Last Updated on September 13, 2020
Roots and berries have been used for medicinal purposes as far back as ancient times. Throughout history, several famous berries and plants have been cited for their health-boosting properties. One of these is the elderberry. Elderberry medication recipes date as far back as Ancient Egypt when people were known to use berries and plants for both cosmetic and health purposes.
However, most trace the first real documented accounts of the healing properties of elderberry back to 400 BCE when the Father of Modern Medicine, Hippocrates, called the elder tree his “medicine chest” for the wide and varied health benefits the plant provided. With a long history of being used as a medicinal berry, it’s no wonder that the elderberry is one of the top antiviral plants on the planet.
But what do elderberries do? And what are they used for? Read on to find out more about this herb and how you can use it to promote better health.
What Is Elderberry?
Sambucus is a flowering plant from the Adoxaceae family. The different species of Sambucus are known as elder or elderberries and are native to Europe and Africa as well as parts of Asia. It has also become quite popular in the United States due to its health-boosting properties.
The full scientific name of the elderberry that is most popularly used for health is Sambucus nigra. It comes from a tree that’s over 30 feet tall and has off-white flowers and blue to black berries. These berries are often used to make syrups, wines, and jams alongside medicinal concoctions.
Recipes using elderberry utilize the tree’s blossoms, berries, leaves, and the bark. The berries and the flowers are packed with vitamins and antioxidants that can help boost the immune system. They are also used in the treatment of pain, to tame inflammation, and even for fevers and toothaches. Elderberries are also a food source for several Native Tribes in North America.
Today, elderberry is a common alternative to use for the flu or the common cold. It is often available as a supplement in capsule, liquid, or gummy variants and used to treat a wide variety of conditions. Most commercial preparations of elderberry are safe for consumption, but eating raw elderberry is not recommended as it can cause diarrhea, nausea, or vomiting.
Top 10 Benefits of Elderberries
Elderberries have a long list of health benefits. That’s why they are such a popular choice for alternative medicines and treatment options. Here are some of the top health benefits elderberries provide:
Several studies show that the elderberry boosts the immune system by helping increase the body’s natural levels of antioxidants. This helps fight diseases. It also contains Vitamin A and C to help maintain optimal health and provide protection against a wide assortment of viruses.
Treating Colds and the Flu
Elderberry fruit also helps decrease mucus production and can alleviate the symptoms of colds and the flu. A study shows that people who took elderberry when they had the flu noticed that their symptoms cleared up four days earlier than those who didn’t take elderberry.
Elderberry also increases the production of inflammatory cytokines to help treat upper respiratory tract ailments and infections.
Promoting Heart Health
Because elderberries are rich in potassium, they do wonders to help regulate and lower blood pressure and help reduce strain on the heart. While too much potassium is not good for those with kidney problems, increasing potassium intake just the right amount is known to help lessen the risk of death by heart disease.
Additionally, elderberries help heart health through beneficial compounds anthocyanins. These help regulate cholesterol levels and promote better circulation throughout the body, reducing the risk of heart-related disease.
Improving Digestion and Digestive Health
Elderberries, like several fruits, are a good source of fiber. This additional fiber can aid and enhance digestion. Additionally, fruit fiber can also help treat issues like constipation, upset stomach, excessive gas, and bloating. Through regular use, elderberries can help promote better overall digestive health.
Lowering Blood Sugar
Elder flowers and berries have been used to treat diabetes by stimulating glucose metabolism and insulin secretion. This increase can help potentially lower blood sugar levels and successfully aid in the treatment of diabetes.
A study in 2017 showed that elderberries may also be a source of bioactive compounds used in the management of diabetes. The research is just starting here, though, so it’s still best to discuss it with your doctor if you have diabetes and want to explore elderberries as an additional treatment option.
Many scientists have used elderberries as an additional treatment for cancer alongside conventional treatment options. This is often attributed to elderberries containing quercetin. The therapeutic effects of quercetin help stimulate the immune system and can aid in cancer treatment when used alongside cancer medication.
Berries are high in calcium, iron, and potassium, which help in strengthening bones and promote an increase in overall bone density. This helps reduce the risk of osteoporosis and other bone-related illnesses. Additionally, the anthocyanins present in berries will also help prevent bone loss.
Improving Brain Health
The same anthocyanins in berries that help prevent bone loss and promote heart health can also help treat cognitive impairment and other brain conditions. The quercetin in elderberries is an important flavonoid that is critical to brain health.
Improving Skin and Hair Health
Elderberries are infused with free-radical fighting properties and anti-aging extracts. This helps improve your skin health and keeps it radiant longer. They can also act as a detoxifying agent that can prevent boils, breakouts, and scars.
Additionally, elderberries are rich in anthocyanins that naturally boost skin health and help prevent skin damage. Distilled elderberry flower water is also used to help lighten freckles and restore skin elasticity and health.
If you want to help reduce inflammation and bruising, elderberry extract can also help do that. In addition, elderberries are also good for your hair. Elderberry oil is used to treat the scalp, repair split ends, and encourage hair growth.
Aiding in Weight Loss
The fiber in elderberries that helps aid digestion can also aid in weight loss. The boost in digestion helps ensure that food is processed properly and can help regulate and prevent weight gain. To aid in weight loss, elderberry is usually taken in juice or capsule form.
The medicinal properties of elderberries are numerous and varied—treating ailments from colds to the flu, arthritis, diabetes, and so much more. But it’s still very important to discuss with your doctor if you are interested in taking it. It is still not recommended for pregnant women, children, or anyone with autoimmune diseases.
It’s also important to discuss with your doctor if you plan on taking elderberry together with any other medications like diabetes medications, cancer medications, or immunosuppressants.
Alongside the top benefits mentioned, there are still several more uses for elderberries including boosting vision health, treating skin irritations, and much more. The best part is that there are several ways you can take elderberries. In addition to capsules and gummy candy, you can also use elderberry in jams, wines, syrups, and even teas.