Elderberries, also known as black elderberry, elderberry plant, or Sambucus nigra, are a fruit that is found in temperate regions of the world, including North America, Europe. They are known for their deep purple-black color, which is where they get the name “black elderberry”.
Elderberries can reach up to two inches in length and are found on the elder tree during summer, their once annual bloom.
They have a tart flavor that resembles cranberries but elderberries are also notable for the fact that they have an earthy, slightly bitter flavor.
Elderberries are known for their immune system boosting properties and have been used in medicinal preparations since ancient times.
While there are many different fruits in the Sambucus family (a close relative of the blueberry), black elderberries are some of the most commonly sought after because they have an exceptionally high concentration of antioxidants.
Elderberry Nutrition Facts
Elderberries are packed with key nutrients like:
- Vitamin C
- Beta Carotene
- Folic acid
- And Vitamin B12.
Each of these nutrients has its own health benefits (which we’ll explore below), but it’s the antioxidant properties of this tiny berry that make them so desirable.
As a powerful antioxidant, elderberries provide resistance to free radicals in your body – which are unstable molecules that damage cells’ DNA by oxidizing their healthy fats (like cholesterol) into harmful compounds like peroxides. These toxic substances can lead to chronic diseases such as cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.
This is a major reason why elderberry has been used as a common remedy throughout history.
The History of Elderberry Supplementation
Sambucus Nigra has been used for a variety of purposes for centuries, with most originating in Europe. In fact, it is thought that the first use was to help heal wounds and as an antiseptic due to its antibacterial properties.
A few hundred years ago elderberry syrup would be given to children from time to time if they showed signs of illness like flu symptoms, or if they needed protection from the common cold.
The use of elderberry persisted well into the 1900s when it was discovered that elderberry could also be used to treat eye inflammations and help with asthma symptoms.
Now, in modern times, elderberry is still used for a variety of purposes, including increasing immune response.
The Modern Take on Elderberry Health Benefits
Today, modern medicine has discovered that elderberry can help you with anything from a cold to allergies and even ulcers. We’ll touch on just a few below.
Boost Kidney and Urinary Health
Elderberry helps boost kidney and urinary health by preventing bacteria from sticking to the cells found in these areas. This, in turn, helps avoid kidney infections and reduces symptoms of urinary tract infection.
Protect Against Heart and Cardiovascular Disease
Elderberry can also help protect your heart and cardiovascular health by preventing cholesterol and fatty deposits from attaching to the cells. This helps block cholesterol production which can lead to heart disease.
Lower Your Risk of Cancer
Elderberry can also help mitigate factors that lead to cancer. This is because it helps stimulate the immune cells to attack cancerous cells, and also helps your body fight off viruses that could lead to tumor growth.
Helps Lower Your Blood Glucose (Fights Diabetes)
Elderberry also helps your body fight diabetes, by helping lower blood glucose levels. The way this works is that elderberry has been shown to help reduce insulin resistance (a key factor that can lead to diabetes) and also slows the breakdown of sugar in your digestive system.
Elderberry has also been shown to significantly reduce inflammation, which helps all around your body. For example, inflammation in your digestive tract can lead to ulcers, and inflammation in the joints can cause arthritis. In fact, elderberry can even help with eye inflammations or asthma symptoms, showing how versatile this berry is.
However, the most powerful benefits from Elderberries come from its work in your immune system.
Elderberries and Your Immune System
Elderberries help your immune system in a few ways:
First, their antioxidant value is incredibly high, which helps your body fight against free radicals, toxic cells that can otherwise occupy your immune system. With these antioxidants working overtime to keep your body clean, your immune system can focus on the real threats, like viruses and bacteria.
Second, elderberries offer both antifungal and antibacterial properties. This means that elderberries don’t just clear the way for your body to fight potential infections and disease, they also actively help fight these contagions themselves!
How Elderberries Help Fight a Disease
When faced with a powerful contagion, your body can trigger reactions that cause increased production of inflammatory agents called cytokines. Usually, these cytokines help to produce a fever, which is necessary for fighting off certain infections.
When you have low levels of antioxidants in your body, these cytokines can grow out of control, leading to severe inflammation and damage to your cells.
However, if you have high levels of antioxidants in your body, then your immune system doesn’t need to produce quite so many cytokines. This decreased production leads to decreased inflammation, which in turn reduces the fever and pain that can often be caused by inflammation.
And the whole time, your body’s defense system is being boosted by the elderberry’s antifungal and antibacterial properties. This is why elderberries are such a valuable addition to any immune-enhancing regimen!
Why Add Elderberries to Your Diet
Why choose elderberry? After all, what can this tart treat of Sambucus Nigra do for you?
Well, elderberries are:
- Easy to take with no gastrointestinal effects. That’s right, elderberry is the perfect food for those with a sensitive stomach or anyone who doesn’t want to deal with any potential digestive issues.
- Safe for most people — including children and pregnant women. Despite this plant’s incredible power, its active ingredients are very benign, meaning almost anyone can take advantage of elderberry.
- One of the few plant-based medicines that have been extensively tested for efficacy and safety. Elderberry has been studied extensively for everything from cold and flu to immunity-boosting for centuries, meaning we know what it can do and how it works.
- Elderberry has no known clinical side effects. That’s right: elderberries have no known clinical side effects, and all of the nutrients that they give you are ones that your body craves already!
This leads to maybe the best benefit of elderberries, which is that they’re a natural supplement that can be taken daily as a prevention measure, rather than just medicine.
There’s no reason not to add elderberries to your diet!
Best Ways to Enjoy Elderberries
There are a number of different ways that you can take elderberry, including fresh, as juice, as a jam or an extract, as a syrup, or in tea! We go into our favorites below (with one bonus at the end!).
Fresh elderberries are a great addition to any meal or just as a snack on their own. They are juicy and delicious and taste a bit like a raisin. For a quick and easy snack, try them in a fruit salad, or a smoothie!
You can find fresh elderberries at most farmers’ markets and grocery stores. To enjoy them, wash the berries and then dry them off with a paper towel or dishcloth before transferring to an airtight container. You can keep fresh berries in your refrigerator for up to two weeks without any risk of spoilage.
If you want easy access, you can also buy dried elderberries, which are found at most major grocery stores. Dried elderberries can be kept for up to a year in an airtight container and then used as needed!