Elderberry: More than just a folk medicine for cold and sinusitis


Last Updated December 25th, 2019

What Is Elderberry?

Elderberry belongs to a family of flowering plants or shrubs. They are categorized under the genus Sambucus. These species were abundantly found throughout the northern hemisphere stretching from Asia to North America. For centuries, it has been used in folk medicine to treat influenza, colds, and sinusitis. It is commonly known as elderflower or elder. It is one of the most commonly used medicinal plants in the world. The most common type of elderberry is Sambucus nigra which is also known as European elderberry.

This tree is native to Europe and is widely grown in different parts of the world. The branches, leaves, and twigs contain traces of a toxin called cyanide. The accumulation of the same can lead to fatal outcomes. Because of which even the raw fruit is highly poisonous, and it is, therefore, necessary to cook the fruit before consumption.

The berries are cooked into jams, juices, chutneys, pies, and syrups. They can also be used as a base for beverages and cocktails. Elderberry wine is a popular drink that can be easily prepared at home.

Nutritional Profile Of Elderberries

One cup of elderberries contains 106 calories, 26.68 grams of carbohydrates, 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, and 10.2 grams of dietary fiber. By meeting the daily dietary fiber needs they are proved beneficial in preventing constipation, colorectal cancer, and improving bowel function.

Why is elderberry called the “queen of herbs”?

While there are many extraordinary healing herbs, it is always the elder that tops the chart. It provides potent immune support for a faster healing process. The following are the reported benefits of elderberries:

They are high in nutrients

Elderberries are a low-calorie food loaded with antioxidants. 100 grams of fresh elderberries contain 73 calories. They contain high levels of vitamin C. It contains 6-35 grams of vitamin C per 100grams of fruits. This nutritious fact accounts for up to 60% of the recommended daily intake of vitamin C. They are high in dietary fiber and contain 7 grams of fiber per 100 grams of fresh berries. They are also a good source of phenolic acids.

These compounds help provide powerful antioxidative properties that help reduce damage from oxidative stress. They are an avid source of antioxidants such as flavonols (a class of flavonoids), quercetin (a pigment present in plants, used as a food supplement to reduce allergic responses or boost immunity), kaempferol (a pigment present in plants), and isorhamnetin (a type of flavonoids). They are rich in anthocyanins (a blue, violet, or red flavonoid pigment found in plants) which are responsible for providing the dark black-purple color. It is also a strong antioxidant with anti-inflammatory effects.

Improve symptoms of cold and flu

Elderberry extracts and flower infusions have been proved to reduce the severity and length of influenza. There are various forms of commercial preparations, including liquids, capsules, lozenges, and gummies. Several studies have shown promising results and have been determined to play a role in preventing influenza.

Contain high antioxidants

It reduces the oxidative stress caused by reactive molecules that are released during normal metabolism. The accumulated stress leads to the development of type 2 diabetes and cancer. Luckily, elderberries possess high antioxidative properties. They include some vitamins, phenolic acids, and flavonoids which help remove the reactive molecules and reduce oxidative stress. Shreds of researches have proved that a diet high in antioxidants may help prevent chronic disease. However, the processing of elderberries such as extraction, heating, or juicing can cause a decrease in its antioxidants.

Can help promote heart health

They show positive effects on heart and blood vessel health. The juice of elderberries has shown a promising effect on reducing the level of fat in the blood. As a result, it helps decrease cholesterol too. By decreasing cholesterol, it plays a vital role in cardiovascular protection and lowers the risk of developing atherosclerosis (hardening and narrowing of the arteries). The presence of potassium in elderberries enhances a relaxing and calming effect on your arteries and blood vessels.

Enhance respiratory health

The juice of elderberry is an ideal choice for a cough and clearing a sore throat. It also helps treat bronchitis (inflammation of the mucous membrane in the bronchial tubes) and any issue relevant to the respiratory system. They contain bioflavonoids such as anthocyanins that help soothe irritation and inflammation. Anthocyanins also act well as an expectorant and help clear out phlegm. Phlegm is as the thick viscous substance secreted by the mucous membranes of the respiratory passages, especially when produced in excessive quantities during a cold.

Increases immunity

They contain antibacterial and anti-viral properties that act as barriers and prevent the entry of cold and influenza. They reinforce your immune system and preserve the body against any autoimmune disorders.

Controls diabetes

Elderberries contain few active antioxidant ingredients that have a positive effect on your pancreas. This effect helps regulate glucose levels and insulin. This regulation helps provide stability for individuals who have diabetes and for those who are non-diabetic too.

