next best natural remedy. As a staple of complementary health for centuries, Elderberry acts as a natural remedy for overall wellness and health. Ancient historians recorded how the Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans used it in medicines to treat various ailments.
Today, many believe elderberry can promote heart health and even provide antioxidant protection against free radicals. The most popular use of elderberry is to help improve overall immune system health. This post will look at evidence supporting its potential benefits and some safety concerns.
What Is Elderberry?
The Black Elderberry is a superstar in the health and wellness world. Scientists call it the Sambucus nigra, or European elder tree. The plant is native to the warmer areas of Europe, North America, Asia, and Northern Africa.
The plant produces dark purple berries and acted as a common food source for centuries. It also played a significant role in traditional medicine. We know that elderberry usage varies throughout history, but seeds found in Switzerland suggest that Neolithic humans cultivated the plant in 2,000 BCE.
Hippocrates (460-370 BC) wrote about its medicinal properties, mentioning its broad therapeutic applications. Historically, people used it to treat colds and flu. Forgagers used berries as fresh or dried food during the summer and winter and in complementary medicine.
But it also contains antioxidants, which can help lower inflammation, cholesterol, and blood pressure. Plus, it's a great Vitamin C, Vitamin A fiber, iron, and potassium source. Today, many use it as a supplement to combat common illnesses.
For instance, elderberry juice and elderberry supplements are quick ways to incorporate this superfood into your diet. However, not all berries are created equal. Be careful; many individuals mistake this plant for Elderflowers, Dwarf Elders, and the American Elder, but none are the same.
The Pokeberry Plant has similar-looking berries, but they're toxic. Elderberries are dark purple or black, while pokeberries have poisonous, purple stems and are shiny and nearly black. Additionally, elderberry shrubs typically grow up to 10 feet tall with cane-like growth, while pokeberry are about 4-10 feet tall.
We've heard from many sources that elderberries are a powerhouse of nutrition. They have beneficial nutrients that can improve your overall health and wellness. It also contains many other vitamins and other micronutrients that our body needs.
In fact, one cup of elderberries contains:
- Iron: This essential mineral in elderberries produces red blood cells and transports oxygen through our body. A cup of raw berries contains 1.6 mg of iron.
- Calcium: Elderberries are high in calcium, which is crucial for strong bones and teeth. A cup of elderberries contains approximately 38mg.
- Antioxidants: The fruit contains quercetin, kaempferol, rutin, and phenolic acids. These antioxidants combat harmful free radicals in the body, reducing inflammation and lowering the risk of heart disease and cancer.
- Dietary Fiber: With 10.2 grams per cup, elderberries are a great source of dietary fiber. Fiber aids digestion, helps control blood sugar levels, and even supports weight loss efforts by making you feel full longer.
- Vitamin C: A cup contains about 52.2 milligrams of vitamin C. That's a hefty dose of this essential nutrient, which is critical in boosting your immune function, maintaining healthy skin, and promoting wound healing.
- Vitamin A: The berries provide beta carotene, which converts to vitamin A in the body. Vitamin A maintains good vision and promotes cell growth. A cup contains approximately 870mg.
- Potassium: Elderberries are also high in potassium, containing about 280mg per cup. Potassium is a necessary mineral for blood pressure and heart health.
Remember, while elderberries are nutritious, they're just one part of a balanced diet. Including nutrient-dense foods ensures a well-rounded intake of vitamins and minerals.
Benefits of Elderberry
Elderberries are gaining a lot of attention, though we need more research to confirm its potential health benefits. While there isn’t enough research to support every use, some evidence promotes several health benefits. Here are the elderberry benefits consumers value:
- Immune System Boost: Elderberries are rich in antioxidants and vitamins that may help strengthen your immune system. They could help tame inflammation, lessen stress, and help protect your heart, too.
- Cold and Flu Relief: Studies suggest that elderberry extract could play a role in reducing the duration of cold and flu symptoms. Because they also contain lectins and polyphenols, they may also inhibit coronaviruses.
