Elderberry may be just what your immune system needs.
As the world shields from a global pandemic, finding ways to boost your immune system is high on the to-do list. The elderberry offers a variety of benefits and may help support your immune system. Of course, it’s not a miracle cure. It’s still essential to wash your hands to avoid germs and viruses.
Berries are nutritious and a great addition to any healthy diet. The elderberry takes it a step further. Research shows that elderberry could be a potent immune-booster. A powerful ally against cold and flu, we take a look at the science behind elderberries. Read on to find out how they could support your immune system and well-being.
What Are Elderberries?
Elderberry refers to several varieties of berries from the Sambucus tree. As the berries ripen, they turn from green to dark purple. The most common type of elderberry are:
- The European elderberry, also known as the black elder. As the name suggests, it’s native to Europe, but it does grow in other parts of the world.
- The American elderberry
Elderberry supplements tend to include European elderberry. Although, other species do have similar benefits. Elderberry has been used for hundreds of years. It was often the remedy of choice to treat colds, influenza, and support the immune system. Other uses of elderberry include pain relief and reducing swelling and inflammation.
Throughout history, various parts of the elderberry tree have been used for both medicinal and culinary purposes. To stop vomiting, healers would use the bark of the tree.
The Greek physician Hippocrates referred to the elder tree as his “medicine chest.” He wasn’t alone in his thinking. Classical healers like Theophrastus and Galan thought of the elder as one of the best healing plants.
How Does Elderberry Support Your Immune System
Elderberry contains antioxidants that contribute to the majority of its health benefits. The elderberry contains the antioxidant anthocyanin. This helps to fight against free radicals that damage proteins and DNA in the body. Elderberry is rich in antioxidants and immune-supporting nutrients like vitamin C and zinc.
One study from the University of Sydney found that elderberry can affect the influenza virus. Researchers found that compounds in elderberries can stop the virus from replicating in human cells. It also helps to strengthen the individual’s immune system response to cut flu symptoms.
Scientists found that supplementing elderberry when patients have the influenza virus shortens symptom duration. Participants’ symptoms eased up roughly four days earlier than the control group. It looks like elderberry could be an efficient and cost-effective way to treat the flu. These findings show the need for a larger study to understand the effects.
Elderberry seems to treat both cold and flu viruses. Research shows that elderberry supplementation reduces cold duration and symptoms in air travelers. Preliminary research suggests that elderberry could help to relieve flu and cold symptoms. As more research comes to light, the mechanism elderberry has on the immune system will be clear.
Top Health Benefits of Elderberry
Elderberries have potent immune-supporting properties as well as several other potential health benefits. Here’s a breakdown of five benefits of elderberry.
1. Reduce Inflammation
Several studies show that elderberries have big anti-inflammatory effects. Research suggests that antioxidants in elderberries help to fight inflammation. It does this by fighting against oxidative stress.
Historically, elderberry has been used to treat pain. It’s thought that the anthocyanins provide pain relief by reducing inflammation. Research suggests antioxidants in elderberries stop the production of nitric acid. Nitric acid acts as a messenger that can trigger inflammation in response to disease or an injury. Evidence from human studies is still thin on the ground, but research so far is promising.
2. Help Regulate Blood Pressure and promote Heart Health
Elderberries contain flavonols that have antioxidant and protective properties. Some evidence suggests that flavonols may decrease the risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
Elderberry may have a positive effect on some of the markers of heart health. It may reduce fat and cholesterol in the blood, both of which promote a healthy heart. When there is too much cholesterol in the blood, it can build up in the walls of your arteries. This can lead to atherosclerosis, a type of heart disease.
3. Boost Skin and Hair
Elderberry contains anti-aging and free radical-fighting antioxidants. This helps to boost the appearance of skin and hair. Antioxidants in elderberries not only give the fruit its bright, vibrant color, they also provide anti-aging goodness.
Free radicals can damage the skin. They are unstable molecules that can hurt your cells and speed up the aging process. Eating a diet full of antioxidant-rich foods is a great way to reduce free radicals and prevent skin damage.
Evidence suggests that elderberries could give skin a natural boost. They do this by helping to extract free radicals and toxins. In turn, this could help prevent skin conditions, such as breakouts and scars.
The berry also has benefits for your hair. You can mix elderberry oil with your favorite hair oil. This may help to treat scalp problems, split ends, and promote hair growth.
4. Encourage Brain Health
Elderberries contain flavonoids that may help to slow down cognitive decline. Research suggests that flavonoids can do wonders for an aging brain. They do this by increasing the number of neurons in the brain to slow down the formation of amyloid plaques. Alzheimer’s patients often have clusters of amyloid plaques in the brain.
One study found that older women who ate large amounts of berries - which are high in flavonoids - delayed memory decline for more than two years. This suggests that consuming foods high in flavonoids, such as elderberry, may benefit brain health in the long-term.
5. May Help Fight Cancer
Research into elderberry’s cancer-fighting effects is still young, but it looks promising. American and European elderberries may have cancer-stopping properties.
One area of research that has potential is to do with the flavanol quercetin. Elderberry contains quercetin, which is a type of plant flavanol. It’s thought that much of elderberry’s cancer-fighting effects come from its quercetin content. Quercetin appears to activate the immune system, supporting cancer treatment.
How to Reap the Benefits of Elderberry
Finding a way to keep colds and flu at bay is an ongoing struggle. Many people look for a natural way to boost their immune system. Elderberry’s immune support benefits primarily come from its rich antioxidant content.
Elderberry supplements are a great way to enjoy the unique properties of the berry without a lot of effort or fuss. If you’re thinking about increasing your elderberry intake, you can do this in a few ways:
- Elderberry syrup
- Elderberry supplements in capsules and liquids
- Teas and tinctures
As one of the most used plants in herbal medicine, there’s a reason it’s been around for years. Elderberry is a popular supplement for its immune-boosting effects. The berry is full of antioxidants and beneficial nutrients. All this helps to fight free radicals, reduce oxidative stress, and protect the heart.
Elderberry is not an alternative to self-care. But it has the potential to cut flu duration and symptoms. The small but mighty berry has powerful properties. It could be just what you need to help you avoid illness year-round.