Found growing wild along country hedgerows in Europe and many states in the USA, the elderberry comes in many varieties.
This dark purple berry is known for its use in homemade jelly and tonics. However, it also plays a very important role in healing.
The main species of elderberry used for medicinal purposes is sambucus nigra, also known as Black Elder. The majority of scientific research on elderberry has been carried out on this particular variety.
Elderberries are a rich source of nutrients, containing a multitude of vitamins, minerals and antioxidant flavonoids, which are all essential for maintaining a healthy body.
Health Benefits of Elderberries
Enhances Immune System
Elderberries have a high concentration of flavonoids called anthocyanins. Anthocyanins also give elderberries their purple color. These powerful antioxidants help the body’s defences by providing support to the immune system for fighting off illnesses such as:
The Common Cold
According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), each year there are millions of cases of the common cold. Adults catch an average of 2 to 3 colds per year and children get even more. (source)
Research suggests that elderberries could help reduce the severity and duration of the infection by its enhancement of the immune system.
One practice which has a notorious reputation for picking up the common cold is air travel. This is due to the air conditioning and recirculation systems in use.
312 travellers took part in a clinical trial. They were separated into two groups and given either an elderberry supplement or a placebo. Participants were required to complete 3 surveys throughout the duration of the trial.
Results found that most cold episodes occurred in those that received the placebo.
It was also noted that those in the placebo group had a significantly longer duration of cold episode days (117 days) in comparison to those that took an elderberry supplement (57 days). (source)
The “flu” is an infectious disease caused by the influenza virus. It’s often confused with a common cold, however the symptoms of influenza are much more severe. (source)
Elderberry extract has shown potential as an efficient treatment to relieve symptoms of the influenza virus.
Researchers investigated the use of elderberry for treating influenza type A and B infections.
60 patients suffering from flu-like symptoms were given elderberry or a placebo syrup.
Results clearly showed symptoms resolved four days earlier in those that received elderberry treatment compared to those taking the placebo. (source)
In fact, elderberry appears to be so effective it was administered during an influenza outbreak in South America. In this case, a complete cure was observed within 2 to 3 days in almost 90% of those treated. (source)
The reason why elderberries are so effective in the fight against influenza comes down to the production of inflammatory cytokines.
Cytokines have a specific effect on interactions and communication between cells which regulate immune response. (source)
Elderberry increases cytokine production and therefore activates a healthy immune system. (source)
Diabetes is a disease in which the body cannot control the amount of sugar in the blood. It occurs when the body doesn’t make or use insulin efficiently enough. (source)
Elderberry has been documented as a treatment for diabetes. The berry has been reported to lower both Insulin resistance and insulin secretion, allowing regulation of sugar in the blood. (sources 1, 2)
Although elderberry supplements are normally considered safe to use, they can interact with certain medications and health conditions.
If you are taking medication to treat diabetes, you should check with your doctor prior to taking elderberry supplements.
If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, doctors will advise you to refrain from taking elderberry supplements. Clinical research is lacking so there is no evidence to prove their safety during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
Elderberries play an important part in stimulating the immune system. Therefore, if you have an autoimmune disease such as rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis or Crohn’s disease, check with your doctor before taking an elderberry supplement.
Avoid Raw Elderberries
Before you think about walking along the hedgerows to harvest your own elderberries, there’s one important warning to be aware of. You should only consume elderberries once processed. The raw fruit actually contains toxins which are not safe for human consumption.
The Best Elderberry Supplement
There are a number of elderberry supplements to choose from and it can often be hard to tell which manufacturer offers the best quality product.
The good news is that I’ve done the research for you and chosen five top contenders for the title of best elderberry supplement. I’ll share their pros and cons to help you make an informed decision and at the end I’ll reveal my personal favorite.
Zarbee’s Naturals supplement is in the form of chewable gummies which aim to support the immune system.
You get a reasonable serving of 135 mg elderberry extract plus additional vitamins A, C, D, E and zinc to boost your immunity.
This supplement contains wholesome ingredients and is also gluten free. Vegetarians will be happy to hear that it’s made with pectin rather than gelatin. Overall, a good choice for those who want to take a natural approach.
The taste is good although many didn’t like the sugar coating on the outside as it gave too much of a “candy” feeling.
New Chapter have formulated their elderberry supplement to promote healthy immune function through multiple pathways.
Elderberry Force contains a generous serving of 335 mg super-concentrated elderberry extract, giving you the equivalent of 21440 mg elderberries. It also comes with additional antioxidant support from 50 mg blackcurrant extract.
Ingredients are non GMO, gluten free and suitable for vegetarians.
Users generally report good results when using this product however the price is something which holds it back from the top spot for me personally.
Nature’s Way elderberry supplement comes in a syrup to use as a remedy during those winter months.
This supplement provides a decent serving of 100 mg elderberry extract standardized from the equivalent of 6400 mg of elderberries.
It’s gluten free, kosher certified and free from artificial flavors, colors or preservatives. However, some users say the syrup is far too sweet, and it comes with a high price tag which may not work with everyone’s budget.
For me, Now Foods elderberry liquid takes the top spot. It has a good serving of 500 mg elderberry extract and is both gluten and soy free therefore making it suitable for many with dietary requirements.
This supplement has been made in accordance with strict practice standards, which reinforces the quality of the product. It’s really good value for money too.
I’d recommend the Now Foods supplement to anyone looking to try elderberry for the first time. If you’ve given it a go, let me know how it worked out in the comments.