- Heart Health: The berries could have positive effects on heart health. They contain compounds that may help reduce cholesterol, blood pressure, and protect your arteries.
- Digestive Health: There's some indication that elderberries can support digestive health. They also maintain regularity by acting as a natural diuretic and relieving constipation.
- Skin Health: The berries are high in Vitamins A and C and may support skin health. For example, using an elderberry face wash could fight acne because of its inherent antiseptic properties. Vitamin A promotes cell growth, while Vitamin C is essential for collagen production. Together, they maintain the skin's elasticity and youthful appearance.
- Potential Allergy Relief: We must research it more, but some people use it as a natural allergy remedy. Their anti-inflammatory properties might help reduce swelling and irritation caused by some allergic reactions.
While the plant has many beneficial compounds, it’s not a cure-all. You should consult with your healthcare provider about the risks of starting any new supplement regimen.
Risks and Side Effects of Elderberry
While elderberries are gaining popularity, you should be aware of the long-term risks of their consumption. Let's dive into what you need to know:
- Gastrointestinal Problems: Consuming the berries can increase the risk of nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea. Stop and consult with your healthcare provider if you notice any of these symptoms.
- Unsafe in Uncooked Form: Raw or unripe berries, tree leaves, seeds, and bark contain glycosides that can produce cyanide.
- Pregnancy and Breastfeeding: There's not enough reliable information about the safety of consuming elderberries during pregnancy or breastfeeding. It's always better to avoid taking them.
- Autoimmune Diseases: One of the concerning elderberry side effects may force the immune system to be more active. Its immune-boosting properties may cause an overactive immune system that increases the symptoms of autoimmune diseases. Use it with caution if you have multiple sclerosis, lupus, or other similar disorders.
This natural remedy is an excellent addition to a healthy diet. Yet, there are plenty of people who should not take elderberry products.
Uses for Elderberry
Earlier civilizations discovered that you can reap the benefits of elderberries in many ways. Like other civilizations, Native Americans used every part of the plant. Many plant parts have medicinal properties, like the leaves, bark, or fruit.
These versatile remedies can alleviate pain, combat inflammation, reduce respiratory distress, reduce fevers, and address various other ailments. You can eat cooked elderberries, but they make different products.
- The Berries: Manufacturers use this part of the elder tree in syrups, teas, and jams to help boost the immune system.
- Elderflowers: Elderflowers are also common in culinary creations like cordials and desserts. Some medicinal uses include teas or tinctures to help alleviate cold and flu symptoms.
- Elder Leaves: Manufacturers create topical applications with elder leaves for wound healing, like poultices and salves, to help soothe skin irritations.
- Elder Bark: Traditionally, elder bark works well as a laxative.
If you're searching for more elderberry products, try syrups, pills, and gummies. Keep in mind that the FDA doesn’t regulate dietary supplements.
Potential Drug Interactions
While consumers celebrate elderberries for their health benefits, being aware of potential drug interactions is equally important. Here's what you need to know:
- Immunosuppressants: Immunosuppressant medications decrease the immune system. However, elderberry could counteract the effect of their medications.
- Antidiabetic drugs: The black elder encourages hypoglycemic activity, which could lower blood sugar levels. This could amplify the effects of antidiabetic medications, leading to dangerously low blood sugar levels.
- Other Medications: Elderberry has mild interactions with at least 28 different drugs. Understanding how elderberries might react to diuretics and laxatives is essential to avoid further complications.
You should consult your doctor before starting new supplements, especially if you take medication. Also, read the warning labels on any elderberry products. Manufacturers often include information about potential drug interactions.
As research continues, we learn more about the potential of elderberry immune support products. Although it has advantages, it's important to be cautious and aware of its possible dangers.
If you're looking for natural ways to maintain a healthy lifestyle all year, try Reflect's immune-boosting gummies. Each gummy contains Vitamin C and Elderberry Extract to help support your immune system. Start your journey towards a healthy immune system today.