In recent years Elderberry has become one of the most popular herbal products around.
And for good reason, it has many benefits for your body.
While you may know Elderberry for its immune supporting properties, you may be surprised to see the wide variety of benefits that is has.
We’ll go over the benefits below, but first, let’s look at a brief history of the plant…
The History of Elderberry:
Elderberry, also known as Sambucus nigra, has been historically used both as a medicine and as a food source. The word 'Elder' comes from the Anglo-Saxon word aeld, which means “fire”. This is thought to be due to the fact that the hollow stems of the young branches were used for blowing on fires (as a sort of early bellows system) (1).
It was primarily used throughout the United Kingdom, in fact, the main variety of Elderberry (Sambucus nigra) is the European variety. This is the type that is most often used in supplements and food products.
In the US, there is a similar tree/berry, it’s known as Sambucus canadensis. It appears to have the same health benefits and is often used interchangeably with Sambucus nigra.
The Elder tree was looked at as “the medicine chest of the country people” (1). Every part of the tree was used; from the roots, to the stems, to the flowers… and of course, the berries.
Below we’ll dig into 4 major benefits of Elderberry.
1. Immune Support
The first thing most people think about when they think of Elderberry is its immune supporting properties. And that’s correct!
This was backed by a double-blind, placebo controlled study conducted in 2011.
(Double-blind placebo controlled studies are the gold standard as far as studies go).
The researchers found that of airline passengers that got sick while traveling overseas on a flight, the individuals that took Elderberry before and after the trip had a significant reduction in cold duration (2).
This was the perfect test since airline travel is one of the most stressful events for your immune system.
The reason for these immune supporting benefits appears to be the anthocyanin content in Elderberry, we’ll talk more about that in the next point.
2. High In Antioxidants
Elderberries are chock full of beneficial antioxidants.
In particular, Elderberries contain high amounts of anthocyanins.
Anthocyanins are a special category of natural plant chemicals known as flavonoids. Anthocyanins are found in the skin of the elderberry, they actually help to give the berries their dark purple/blue colors.
Scientific research is still being conducted on anthocyanins, but it appears that they have a widespread positive effect on the body.
One hypothesis is that they support the immune system by boosting the production of cytokines.
As a reminder, cytokines are cellular messengers employed by your immune system, they help your body’s cells to talk back and forth with each other. This signaling is especially important when your immune system is facing an attack (3).
3. Antibacterial Properties
Elderberry appears to also have antibacterial properties.
In 2011 a study was conducted to test whether or not Elderberry would have an impact on bacterial cultures.
In the study, a concentration of Elderberry juice was placed into a dish of different types of bacteria.
After allowing the Elderberry extract to work, the researchers went back and tested the bacteria, they found that the Elderberry extract had helped to stop the growth and spread of the bacteria (4).
This shows that Elderberry may be effective as an antimicrobial.
4. May Protect Against UV Radiation
A 2010 report showed that polyphenol rich plants (such as Elderberries) may help to protect against UV radiation.
The study found that polyphenol rich plants with yellow, red or purple pigments can absorb UV radiation. Specifically, they were shown to absorb “UVB radiation”, a mid-range form of UV radiation that’s responsible for the majority of UV-related skin damage (5).
One note, this research was conducted on topically-applied polyphenols. This means that you’d have to absorb the polyphenols through your skin, such as in a lotion or moisturizer.
This may not be ideal with Elderberry since it has a deep purple staining effect.
It hasn’t yet been verified that you can get the same UV protective benefits by taking an Elderberry supplement (in a capsule or syrup form). However, this could lead to interesting research in the future.
Elderberry is a fantastic natural plant with a variety of different health benefits.
Whether it’s elderberry syrups, capsules, or gummies; there are a variety of ways to add this beneficial herb into your routine.
One caution, make sure if you do take an Elderberry product, to make sure that it doesn’t contain a large amount of sugar. The sugar content can work to suppress your immune system.
Make sure to pay special attention to the labels of syrups and gummies, those are the main ones to watch out for.
Encapsulated supplements with Elderberry will be free of additive sugars, so they may be a better option.
At Utzy Naturals, we have our U-Mune formula. It’s a natural immune support formula made with Elderberry and Echinacea (along with other beneficial herbs).
If you’re looking to support your immune health this winter, be sure to get a bottle of U-Mune.
We whole-heartedly recommend taking it, especially during the winter months. It’s immune supporting benefits and rich anthocyanin content makes it a must have.
(1). Elder. (n.d.). Retrieved October 22, 2019, from https://botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/e/elder-04.html.
(2) Tiralongo, E., Wee, S., & Lea, R. (2016). Elderberry Supplementation Reduces Cold Duration and Symptoms in Air-Travellers: A Randomized, Double-Blind Placebo-Controlled Clinical Trial. Nutrients, 8(4), 182. doi: 10.3390/nu8040182
(3) Khoo, H. E., Azlan, A., Tang, S. T., & Lim, S. M. (2017). Anthocyanidins and anthocyanins: colored pigments as food, pharmaceutical ingredients, and the potential health benefits. Food & Nutrition Research, 61(1), 1361779. doi: 10.1080/16546628.2017.1361779
(4) Krawitz, C., Mraheil, M. A., Stein, M., Imirzalioglu, C., Domann, E., Pleschka, S., & Hain, T. (2011). Inhibitory activity of a standardized elderberry liquid extract against clinically-relevant human respiratory bacterial pathogens and influenza A and B viruses. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 11(1). doi: 10.1186/1472-6882-11-16
(5) Nichols, J. A., & Katiyar, S. K. (2009). Skin photoprotection by natural polyphenols: anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and DNA repair mechanisms. Archives of Dermatological Research, 302(2), 71–83. doi: 10.1007/s00403-009-1001-3