A little elderberry can go a long way. Known for it’s knack to naturally improve cold and flu symptoms, inflammation, chronic fatigue, allergies and more, elderberry benefits us across the board.
The tiny fruit that packs a punch is having a moment this season. We’re tossing back Pressed Juicery’s latest limited-edition shots like crazy — blended with honey, cloves and cinnamon, their new elderberry shot is an immunity dream come true.
Looking for a natural remedy that has a very long history of medicinal use? There’s evidence that the elderberry may have been cultivated by prehistoric man. There are also recipes for elderberry-based medications dating back to Ancient Egypt.
However, most historians typically trace its healing abilities back to Hippocrates, the ancient Greek known as the “father of medicine,” who described the plant as his “medicine chest” because of the wide array of health concerns it seemed to cure. Whether we’re talking cavemen, ancient Egyptians or ancient Greeks, this natural remedy definitely goes way back, so it’s no wonder it’s known as one of the top antiviral herbs on the planet.
Health benefits of the elder plant include naturally improving colds, the flu, sinus issues, nerve pain, inflammation, chronic fatigue, allergies, constipation and even cancer. When used within the first 48 hours of onset of symptoms, the extract has actually been found to reduce the duration of the flu with symptoms being relieved on an average of four days earlier. During the 1995 Panama flu epidemic, the government actually employed the use of the elderberry to fight the flu.
I’m sure you’re getting the picture that this medicinal berry is a real powerhouse for good health. Let’s examine exactly why.
9 Health Benefits of Elderberry
Major Cold and Flu Relief | Elderberries are an excellent general immune system booster. The berries contain chemical compounds called anthocyanidins, which are known to have immunostimulant effects. Is elderberry good for a cold? Research actually shows that elderberry extract is a safe, efficient and cost-effective treatment for both cold and flu symptoms.
A 2016 study published in Nutrients showed that elderberry supplementation can reduce the duration and symptoms of a cold in air travelers. Travelers using this herb from 10 days before travel until four to five days after arriving overseas experienced, on average, a two-day shorter duration of their colds and also a noticeable reduction in cold symptoms.
Several studies have demonstrated that elder extract is highly effective in mitigating flu-like symptoms. Specifically, the flavonoids in the elderberry extract bind to the H1N1 human influenza virus as well as the H5N1 avian influenza virus.
A 2009 study randomized patients into two groups: One group was given four doses of 175-milligram proprietary elderberry extract daily, and the other group received a placebo daily for two days. The extract-treated group showed significant improvement in most flu symptoms, while the placebo group showed no improvement or an increase in severity of symptoms. Researchers conclude that the extract is effective in controlling influenza symptoms.
Another study published in the Journal of International Medical Researchshowed that when the extract is used within the first 48 hours of the onset of flu symptoms, it shortens the duration of flu symptoms by an average of four days.
Sinus Infection Aid | With elderberry’s anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, it makes sense that it can help sinus issues. A sinus infection is a condition in which the cavities around the nasal passages become inflamed, and this antiviral herb has promise as a sinus infection natural remedy.
A study conducted by the Institute of Complementary Medicine’s Department of Internal Medicine at the University Hospital in Zurich, Switzerland examined the use of a proprietary product, Sinupret, which contains elderberry flowers. The researchers used Sinupret to treat bacterial sinusitis along with an antibiotic (doxycycline or vibramycin) and a decongestant. People who took the combination did better compared to those who did not take Sinupret at all.
Lower Blood Sugar | Both the elder flower and the berry have traditionally been used to treat diabetes. Research has confirmed that extracts of elderflower stimulate glucose metabolism and the secretion of insulin, lowering blood sugar levels.
Research published in the Journal of Nutrition evaluated black elderberry’s insulin-like and insulin-releasing actions in vitro. The study found that an aqueous extract of elder significantly increased glucose transport, glucose oxidation and glycogenesis without any added insulin. What is glycogenesis, and why is it important? Glycogenesis is the process by which excess sugar is cleared out of the bloodstream and into your muscles and liver, which helps maintain normal blood sugar.
And a 2017 animal study published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences suggests that elderberries can serve as a potential source of bioactive compounds for formulations that are used for the management of diabetes. Researchers found that both lipophilic and polar extracts of elderberry lowered insulin resistance in wistar rats with type 2 diabetes.
Natural Diuretic | Elder has been shown to promote both urination and bowel moments. Studies have indicated that elderberry or Sambucus has natural diureticeffects. A diuretic is a substance that promotes the production of urine. Doctors prescribe diuretics when the body is retaining too much fluid, which is a common problem in older adults.
Natural Laxative | Elderberry may also help with constipation. A small, randomized trial looked at a compound commonly used in Brazil to treat constipation. The compound contains elderberry. The results of the study indicate that this elder-centric remedy is an effective natural laxative for the treatment of constipation. Unfortunately, there are currently no studies isolating elderberry itself for constipation relief, so more research is needed.
Encourage Healthy Skin | Elderberry has made its way into cosmetic products, and for good reason. Its bioflavonoids and antioxidants, along with its high vitamin A content, make it awesome for skin health. Researchers suspect that a compound found in the elderberry could give a natural boost to skin.
A compound found in elderberry, called anthocyanin, has proven to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Researchers found that this compound may improve the skin’s structure and condition.
Ease Allergies | The flowers of the elder plant are known to be an effective herbal allergy remedy. Since allergies involve an overreaction of the immune system as well as inflammation, elderberry’s ability to improve the immune system and calm inflammation can help provide allergy relief.
Some herbalists put black elder flower on the list of most effective herbsused for treating hay fever-like symptoms. It can be used for allergies on its own or in combination with other herbs. Elderflower is also said to act as a detoxification aid by enhancing liver function.
May Help Prevent Cancer | Edible berry extracts like elderberry extract are rich in anthocyanins and have been shown to have a broad spectrum of therapeutic, pharmacologic and anti-carcinogenic properties. Laboratory studies specifically indicate that the elderberry has some chemopreventive properties. A chemopreventive inhibits, delays or reverses cancer formation.
One study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food compared the anticancer properties of European and American elderberry fruits. European elderberry (Sambucus nigra) is known for its medicinal use and contains anthocyanins, flavonoids and other polyphenolics, which all contribute to the high-antioxidant capacity of its berries. American elderberry (Sambucuscanadensis) has not been grown or promoted as a medicinal plant like its European relative.
This study took extracts of both berries and tested them to access anticancer potential. Both extracts demonstrated significant chemopreventive potential. Additionally, the American elder extract showed inhibition of ornithine decarboxylase, which is an enzyme marker related to the promotion stage of cancer formation. These findings indicate the potential as a natural cancer treatment option.
May Improve Heart Health | Although the studies in this field have found mixed results, there is research suggesting that elderberry extract may improve cardiovascular health. When mice with high cholesterol and HDL cholesterol dysfunction were given anthocyanin-rich black elderberry extract, they had a reduction in hepatic cholesterol levels with improvement in HDL function. This may be due to the presence of anthocyanins, which are polyphenols found in elderberry that have demonstrated antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities.
And another study found that elderberry extract may have beneficial effects on high blood pressure. When polyphenols extracted from the elderberry plant were given to rats with hypertension, in combination with renin inhibitors, they reduced arterial pressure. Researchers suggest that using polyphenols, like those found in elderberry, to lower blood pressure may also help to reduce the side effects of antihypertensive agents and improve patient quality of life.
The Chalkboard Mag and its materials are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent any disease. All material on The Chalkboard Mag is provided for educational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified healthcare provider for any questions you have regarding a medical condition, and before undertaking any diet, exercise or other health-related programs.