People have used elderberry for its health benefits for hundreds of years. Elderberry contains antioxidants, and many believe it can relieve colds, fight the flu, and boost the immune system. Elderberries are the fruit of the Sambucus tree. The most common type is the Sambucus nigra. The tree has clusters of small white or cream elderflowers and bunches of small blue or black elderberries. Native Americans and European herbalists have long used elderberries for their supposed range of health benefits. These include boosting the immune system to help the body fight off colds, flu, and other respiratory infections.
Elderberries contain many vitamins and nutrients that can benefit people’s health.
One cup of elderberries contains 106 calories and 26.68 grams (g) of carbohydrate. A cup also contains the following vitamins and minerals:
870 mg of vitamin A
406 mg of potassium
52.2 mg of vitamin C
9 mg of folate
55 mg of calcium
2.32 mg of iron
Elderberries are also an excellent source of fiber, containing 10.2 g of dietary fiber per cup. This makes up a large amount of the recommended daily intake, which according to Dietary Guidelines for Americans is 34 g for men and 28 g for women.
Meeting daily fiber recommendations can have the following health benefits:
-improve bowel function
-protect against colorectal cancer
-reduce blood pressure
-protect against cardiovascular disease
-lower blood cholesterol
1. Cold And Flu
When you come down with a cold—or worse, the flu—you want relief fast. You may have heard that elderberry can help you kick your cold or flu more quickly. And if you walk into a vitamin store or even some supermarkets during flu season, you’ll probably see the aisles stocked with elderberry supplements, elderberry syrup, and elderberry extract. Plenty of lab research (in other words, research not done on humans) has shown that elderberry extracts can fend off cold and flu. One study, for instance, found that two of the flavonoids in elderberry bind to the flu virus H1N1 and prevent it from infecting host cells.
2. Heart Health
Because elderberries are rich in three types of flavanols — naturally occurring compounds in plants with antioxidant properties — they may help to improve heart health. Some studies have linked flavanol to a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease. Research has also shown elderberries can reduce fat levels in the blood, lower cholesterol, and improve blood sugar levels. Research on elderberries’ effects on chronic diseases is ongoing and often controversial. Since many studies on elderberries have been performed only on rats, further research on humans is needed.
Drinking tea made from dried elderberry may aid in the treatment of constipation. This laxative effect is attributed to a compound in elderberry known as anthraquinone. Also found in rhubarb and senna, anthraquinone inhibits the absorption of water in the intestines. This increases the intestinal pressure, stimulating muscles contractions (peristalsis) to promote clearance of the bowel. Although there is little medical literature related to elderberry’s laxative properties, it appears to be safe when used for up to five days.
4. Pain Relief
Anthocyanins are known to reduced inflammation. Those in elderberry do so by inhibiting the production of nitric oxide by the body’s immune cells.Nitric oxide serves as a signaling molecule that triggers inflammation in response to injury or disease. By tempering this response, pain and swelling may be relieved.Topical elderberry tinctures and salves have long been used in folk medicine to treat dental pain, cuts, bruises, and burns. There are even some who claim that elderberry syrup can treat sciatica and other forms of neuropathic pain. Unfortunately, there have been few studies investigating elderberry’s anti-inflammatory or analgesic (pain-relieving) benefits in humans.
There are other claims about the benefits of adding elderberries to your diet. These potential benefits include:
-Lower cancer risk
-Help in treating HIV/AIDS
-Reduced toothache pain
-Diminished nerve pain
-Aid in weight loss
-Relief from hay fever
Elderberry extracts may interact with drugs designed to suppress the immune system, undermining their efficacy. These include:
Corticosteroid drugs like prednisone
Due to their effect on the immune system, the prolonged use of elderberry medications should be avoided in people with autoimmune disorders without guidance from a doctor. As always, check in with your doctor before taking any new herbal medication.
In conclusion, reasonable evidence supports its use to reduce the length and severity of flu symptoms. Also, it may support heart health, improve antioxidant status and have a variety of anti-cancer, anti-diabetes and anti-inflammatory effects.
Moreover, elderberry is a flavorful addition to a healthy diet and good source of vitamin C, fiber and antioxidants!
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