The use of elderberry was popular among Native Americans and Europeans. This wonderberry has been part of traditional remedies for hundreds of years. Loaded with antioxidants and vital nutrients, the elderberry benefits your overall health. In recent times, medicinal and health supplements contain elderberry extracts to incorporate them into our regular diet. With most of us looking for ways to boost immunity to protect ourselves from the raging pandemic and harmful environmental factors, the elderberry fruit is a promising option.
What is Elderberry and How Does It Boost Immunity?
Elder plants come in over 30 varieties. The elderberries that come from the Sambucus nigra species that originate in Europe commonly work as a remedy for several ailments. Even the father of medicine, Hippocrates, used extracts from the elder tree which he called the ‘medicine chest’. The flowers of the elder tree have strong medicinal properties. In fact, the extracts derived from the berries and flowers of this tree are considered the most potent natural medicine in the world.
Here are some elderberry benefits that have become quite popular among health and fitness experts as well as enthusiasts:
1. Improves Immune Response
The beautiful and purple elderberry contains several immune boosting components. This includes powerful antioxidants and vitamins like Vitamin C, flavanols, anthocyanins along with Vitamin A, and Vitamin B that are vital for your immune system.
A study conducted in 2016 showed that cold symptoms are drastically reduced when 300mg of supplements containing elderberry extracts were consumed twice a day. This study was conducted on individuals who took long flights which normally compromises the immune system. Some studies also showed that consuming elderberries within 48 hours of getting any symptoms of flu helped individuals recover faster.
The purple colouration of these berries is because of a type of pigment called anthocyanin. This pigment is mostly responsible for the antioxidant property of elderberries. Antioxidants reduce any free radical damage to the cells and tissues of the body, allowing you to heal better and faster. These pigments prevent the increase of the pathogen population in the body and even reduce the chances of developing symptoms of flu, to begin with.
In fact, the elderberry fruit is particularly beneficial against viruses. The fruit inhibits the part of the virus that causes it to replicate, according to researchers at Chicago’s Rush Medical College.
2. Reduces Inflammation
When the body is affected by any pathogen, be it a microbe or any foreign substance, it responds with inflammation. Stress is also known to trigger the inflammatory response of the body. When inflammation is prolonged, it can lead to cell damage. It also releases several free radicals into the body which can contribute to degenerative diseases.
Elderberries contain various bioactive compounds like flavonoids and tannins that are anti-inflammatory in response. They inhibit factors that contribute to inflammation, keeping you healthier. When inflammation is persistent, it also compromises your immune system. This is because the immune system is engaged in fighting this chronic inflammation. So, when an actual pathogen attacks your body, the immune system does not respond with the same strength. As a result, you are susceptible to health issues, infections and a lot more.
3. Regulates Blood Pressure
There are several studies to show that the bioactive compounds in the elderberry fruit can lower your blood pressure. This is vital to prevent the chances of any heart diseases. A study conducted on adults between the ages of 50 and 70 years, showed positive results with respect to heart health.
These individuals who had a health drink containing elderberries for five weeks consistently. According to the results, the cholesterol levels reduced significantly in comparison to a group that was given placebos.
4. Helps Prevent Degenerative Diseases
The powerful antioxidant properties of these berries help prevent cell and tissue damage. This is highly beneficial in preventing degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s. Elderberries can also reduce the signs of ageing. A high concentration of Vitamin A helps reduce the chances of wrinkles. This property also prevents the appearance of fine lines and spots that are common with ageing skin.
Besides these primary elderberry benefits, there are others that have been noticed through various studies. The antioxidant properties of elderberry are known to be potent against skin issues like acne. These berries are also effective against muscle and joint pain because of their anti-inflammatory properties.
A Word of Caution
Although this berry is quite safe to consume, there are some aspects to be mindful of. Only the fruit and the flower are edible. Any other part of the elder plant can be toxic. When consumed in small amounts, these parts can cause diarrhoea, nausea, and vomiting. They are also not to be consumed with diuretics and laxatives. Elderberry is known to boost the effects of these medicines.
There are some individuals who are susceptible to adverse reactions due to elderberry consumption:
- Individuals who are currently consuming any medication for diabetes.
- Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
- Individuals who consume steroids or other medicines that suppress the immune system. This is because of the immuno-stimulating effect that these berries have on the immune system, interfering with the medication.
If you wish to consume the berries as they are, make sure that they are cooked properly. Undercooked berries are also harmful to the body. Only the flowers of these trees can be consumed raw, although it is not recommended.
The best way to reap elderberry benefits is when you consume it in the form of supplements. These supplements are prepared to keep health and safety standards in mind. The internet is loaded with recipes to prepare elderberry concoctions at home. Unless you are familiar with the use of these berries, it is best to avoid them.
The main issue with this potent medicinal plant is that the research available about the side effects and health hazards are very limited. There is also very little knowledge about the right dosage for different groups of people based on their age, gender, or any specific health issues. Therefore, it is highly recommended that you consult your doctor before including any supplements containing elderberries in your diet.