The 11 Best Elderberry Benefits

 

Elderberry is a classic herbal remedy; it is simply the dark purple berry found on the European elder tree. Note that it is not the same species as the American elder or elderflower. Elderberry has been used for centuries to treat a wide range of conditions. It is associated with many uses, though science has only validated a few of these. Elderberry delivers a number of benefits, some more valuable than others. Here are the 11 best elderberry benefits that have been backed by recent scientific research.

Table of Contents

  1. It Boosts Your Immune System

  2. It Can Help Clear Your Sinus Infection

  3. It Reduces the Odds of Developing Diabetes

  4. Bone Mineral Density Is Improved

  5. It Safely Treats Constipation

  6. It May Protects Your Brain

  7. It Is High in Antioxidants

  8. Elderberry Can Bring Down Uric Acid in Your Blood

  9. It May Protects Your Liver

  10. It Is a Safe Anti-Inflammatory

  11. It Can Help Diabetics Manage Their Blood Glucose 

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1. It Boosts Your Immune System

Elderberry has been used for centuries to fight off colds and flu. It is high in anthocyanins, antioxidants that both protect cells from damage and boost the immune system. Elderberry is actually more effective than the more popular Echinacea for this purpose. It is a strong antiviral, as well. Take it at the start of the flu, and you’ll shorten the duration of the illness. [1] You can use it to treat upper respiratory infections, as well. Consider elderberry syrup an excellent thing to add to your regimen during the winter cold and flu season. Are you considering taking a flight filled with hacking, coughing passengers? You’ll want to take elderberry syrup to avoid becoming yet another statistic. You’ll be less likely to get sick, and if you do become ill, the symptoms are less severe [1] and don’t last as long as those who didn’t take elderberry products.

Elderberry is not for everyone. Elderberry products may reduce levels of theophylline in the body, an asthma drug periodically prescribed for other respiratory conditions. Talk to your doctor before taking this natural remedy if you take that drug. The immune boosting effect is so strong that it is recommended to consult with your doctor, too, if you have an autoimmune disorder. [6] Do not take elderberry products if you are taking drugs to suppress your immune system such as corticosteroids.

These studies show that elderberry can realistically improve the body’s ability to fight other infections. However, influenza and the cold virus were the main points of research, so we don’t have data on many different types of infections it can fight. For example, no one has to our knowledge determined if elderberry can fight dental abscesses, an essential cause of the dental pain elderberry was often given to treat.

Key Takeaway: It helps you stave off illness and recover faster if sick.

2. It Can Help Clear Your Sinus Infection

Elderberry extract has been shown to help treat bacterial sinusitis, the scientific name for a sinus infection. These infections occur when mucus gets trapped in the sinus cavity and becomes infected. Whether this happens as one copes with a respiratory illness or due to allergies doesn’t matter. What matters is that the default treatment is antibiotics or suffering for weeks while waiting for it to clear up. Elderberry extract has been found to speed patients’ recovery from sinus infections, whether or not they’re taking antibiotics or decongestants. [4] And elderberry remedies are safe to take when you’re taking both antibiotics and decongestants. Better yet, it is also safe to give to children and the elderly.

Key Takeaway: It can help treat sinus infections.

3. It Reduces the Odds of Developing Diabetes

Elderberry has been touted as a way to prevent heart disease and diabetes. There is stronger evidence that elderberry helps to prevent diabetes than treat heart disease, though developing diabetes will worsen the function of the cardiovascular system.

One animal study found that diabetic rats fed elderberry supplements had reduced insulin resistance. [2] This means that elderberry syrup benefits include improved blood sugar control or outright prevention of hyperglycemia. The same study showed a reduction in blood markers for oxidative stress, inflammation and lipids like cholesterol. However, given the severity and prevalence of diabetes, an herbal remedy demonstrated to be an anti-diabetic is valuable in its own right. We’ll discuss the benefits of taking elderberry for those who are already diabetic later on in this article.

Key Takeaway: Elderberry extract may reduce the odds of developing diabetes.

4. Bone Mineral Density Is Improved

Whether you take calcium supplements, vitamin D or prescription medication to maintain bone density, you may not know that there are natural remedies available to achieve the same result. A 2012 study found that elderberry extract improves bone mineral density, and it actually manages to accomplish this in diabetic patients who have few other alternatives.

If you’re diabetic, this means one of the elderberry benefits you’d most appreciate is having a natural supplement to reduce the bone loss we all suffer from age but is worsened by diabetes. Note that elderberry may lower blood sugar levels, so be aware that it may cause hypoglycemia.

Key Takeaway: Elderberry can fight bone loss, especially for diabetics.

5. It Safely Treats Constipation

Elderberry is a safe and natural treatment for constipation when it is adequately prepared. Eating raw elderberries can make you violently ill, and it could trigger both vomiting and diarrhea. Conversely, cooking elderberries makes them safe to eat and allows people to use it as a mild laxative. That is aside from the fact that elderberries contain seven grams of fiber per 100 grams of berries, a quarter of the daily recommended allowance for most adults.

The 2010 study found that patients taking a mix of elderberry extract and Sambucus Negra experienced two thirds faster “evacuation” of waste without any significant adverse effects. [5] Do not take elderberry with other laxatives, whether they are prescription medications or over the counter remedies.

Key Takeaway: Elderberry products are a safe laxative and remedy for constipation.

6. It May Protects Your Brain

Sambucus nigra, the scientific name for elderberry, is one of several wild fruits tested for its level of anti-inflammatories. Elderberry was mentioned to have been proven to have anti-oxidative and anti-inflammatory properties in general. A 2014 study sought to determine if it could treat the inflammation and related brain damage after an injury. Animals fed the supplements were found to have lower microglial activation, and their brains had both lower oxidative stress and lower neuro-inflammatory responses.

