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Top Four Benefits of Elderberry

Check out the 4 top benefits of elderberry and learn how to get convenient elderberry support.

Dr. Kate Rhéaume
Elderflower  with ripe berries

Elderberry is trending as one of North America’s top-selling herbals. Although European elder has been used traditionally for thousands of years, recent research supporting its role in healthy immune support combined with the convenience of standardized extracts is finally giving elderberry the recognition it deserves[1,2]

The History of Elderberry

Austria, Salzkammergut, Mondsee, blooming elder bush

European elder, or Sambucus nigra, L. is a small tree-like shrub native to Europe, North Africa, and North America. It is easily recognized by its creamy white flowers and sweet, deep purple berries. [3] Elder has long been cultivated for its berries and their popular use in jams, juices, and wines, but their potential role in healthy immune support is the most exciting.* 

Elderberry’s long-standing herbal use dates back to 400 BC in the writings of Hippocrates. Many classical physicians, such as Theophrastus, Dioscorides, and Galen, also considered the elder tree and its berries a go-to source for health support.*[2]

Current research supports elderberry’s historical use and has accelerated it into the consumer spotlight by identifying how it may help with health support.* Here are four top benefits of elderberry. 

1.  Antioxidant Support

Elderberry’santhocyanins and flavonoids, such as quercetin, rutin, and isoquercetin, may help to support anitoxidant activity[4] Such antioxidant activity is a critical component of managing the body’s  oxidative stress by neutralizing free radicals.*[5] This is important because free radicals are unstable molecules that are formed during normal metabolic processes and from exposure to foreign agents in the environment. An abundance of free radicals  significant challenges to health maintenance.

Elderberry’s support of antioxidant activity is  considered the main role behind much of its health support, including its healthy immune support.*[5,6] So when choosing a commercial elderberry extract, it is important to ensure that it is standardized to a specific antioxidant concentration. 

 

2.  Nutritional Value

Antioxidants aside, elderberries are extremely nourishing. They contain phytosterols, carbohydrates, proteins, fatty acids, and a wealth of vitamins and minerals that contribute to overall health and wellbeing.*[4] As a comparison, raw elderberries contain more than five times the iron and calcium, four times the vitamin C, and ten times the vitamin A content of raw blueberries. [7,8]

When consumed as a food, elderberries need to be cooked. The raw berries contain toxic cyanogenic glycosides that can build up in the body as cyanide and cause illness. The heat helps degrade the these glycosides and makes the berries safe to enjoy.*[4]

 

3.  Winter Respiratory Wellness 

Man with flu coughing

Anyone hoping to maintain winter wellness through the cold months might consider adding elderberry extract to their toolbox of immune support.*

Elderberry has been traditionally used to support and maintain immune and upper respiratory health and may offer this same support today.* [3,9] Elderberry extract may also help to support an increased number and duration of healthy days and help to maintain antibody production already within the normal range.* [10,11]

Elderberry has also proved useful for adults wishing to support respiratory health while traveling. Healthy airplane passengers who took a standardized elderberry extract for 10 days prior to travel, followed by four to five days of supplementation upon arrival at their destination, reported a greater number and duration of healthy and symptom-free days  compared to passengers who supplemented with a placebo.*[12]

4.  Joint Comfort

Elderberry is a traditional herbal used to help support and maintain joint comfort and function.*4 Most of the evidence supporting this use is based on the anthocyanin content of elderberries and their role in supporting antioxidant activity and helping to clear cellular debris—two key factors in minor discomfort.*13 Although few human studies have been done, anthocyanins are believed to support and maintain joint comfort  by supporting antioxidant activity, and maintaining the production and activity of cytokines already within the normal range, and supporting tissue health.*[12]

Convenient Elderberry Support

It’s hard to ignore the potential benefits of an ingredient that’s been used for thousands of years and is supported by current research.* When taken as a concentrated extract, elderberry provides a convenient way to support antioxidant activity while helping to maintain your natural immune defenses.*

Natural Factors Black Elderberry features ElderCraft® European black elderberry that is hand-harvested in Austria. The extract is standardized to 14% anthocyanins and available in 100 mg softgels that are fast-acting and suitable for adults and children aged 10 and older.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr. Kate Rhéaume
Dr. Rhéaume is a graduate of the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine.
References
  1. Smith T, Gillespie M, Eckl V, et al. Herbal supplement sales in US increases by 9.4% in 2018. HerbalGram. 2019; 123:62-73. Available from: http://cms.herbalgram.org/herbalgram/issue123/hg123-herbmarketreport.html 
  2. Kilham C. Health benefits boost elderberry. HerbalGram. 2000; 50:55. Available from: http://cms.herbalgram.org/herbalgram/issue50/article2286.html 
  3. Mahboubi M. Sambucus nigra (black elder) as alternative treatment for cold and flu. Advances in Traditional Medicine. 2020.
  4. Młynarczyk K, Walkowiak-Tomczak D, Łysiak GP. Bioactive properties of Sambucus nigra L. as a functional ingredient for food and pharmaceutical industry. J Funct Foods. 2018; 40:377-90.
  5. Strugała P, Loi S, Bażanów B, et al. A comprehensive study on the biological activity of elderberry extract and cyanidin 3-O-glucoside and their interactions with membranes and human serum albumin. Molecules (Basel, Switzerland). 2018; 23(10):2566.
  6. Zakay-Rones Z, Thom E, Wollan T, et al. Randomized study of the efficacy and safety of oral elderberry extract in the treatment of influenza A and B virus infections. Journal of International Medical Research. 2004; 32(2):132-40.
  7. USDA. FoodDate Central. Elderberries, raw [Internet]. Cited 26 November 2020. Available from: https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/171727/nutrients
  8. USDA. FoodDate Central. Blueberries, raw [Internet]. Cited 4 December 2020. Available from: https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/1102702/nutrients
  9. Krawitz C, Mraheil MA, Stein M, et al. Inhibitory activity of a standardized elderberry liquid extract against clinically-relevant human respiratory bacterial pathogens and influenza A and B viruses. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2011; 11:16.
  10. Barak V, Halperin T,  Kalickman I. The effect of Sambucol, a black elderberry-based, natural product, on the production of human cytokines: I. Inflammatory cytokines. European Cytokine Network. 2001; 12(2):290-6.
  11. Zakay-Rones Z, Varsano N, Zlotnik M, et al. Inhibition of several strains of influenza virus in vitro and reduction of symptoms by an elderberry extract (Sambucus nigra L.) during an outbreak of influenza B Panama. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. 1995; 1(4):361-9.
  12. Tiralongo E, Wee SS, Lea RA. Elderberry supplementation reduces cold duration and symptoms in air-travellers: a randomized. Double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial. Nutrients. 2016; 8(4):182.
  13. Widyadharma IPE, Soejitno A, Jawi M., et al. Basic properties of anthocyanins for pain management. Open Access Maced J Med Sci. 2020; 8(F):161-79.