The Elderberry Benefits (+ Side-Effects)

bunch of elderberries in a bowl

If you are looking for a natural way to avoid colds and flu this winter, there are some plants and herbs that can be quite effective at this. Although colds usually go away on their own, they often last a good week and can make you feel quite miserable. This is where elderberry can come pretty handy. This powerful immune booster has been used for hundreds of years as a food but also a medicine. So if you are not sure about its powers, here are the elderberry benefits (+ side-effects) we think you should definitely know about.

What Is Elderberry?

Elderflowers on elderberry tree

Elderberry (sambucus) is a type of tree that produces small white flowers and dark purple berries that grow in bunches. The most common type is the black elderberry (sambucus nigra) also known as European elderberry (or elder) which is native to Europe. Today black elders also grow in North America, North Africa, and Asia.

Elderberries and elderflowers have been used for centuries to treat all sorts of health problems and illnesses from burns to toothache. Today, one of the most common uses of elderberry is to help prevent and treat colds and flu. Over the years, it has actually become very popular as an alternative treatment to conventional cold and flu medications.

Elderberries are usually turned into elderberry syrup, juice, jam and wine. Elderberry supplements can also be found in the form of capsules, gummies, and lozenges.
Nutrition-wise, elderberries are rich in antioxidants and also contain a good amount of fiber, vitamins A, C and E, as well as minerals including iron, potassium and phosphorus.

So how does elderberry work?

An Immune Booster To Fight Colds And Flu

Elderberry syrup has been used around the world for centuries as a herbal remedy to treat colds and flu. Now science has shown that elderberry can actually help boost our immune system in different ways.

One of the reasons why elderberry is such a powerful immune booster is because of its antioxidant content. Indeed, elderberry is rich in flavonoids which act as antioxidants and are also responsible for the berries’ dark purple color. Research has shown that elderberry contains anthocyanins, a type of flavonoid, that are particularly effective at protecting the cells from oxidative stress and damage, and so at keeping the immune system strong.

Studies have also shown that elderberry possesses strong antiviral properties. They proved that elderberry extract could help fight against the flu virus and prevent it from spreading by inhibiting the infection.
Moreover, elderberry also has the ability to help increase cytokine production. Cytokines are chemicals that help the immune system to fight infections more effectively.

Other studies seem to confirm that elderberry really does help to reduce the severity and duration of the symptoms of cold and flu. It is also suggested that taking elderberry before traveling by plane could be very useful as it could help the travelers get better more quickly.

Other Great Elderberry Benefits

Elderberries are known for their antiviral, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting properties. Because of these,  they can provide a number of interesting health benefits.

Can Help Manage Diabetes
In the olden days, elderberry was often used to treat diabetes. Now some studies have shown that elderberry has anti-diabetic properties as it has the ability to act like insulin and thus can help reduce blood glucose levels.

Good For Heart Health
Research shows that the polyphenols (antioxidants) present in elderberries can help reduce oxidative stress and protect the heart. As elderberry has the ability to help reduce blood pressure and cholesterol levels, it is believed it can, therefore, help reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular problems.
Elderberries are also considered good for heart health because they contain a good amount of potassium, which is known to help regulate blood pressure.

Protects From Chronic Diseases
Inflammation is often responsible for the development of chronic diseases including diabetes, heart problems, and cancer. As elderberry has strong anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, if consumed regularly as part of a healthy lifestyle, it can be good for overall health and to help protect against such diseases.

Can Act As A Natural Diuretic And Laxative
Elderberry has been shown to provide diuretic effects. This means that it can help the body get rid of excess fluid by increasing urine production.
Elderberry is also believed to have laxative effects meaning that it can help improve bowel movements and prevent constipation.

Supports Skin Health
As elderberry is high in antioxidants including polyphenols and vitamins A and C, it can help keep your skin healthy and protect it from early signs of aging.

Has Antidepressant Properties
Other studies have shown that black elderberry may be effective at reducing the symptoms of depression.

Some Precautions

homemade elderberry syrup in a bottle

There are actually different species of elderberry trees and some produce berries that can be toxic. This is important to know if you plan to make your own homemade elderberry syrup.
Elderberries and elderflowers are the only parts that should be consumed as the other parts of the plant such as the stems and leaves contain a natural chemical that can cause cyanide poisoning.
At first, elderberries are green, then turn red and finally black when they are ripe. Make sure you always use elderberries that are ripe and that have been cooked.

Possible side-effects of elderberry:
If consumed according to the recommended dosage, elderberry syrup, capsules and gummies are usually safe to take.
Ripe and cooked elderberries are usually safe to eat, however unripe or uncooked elderberries can cause an upset stomach, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
You should always ask your doctor before consuming any elderberry product if you suffer from a particular health problem, especially if you are taking medications or have an auto-immune disease.  You should also avoid taking elderberry if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.

Final Thoughts

Taking elderberry as a supplement during the winter is a great idea as it can reduce the chances of getting a cold. And if you do catch a cold, elderberry can still help reduce the severity of the symptoms so you can end up feeling better more quickly. Not only that but elderberry also has some other interesting benefits that can help improve general health and wellbeing.
Still, elderberry shouldn’t be used as a replacement for the flu vaccine especially if you are in the risk groups which include over 65’s, pregnant women and people with long-term illnesses.

Now that you know all about the elderberry benefits (+ side-effects) and how it works, whether you want to try it or not this winter, the choice is yours!

Are you considering taking elderberry in any form? Or have you already tried it? Don’t hesitate to tell us what you think in the comments section below!

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