The researchers suggested that elderberry extract may provide protection against the worst effects of brain damage in case of head trauma. It may be able to limit the damage caused by strokes, as well. Cyanidin-3-glucoside, a compound found in elderberries, is known to reduce alcohol neurotoxicity in the brain. [7]

We can’t say if this is related to the classic use of elderberry in treating nerve pain, sciatica or headaches. The cardiovascular benefits of elderberry may or may explain why it was historically given to treat heart pain.

Key Takeaway: Elderberry may help protect your brain in many ways.

7. It Is High in Antioxidants

Elderberry is regularly used as a dietary supplement for the purported health benefits. It is consumed as a fruit in much of Europe. They may be turned into juice, syrup or even wine. Sambucus nigra contained more total anthocyanin than other elderberry species, and it is unusual for being both edible and containing this compound. [8] Anthocyanin can provide anti-oxidative effects, and they are up to 3.5 times as powerful as vitamin E. Studies have [9] shown that anthocyanin can reduce platelet aggression, relax the cardiovascular system, and improve lipid profiles in people. In the lab, anthocyanin reduces cell proliferation and inhibits cell migration.

This means that all of the benefits one sees attributed to fruit with high levels of anti-oxidants like vitamin C could be seen with elderberry supplements as well. You’d generally have to drink a glass of wine to get these many anthocyanins in your system. [10] And unlike wine, there’s no risk of drunk driving or otherwise impaired judgment. The only exception to this is elderberry wine; that should be considered as risky as any other alcoholic beverage.

Elderberry products contain many compounds that theoretically reduce the risk of developing cancer and of existing cancers spreading. It has had limited effectiveness in the lab. However, you should not take elderberry if you’re undergoing chemotherapy without consulting with your oncologist, because it may interact with some chemotherapy drugs.

Key Takeaway: Get all the benefits of other antioxidants from a novel source with a few added benefits. However, it is too soon to say elderberry extract fights cancer.

8. Elderberry Can Bring Down Uric Acid in Your Blood

Uric acid levels are correlated to one’s risk of high blood pressure and heart health. Elderberry extract seems to bring uric acid levels down. [11] And all of this can be traced to the diuretic effect of elderberries. Note that you should not take elderberry syrup or another form of it if you already take a diuretic. This includes prescription diuretics taken to control high blood pressure and over the counter forms sometimes used to treat the bloating that accompanies PMS.

Key Takeaway: Elderberry extract may bring down uric acid and improve cardiovascular risk factors.

9. It May Protects Your Liver

Elderberries are a natural source of chlorogenic acid, a compound recently found to provide a significant protective effect for the liver. [12] Chlorogenic acid [13] protects the liver from injury against various compounds. It is notable for mitigating the damage caused by backed up bile ducts and jaundice. While it won’t undo the damage caused by hepatitis or excessive alcohol consumption, it may minimize it. And because elderberry supplements don’t include alcohol, this is an excellent choice for those who want the benefits of flavonoids and other beneficial compounds in wine but shouldn’t touch the bottle anymore.

If you’re taking medication that may adversely affect your liver, then elderberry is a good option for protecting your liver, and it provides many of the health benefits of wine without the same risks.

Key Takeaway: Elderberries could help protect your liver in a variety of ways.

10. It Is a Safe Anti-Inflammatory

Nitric oxide or NO levels are used as a marker for inflammation. Compounds in elderberry were found to reduce nitric oxide production, a factor that contributes to systemic inflammation. [14] More importantly, it does this without any cytotoxic effects. Other compounds within elderberry products may help regulate inflammatory activity. The inflammation being addressed contributes to rheumatoid arthritis, pulmonary fibrosis, and cardiovascular disease. Bacterial infections like sepsis dramatically increase nitric oxide levels in the blood, and that can reach the point that it interferes with proper liver function.

Nitric oxide has been fingered as a cause of osteoarthritis. [16] The nitric oxide plays a catabolic role in the development of osteoarthritis and adds to the inflammatory response that causes swelling and pain. Elderberry compounds are a potential remedy for treating it at a biochemical level.

And high levels of nitric oxide can contribute to or worsen chronic hepatitis.

Key Takeaway: Elderberry may treat inflammation at a systemic level.

11. It Can Help Diabetics Manage Their Blood Glucose

Polyphenolic extracts in Sambucus nigra or the European elderberry may improve the uptake of glucose by skeletal muscle. If the body is able to more rapidly uptake glucose and other compounds, this helps the body use up glucose instead of it building up in the blood. [15] This is of particular benefit to Type 2 diabetics. Conversely, the effect is so strong that you need to take care not to take it if you’re taking other drugs to lower your blood sugar, due to the risk of hypoglycemia.

Key Takeaway: Diabetics may find that elderberry remedies help them bring high blood sugar down.

Summary

Elderberry has been proven to provide many health benefits, especially for diabetics but not just for them. It has been demonstrated to treat respiratory infections and sinus infections. It protects the liver in a variety of ways. It delivers the same health benefits as red wine and much other fruit, and it comes packed with super-anti-oxidants you would be hard pressed to find anywhere else. You should consider adding elderberry fruit or elderberry extracts to your diet to enjoy these health benefits.


Elderberry References:

[9] Anthocyanin benefits as antioxidants

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5613902/

[13] how the compound protects the liver

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6300992/

[15] blood sugar management for diabetics

https://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/acs.jafc.6b05582