Maintains bone health

They contain high mineral content that makes them bone-friendly fruits. The essential minerals present in them improve bone health and helps in the formation of new bone tissues. It helps increase bone density and reduces the symptoms associated with osteoporosis.

Helps in weight reduction

The effects of minerals and vitamins along with the high content of dietary fibers make elderberry a great fruit for weight loss. The presence of fiber makes you feel full and restricts your intake of food.

Helps keep your skin healthy

The bioflavonoid present in elderberry is an active ingredient used in many cosmetic applications. It also contains high levels of vitamin A and antioxidants that make it an ideal fruit that can help reduce wrinkles, age spots, and help improve skin tone.

It is an avid source of polyphenols, antioxidants, vitamins, carotenoids, phytochemicals, and flavonoids. These essential substances act as building blocks for radiant and glowing skin. Daily intake of elderberries accompanied by a healthy lifestyle protects your skin cells from degeneration and keep your skin hydrated, soft, and give it a youthful bliss. The skin products containing elderberry extract was effective in protecting the skin against the sun, due to the presence of the sun protection factor (SPF).

Natural diuretic

They play a vital role in bowel movement and urination. An array of studies have shown that they have natural diuretic effects and help in the production of urine. It helps the body to release excess fluids and prevents bowel-related

Promotes mental health

The extracts of elderberry have shown positive effects as a natural antidepressant source. Though research is underway to prove the same, its frequent use has proved its beneficial qualities.

Fights anemia

Anemia is a condition where there is a decrease in red blood cells or the amount of hemoglobin in the blood. Elderberries are excellent sources of iron and play a vital role in creating new blood cells.

Is a sinus infection aid

The anti-inflammatory and antioxidant property of elderberries makes it a go-to remedy for sinus issues. Sinus issues are related to nasal congestion, discomfort in the cheeks, forehead, or areas around the eyes, and headaches are the most common symptom associated with sinus. It can help reduce the inflammation and pain in sinuses such as acute sinusitis, chronic sinusitis, deviated septum, and nasal polyps. It inhibits the growth of bacteria like Helicobacter pylori and helps improve symptoms of sinusitis and bronchitis.

Relief from allergy

It possesses anti-inflammatory and immunostimulating qualities that make it a natural remedy for allergic reactions. Inflammations such as sneezing, itchy, watery eyes, swelling, and a running nose are treatable with the consumption of elderberries.

How To Make Elderberry Syrup?

Since the raw elderberry is deemed poisonous it is a must to consume the same in a cooked form. Elderberry syrup is the most commonly used form. It can be prepared by you at the comfort of your home. Ingredients needed to prepare the syrup 3 ½ cups cold water, 1 cup dried elderberries, 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, ½ teaspoon cloves, and 1 cup of raw honey.

The procedure used to prepare the syrup: Add elderberries, ginger, cinnamon, and cloves along with water in a saucepan. Bring the ingredients to boil and allow it to simmer for 45 minutes to an hour. Allow the boiled mixture to cool. Carefully mash the same and strain it into a container. Stir it well and allow the strained syrup to cool. Your elderberry syrup is ready.

Typical Use Of Elderberry Tea

This natural immune boosting tea is easy to prepare, quick, simple, and comforting when you are down with the flu. The dried elderberries are boiled in the water and are used to make a delicious tea. Elderberry tea made from the elderberry flowers, anise fruit, fennel fruit, and senna flowers helps relieve constipation. It is a warm comforter for your sore throat. This tea can also be given to children in restricted amounts which can be used to treat flu and cold.

Some Health Risks Associated With Consumption Of Elderberry

Though its health benefits are promising, there are also some adverse outcomes associated with its consumption. The unripe berries and seeds contain a small number of lectins which can cause stomach problems when eaten in excess amounts. Since it contains cyanide it can lead to fatal outcomes. However, the commercially prepared elderberries are reportedly safe to consume and are free from cyanide content.

They are not recommended for children and adolescents below 18years. It is also not safe for pregnant and lactating women. While no adverse effects have been reported in these groups, it is still a precautionary action to avoid any adverse outcomes.

Native Americans and European herbalist have long used elderberries for their wide-ranging benefits. They have shown proven results in boosting the immune system and pave a way to ward off cold, flu, and other respiratory infections. Their health benefits also include naturally improving sinus issues, nerve pain, inflammation, chronic fatigue, allergies, constipation, and even cancer. Elderberry is available in these forms – capsules, lozenges, and syrups. These supplements are commercially available for treating common cold and flu.


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