Is elderberry good for immune support? You may have heard that elderberry provides immune support, but do you know why? Read on to learn more about the science behind why elderberry helps boost your immune system and how they came to be known as nature’s medicine chest.
What Are Elderberries?
Whenever you come across the term “elderberry,” you should know that it actually refers to a wide variety of black and blue (or dark purple!) berry plants that come from the indigenous Sambucus tree. Although this plant can be found in the warmer parts of Europe, North America, Asia and Northern Africa, the most common type of elderberry is the European elderberry, also known as Sambucus nigra. The berries have a sharp, tart flavor by themselves, but make for delicious syrups when properly prepared!
So, is elderberry good for immune support? The elderberry has stood the tests of time as one of the most widely used medicinal plants for immune support. Phytonutrients in the berry have even been primarily used as antiviral agents for colds and influenza. Even Hippocrates, known as the father of modern medicine, ended up referring to the plant as “nature’s medicine chest.” That means elderberries for immune support have been a hot topic since the 5th century BCE!
So, what makes this small black fruit so special? We’re going to take a deep dive into the story behind the elderberry for the immune system and how it became a household name for its traditional immune support.
Elderberries in Immunity Research
In the last two decades, more and more studies are being published about the wonders of elderberry. Extracts of the fruit have been featured in several notable in vitro studies to account for its immune-enhancing properties.
One in vitro study of three different elderberry extracts resulted in the activation of a healthy immune system by increasing inflammatory and anti-inflammatory cytokine production. The elderberry extracts even outperformed the other herbal remedies featured in the study — Protec and Chizukit, which are products recognized as immune enhancers containing propolis and Echinacea. Cytokines are one of the main components of the immune system, so this study is quite critical in the analysis of elderberry for immune support.
Another study of the immune-modulating effects of elderberry fruit extracts found that elderberry can enhance the immune activity of L. acidophilus on dendritic cells. Dendritic cells are key regulators within the immune system, and this study suggests that elderberries may truly exert antiviral activity! Other studies found that infusing elderberry leaves exerted an inhibitory effect on the growth of both bacteria and yeasts as well.
There have been great findings in pre-clinical studies involving elderberry as well! One study on healthy and diabetic rats showed that the rats that received elderberry extract saw significant increases in the number and production of lymphocytes! T-Lymphocytes are a type of white blood cell, so they are an essential part of the immune system that focuses on dealing with foreign particles. This animal study shows the incredible potential of elderberry extract in dramatically improving the body’s immune defenses!
Elderberries in Clinical Studies
As exciting as the in vitro and animal studies are, you’re probably wondering about how human clinical studies have shown the exciting benefits of elderberry for immune support. We’re pleased to tell you that the results have been very positive!
Putting some of these human studies together, you’ll find that elderberry may not only decrease the severity of your symptoms, but also the actual duration of the cold. More clinical reviews are needed to fully explore the elderberry’s potential in immune support, but from what we’ve seen so far, people taking elderberry for immune support tend to feel less sick for less time!
Benefits of Elderberry: 6 Ways This Medicinal Plant Can Improve Your Health
1. Elderberries may help improve cold and flu symptoms.
This is the most well-known elderberry benefit today. Elderberries have a strong link to helping support the immune system. These little black berries have been shown to decrease the length and severity of the flu. A five-day study of 60 adult patients experiencing flu symptoms found that the subjects who were given elderberry syrup saw their symptoms go away roughly four days earlier than those who took the placebo syrup. While the subjects who received the elderberry had improvement in their symptoms in just two to four days on average, the other group took as much as eight days to see improvement! The use of rescue medication, for symptom relief, was also significantly less in the elderberry extract group.
Another study using elderberry extract found that those who got sick after air travel and took elderberry capsules experienced less severe cold symptoms and had a shorter illness duration than the control group that did not take elderberry.
Elderberries have also been helpful in treating flu symptoms. A two-day study of 64 people found that those who took elderberry extract lozenges had major improvements in their flu symptoms. In just 24 hours, they felt relief in bothersome symptoms like headache, fever, and nasal congestion.
While these results are promising, more studies will be needed to confirm if elderberries may be able to do as much as prevent the flu, too. Read on for more information on the benefits of elderberry such as:
2. Elderberries are high in vitamin C.
Let’s face it. We all could use some vitamin C. Vitamin C is an essential vitamin and antioxidant that is most known for strengthening your body’s natural defenses. Getting more vitamin C can increase your blood antioxidant levels by as much as 30%. Elderberries pack a nice vitamin C punch; per 100 grams of elderberry fruit, you can obtain up to 60% of the recommended daily intake of vitamin C.
3. Elderberries are high in antioxidants.
Beyond containing vitamin C, elderberry benefits also come from their high levels of other antioxidants. The antioxidant anthocyanin can be found in elderberries — anthocyanin has incredible antioxidant power. In fact, in a study that compared different types of berries, elderberry came out as one of the most effective antioxidants! Elderberries are showing a lot of promise in lab studies, including one study in which subjects who drank 400 mL of elderberry juice experienced a significant increase in antioxidant activity just one hour after ingestion of the elderberries.
Remember, antioxidants can prevent and even delay various types of free radical damage as well as protect from oxidative stress. Eating foods with antioxidants is a good way to prevent and reduce this damage in your body. After all, high levels of free radicals have been linked to many illnesses, like heart disease and numerous chronic diseases. Think of elderberries as another way to protect your body!
4. Elderberries may support heart health.
A happy heart goes a long way, and studies suggest that consuming elderberries may positively affect your heart health. Elderberry benefits have been shown to increase your body’s secretion of insulin, enabling better blood sugar level control that can prevent heart and vascular disease. Dietary intake of flavonoids like anthocyanin, the antioxidant found in elderberries, has been shown to significantly reduce the risk of heart disease.
Additionally, the elderberry may exert beneficial effects on your blood pressure as well. Several rodent studies found that rats on a diet of elderberry extract experienced a reduction in blood pressure. The study also found that consuming elderberry led to a reduction in the risk of organ damage caused by high blood pressure.
5. Elderberries can act as a natural diuretic.
Elderberries have been shown to be one of the most promising natural diuretics. That means that elderberries may be able to promote urination as well as bowel movement. This is important because urinating and bowel movements are how your body protects itself against fluid retention. Water/fluid retention is a pretty common health issue, however retaining too much fluid can cause major discomfort, including bloating and less ability to move with ease. Elderberries might help prevent this!
6. Elderberries may support skin health.
Elderberries have been traditionally used for its internal benefits, but another elderberry benefit is that it may be a great addition to your skin routine as well. These berries are packed with antioxidants and vitamin A, both of which can be helpful in protecting you from free radical damage and promoting skin health. Vitamins C and E, which are also found in elderberries, can also boost your skin health. Tons of skin care products include elderberry in their formula, and elderberry’s nutritious content may be why!
If you’re looking for a reliable way to implement elderberry into your daily routine, we recommend taking Elderberry Soothing Syrup. Our delectable syrup is safe for kids 2 and up, and its warm combination of honey, cinnamon and cloves makes for the perfect traditional immune supplement! Learn more here.
Note: PLEASE consult with your doctor before making any changes to your diet or medications. The material on this site is provided for educational purposes only, and is not to be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.