In our world today where so many are afraid of an invisible enemy, there is no better ally than Elderberry for issues concerning immunity.
While there is plenty of information about elderberry out there, we’ve decided to compile an in-depth look at all of the benefits and interesting details that really set this article apart from the rest. I hope you’ll join me in taking a deep dive on this purple pigmented berry!
Roots that Run Deep
Found dangling from 30-foot-tall trees bundled in bunches of petite white flowers, the elderberry shows itself in three varieties: red elderberry from China, blue elderberry from the Rocky Mountains and Mexico, and the black elderberry from Europe and the Americas.
The black elderberry, also known as Sambucus nigra, contains the highest amounts of immune supporting compounds and out of the three varieties, even containing more antioxidants than wild blueberries.
Nigra means ‘black’ in Latin, while the term for the tree comes from the Anglo Saxon æld, meaning fire, because the hollow stems of the branches were used as bellows to blow air into a fire.
Elderberry is among the oldest healing plants in the world, with a very well documented history of use among Native American Herbalism. With each part of the plant serving a purpose, it is considered valuable for ceremonious occasions and medicinal traditions that date back as far as Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese medicine.
Among the Cherokee Indians and even the ancient Egyptians, the flowers of the tree were used externally to aid in complexion, helping to tone and soften the skin. The berry juice was made into salves to aid burns and scalds.
Thanks to its deeply dark pigment, Elderberry twigs and fruit were used as dye. They would soak materials for a week or so in a wash made from the berry and stems, resulting in a vastly black dye.
Indians created many wooden tools out of the branches, such as arrows, flutes, whistles, and clapper sticks. Created by splitting the stem and clapping the two halves against each other, the clapper sticks are what you would see used in ceremonies accompanied by singing and dancing.
During the Middle Ages, Hippocrates referred to elderberry as “nature’s medicine chest”, capable of restoring good health, keeping good health, and as an aid to longevity. Modern science has now proven the benefits of Elderberry after long ignoring it despite the ancient wisdom foretold by the great healers of the past.
Enjoy Elderberry Responsibly
Aside from Elderberry as a medicine, it makes for delicious culinary creations with a long history of primary use for cordials and wine. Throughout Europe there are many different forms of each part of the plant being used in sweet seltzer concoctions to compliment its tart flavor.
Take for instance the liqueur St Germain, a mildly alcoholic sparkling elderflower ‘champagne’, claiming to contain up to 1,000 fresh, wild, handpicked elderflower blossoms in every bottle. In South-western Sweden, it is traditional to make a snaps liqueur flavored with elderflower. In Beerse, Belgium, a variety of Jenever called Beers Vlierke is made from the berries.
Above all, elderberry syrup is highly regarded as a yummy addition to your favorite tea or dessert while boasting all the wonderful health benefits which we will get into.
Mother Earth’s Cold Remedy
The elderberry is commonly used today as a cold suppressant, with several studies proving it to be as effective as Tamiflu (prescribed medication for swine flu) without a host of side-effects. Black elderberry extracts have even been shown to reduce the severity and length of influenza.
More and more studies are being done that show how taking elderberry shows symptom improvement in flu symptoms, such as fever, headache, muscle aches, and nasal congestion. One study showed that among patients with H1N1 who were given elderberry extract showed significant improvement after just 24 hours.
One study compared 15 different varieties of berries and found that elderberry is one of the most effective antioxidants, helping to reduce inflammation and oxidative tissue damage. Another study looking at the total antioxidant capacity in wines of different fruit sources found elderberry to have the highest value.
Modern research has proven the true superfood qualities of elderberry. Antioxidants like kaempferol and quercetin are potent bioflavonoids abundantly found in elderberry, which are known to scavenge free radicals in the body, helping to strengthen the immune system against infections and viruses.
Phenolic acids found in the berry are valuable for their ability to reduce damage from oxidative stress. Reactive molecules that accumulate in the body because of environmental stressors require antioxidants like those found in elderberry to help the body’s natural detox system.
But the most important antioxidant responsible for health benefits found in elderberry are anthocyanins. Anthocyanins are what give the fruit its characteristic dark black-purple color and have 3.5 times the antioxidant power of vitamin E.
Anthocyanins may protect against DNA damage and lipid peroxidation, the result of free radicals damaging valuable polyunsaturated fats in our cells, such as omega 3 fatty acids that are vital to overall health.
From a cognitive perspective, anthocyanins are highly neuro-protective, with several studies showing how they can lead to a reversal in certain age-related deficits affecting the brain. Anthocyanins have been credited with protecting memory, coordination, and neural function in older populations.
Furthermore, anthocyanins are shown to lower blood glucose levels after a meal by improving insulin secretion and regulating a healthy carbohydrate metabolism. Poor insulin secretion is linked to insulin resistance, the core defect among those with type 2 diabetes.
Lastly, anthocyanins are shown to activate the AMPk pathway in the body, also known as the longevity pathway. Acting as our body’s guardian of metabolism and mitochondrial health, AMPk activation promotes gene expression, glucose uptake, fat-burning, and more. For more information about AMPk, be sure to check out our Berberine article which goes into more detail.
If you are looking to help boost your body’s natural immune system by supplementing with elderberry, feel free to check out our Elderberry Immune Product which you can find here. Not only does our product contain a hefty dose of elderberry, but we’ve added a blend of 5 other herbs for an all-in-one immune boosting package.