By Sarena-Rae Santos, Contributing Writer
What Is Elderberry?
Elderberries come in several varieties from the Sambucus tree, a flowering plant that belongs to the Adoxaceae family. The most familiar type is Sambucus nigra, also known as European elderberry or black elderberry, which usually grows up to 30 feet tall and has clusters of white or cream-colored flowers often referred to as elderflowers with small bunches of tiny black or blue-black berries.
The second most common type is Sambucus canadensis, also known as American Elder, American Elderberry, and elderberry. Sambucus canadensis is native to North America, Venezuela, and Brazil. This deciduous shrub or small tree grows up to 12 feet tall and 10 feet wide. This variation of elderberry can easily be identified by its yellowish-gray to grayish-brown bark with white pith, profuse blooms of fragrant, flat-topped or rounded clusters of creamy-white flowers, and rounded, drooping, purplish-black fruit clusters (1).
Although elderberries are one of the most commonly used medicinal plants throughout the world and history and are even used for culinary purposes, the plant’s berries must be cooked to be eaten. In contrast, the flower can be eaten raw or cooked (2).
Health Benefits of Elderberry
These berries might be small, but they are packed full of essential nutrients and antioxidants that benefit a person’s immune system. Elderberries actually have more antioxidants in them than other berries like blueberries, cranberries, goji berries, strawberries, or raspberries.
May Support The Immune System
The immune system protects the body from outside invaders, such as bacteria, viruses, fungi, and other toxins (3). When you support your immune system, you potentially support your body’s ability to fight off sickness. One study found that the elderberry polyphenols helped the rat’s immune defense by increasing the number of white blood cells (4). I recommend Earthley’s Elderberry Elixir for these benefits.
Rich in Antioxidants
Antioxidants can help fight damage from harmful free radicals. The buildup of free radicals has been linked to chronic diseases, such as cancer and heart disease. The elderberry plant’s flowers, berries, and even leaves are an excellent source of antioxidants, with 3.5 times the antioxidant power of vitamin E (5).
May Improve Cold & Flu Symptoms
Due to elderberries’ ability to support the immune system, it makes sense that it fights cold and flu symptoms. Elderberries have been shown to reduce the severity and length of influenza and may also play a role in preventing influenza (6). I recommend Earthley’s Immune-Biotic for cold and flu relief.
May Be Good For Heart Health
Elderberries may also have positive effects on your overall heart health. Studies have shown that elderberry juice may reduce the blood fat level and decrease cholesterol, reducing your risk of heart disease (7). Another study on rats found elderberry to lower their blood pressure and make them less susceptible to organ damage caused by high blood pressure (8). I highly recommend Earthley’s Healthy Heart for heart health benefits.
May Help Fight Cancer
Statistics say that 158.3 of every 100,000 individuals will die from cancer, but what if they didn’t have to (9)? European and American elderberry were studied in a test tube and were found to have some cancer-inhibiting properties (10).
May Lower Blood Sugar Levels & Insulin Dependence
Throughout history, Sambucus nigra has been documented as a treatment for diabetes. One study found Sambucus nigra significantly increased 2-deoxy-glucose transport, glucose oxidation, and glycogenesis of mouse abdominal muscle in the absence of added insulin (11). Another study found that elderberry polar extract reduced fasting blood glucose while lipophilic extract decreased insulin levels, lowering insulin resistance (12). I highly recommend Earthley’s Elderberry Elixir for blood sugar and insulin benefits.
Support Skin Health
Elderberries have been shown to have significant bioflavonoids, antioxidants, and vitamin A, which are perfect for healthy skin. One study found that elderberry can improve skin conditions after a 12-week trial of post-menopausal women with their skin’s structure and appearance measured with state-of-the-art equipment (13).
May Improve Allergy Symptoms
Allergy symptoms occur when your body’s immune system responds to foreign objects by releasing histamines, causing inflammation and attracting white blood cells to isolate the culprit and fight it off (14). Since allergies involve an overreaction of the immune system and inflammation, elderberry’s ability to improve the immune system and calm inflammation can help relieve allergies (15). I highly recommend Earthley’s Sinus Saver for allergy relief.
To learn more about Elderberries, I recommend downloading Earthley’s guide, What You Need to Know About Elderberries.
Some medical professionals caution against using elderberries in pregnant and breastfeeding women. Allopathy considers it unethical would be unethical to study elderberry usage in these women, not because there has been documented evidence of harm. Additionally, there is a long history of safe use in this population.
Notably, a trusted herbalist since 1989, Richard Whelan, states elder leaves and bark will be purgative and cathartic if taken in any quantity. Likewise, unripe Elderberries may cause nausea and vomiting. Aside from that, the medicinal use of the flowers and the ripe berries in teas or tinctures is considered very safe and may be taken by the young and old while pregnant or breastfeeding.
Additionally, as discussed in Is Elderberry Really the Best Flu Remedy? if you are taking medications to suppress your immune system, you should use elderberry with caution since it is known to have immune system-enhancing effects. This is also why people with autoimmune diseases should proceed with caution. If you have a condition like Lupus, Multiple Sclerosis, Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, or Rheumatoid Arthritis, be on the lookout for flares in your condition if you are trialing the use of elderberries, and stop immediately if your condition worsens (16).
How to Use Elderberry
You can find elderberry in dried bulk, teas, extracts, oils, tinctures, and foods. Tinctures always contain the most concentrated herbs. Teas and soups are also options. If you’re a DIY person, a great starter recipe is:
Follow the recommendations of any supplement; some of my recommendations include:
- Earthley’s Elderberry Elixir is a liquid supplement that combines elderberries and other immune-supporting herbs for everyday wellness. It’s an elderberry tincture (not syrup) that’s a potent cold and flu fighter, shelf-stable for up to 2 years, and super concentrated, which makes it the most cost-effective option.
- Earthley’s Elderberry Syrup DIY Kits make it easier than ever! No need to overbuy herbs or spend time researching for the best recipe. Simply boil in water and add honey, syrup, or a sweetener of your choice.
- Earthley’s Heart Healthy is an herbal supplement that supports the heart and a proper immune response. This tincture is rich in anti-inflammatory properties and vitamin C. It can help to lower blood sugar and blood pressure, increase insulin activity, and can even help with symptoms of type 2 diabetes.
- Earthley’s Immune-Biotic is the perfect go-to herbal remedy for when you are feeling under the weather and need something fast. This tincture uses the natural power of immune-supporting herbs to give your body a jump start to fight off a cold. Take for three to seven days and kick sickness to the curb.
- Earthley’s Lunamore is for special metabolic support and a woman’s moon cycle. This tincture provides herbal support for hormone balance, helps to reduce cramps and cysts, and supports healthy blood sugar levels.
- Earthley’s Sinus Saver is an herbal tincture that provides natural support during allergy season and beyond! Enjoy relief from sneezes, sniffles, sinus pressure, watery eyes, and other annoying allergy symptoms. Sinus Saver uses the power of herbs to help clear the body of excess histamines and calm allergic reactions.
- Earthley’s Thyroid Support is an herbal formula for thyroid support and total body wellness. The herbs include ashwagandha, amla berry, licorice root, Brahmi leaf, and milk thistle seed. It also supports a healthy liver and stress response and is rich in vitamin C.
Disclaimer: This post is not intended as medical advice. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA, and nothing in this post is intended to diagnose, treat, or cure anything. If you have questions, please do your own research or seek advice from a health professional.