Elderberry is one of the most common natural remedies for the common cold or flu. People consume elderberry in the form of tinctures, extracts, teas, syrups, or supplements. Elderberry wasn’t always used to boost the immune system, though. Native Americans used elderberry to treat infections and Ancient Egyptians used it to remedy burns and improve complexion. To this day, Europeans gather elderberry to use it in traditional folk medicine.
What Is Elderberry?
The European elder (Sambucus nigra) is the most commonly used species, especially for tinctures or supplements. This species of elderberry is native to Europe, but it grows in many parts of the world. The plant has cream-colored flowers and produces small black/blue berry bunches. In order to consume the berries, they must be cooked, but the flowers can be eaten in their raw form. Historically, various cultures used the flowers for pain relief and inflammation, while the bark was used as a diuretic. The dried or cooked berries proved to be effective at treating influenza, swelling, headaches, and nerve pain.
Elderberry’s Health Benefits
Scientists attribute elderberry’s health benefits to anthocyanin, which is a potent antioxidant that helps to reduce oxidative stress in the body. Additionally anthocyanin has antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties that help prevent common infections and pain. Read about elderberry’s top five benefits below.
May Benefit Heart Health
Preliminary studies found that elderberry extract may help reduce bad cholesterol and fat levels in the blood. Due to the high antioxidant content of elderberry, scientists believe that it can reduce the risk of heart disease when combined with a balanced diet. One study with 34 people, who took 400 milligrams of elderberry extract three times daily for two weeks, found no reduction in blood cholesterol levels. Another study in mice, however, found that including elderberry extract in their diets reduced cholesterol in the liver and aorta, but not the blood.
Reduces Uric Acid In The Blood
High uric acid levels are commonly associated with gout and joint inflammation. When uric acid crystals form in the joints, it can be quite painful and cause joints to become stiff. Additionally, high uric acid levels can increase blood pressure and negatively affect heart health. Due to the anti-inflammatory properties, elderberry extract may reduce levels of uric acid in the blood.
Provides Pain Relief
As mentioned earlier in this article, anthocyanin reduces inflammation in the body. The anthocyanin in elderberry helps to inhibit nitric oxide production in the body’s immune cells. Nitric oxide is a molecule that signals inflammation response for injuries or diseases. The anthocyanin tempers this response to alleviate swelling or pain. Since there have only been a few studies examining these benefits, more studies are needed to determine the effectiveness of these initial findings.
To encourage a bowel movement using elderberry, it is best to drink tea made from dried elderberries. Consuming this tea has been proven to have a laxative effect, which is attributed to anthraquinone, an organic compound that inhibits the absorption of water in the intestines. As a result, intestinal pressure increases and stimulates peristalsis to encourage bowel movements. It is safe to use elderberry tea as a laxative for up to five days.
Say Goodbye To Colds & Flus
The ability to reduce the severity of cold and flu infections is what elderberry is known for. According to various studies, elderberry syrup helps to reduce the duration and severity of infection if taken within the first 48 hours of the exhibiting the first symptoms. A 2019 study found that elderberry substantially improved upper airway symptoms for people with common colds. Another study monitored 60 people with influenza. They all took 15 milliliters of elderberry syrup four times daily and showed improvement within two to four days. The other group who took a placebo took seven or eight days for symptoms to improve.