If you have never heard the name, this is an interesting purple fruit that is known to have medicinal characteristics. We’ll get to that in a moment. It’s also used in some syrups and food items because it is a popular remedy for cold and flu. But it is not without complications and we will tell you all about it in this post. If you want to know more about Elderberry health benefits continue further reading this article!
What Is Elderberry?
Elderberry is a fruit that is popular for its healing abilities. We’ll get into the effectiveness of these notions in a minute. There are 30 different plants in the world that produce this fruit. For starters, there’s the European version which is also called the Sambucus nigra and is known for its great health benefits.
The history of the fruit goes as far back as 400 BC when Hippocrates said that the tree of this fruit was “his medicine chest”. There has pretty much been no turning back since that endorsement.
It’s a common medicinal plant even today and is used by the indigenous population to treat rheumatism and fever. Ancient Egyptians, on the other hand, used it to treat burns.
It is also used in Europe as a part of folk medicine and in the US, it is used to treat symptoms of flu and cold. But if you ever spot the tree, don’t rush to eat the berries because they can at least cause stomach problems and poisoning is the worst-case scenario.
Elderberry Health Benefits
As you would expect at this point, there are lots of different health benefits because of the anthocyanins present in this fruit. They are antioxidants that remove free radicals from the body and avoid cell damage.
Elderberries are also antiviral which makes them a good solution for common infections. That’s why they are used to treat flu and cold symptoms. These fruits are also anti-inflammatory which is why they are used to reduce pain and swelling.
Flu And Cold
For centuries, the syrup from elderberry juice was used as a home remedy for fever and cold as they are both viral conditions. Small studies have supported claims made by researchers that the fruit can also reduce the time that an infection lasts in the system.
So, elderberries cannot help you prevent a cold, but they can help reduce the infection’s time period. There’s another study from 2012 which showed that the fruit can also help in preventing influenza.
The anthocyanins in elderberries can help decrease inflammation. This is done by blocking the nitric oxide that is produced by the immune cells in the body. Nitric oxide is the molecule that tells the immune system to start the inflammation when the body has a disease or an injury.
Elderberries interact with the immune system and make sure that the swelling and pain that is the result of the inflammation goes down.
Elderberries are also used to treat burns, bruises, cuts and dental pain. But there aren’t a whole lot of studies that prove this hypothesis in human beings.
Elderberries can also be useful in treating constipation. This is done by drinking tea that is made of the dried version of the fruit. This is because it contains a compound called anthraquinone which acts as a laxative.
By the way, anthraquinone is also found in senna and rhubarb and it stops the intestines from taking in water. This adds to the pressure in the intestines and promotes bowel movement.
It is also considered to be an antioxidant in alternative healthcare. And as such, it is believed to be useful in treating heart problems and even cancer. And once again, there isn’t enough scientific evidence to prove this point just yet.
Daily Recommended Dose Of Elderberry
There are a lot of elderberry syrups that are sold commercially as problem solvers. If you are going for one of those to get rid of the flu or cold, you should take no more than 15 ml or 1 tablespoon four times a day. If you opt for a 175 ml lozenge, you should keep it to twice a day.
It is important to remember that this is not a substitute for medical treatment and self-medication might be a bad idea because the flu is sometimes the symptom of bigger problems.
Sometimes, you will see products that have elderberry extracts. They are not very good solutions for any of the above-mentioned problems. But just FYI, clinical trials indicate that one tablespoon of syrup taken four times a day is considered helpful in treating influenza.
600 mg a day is supposed to help with respiratory problems that occur during travel. You should start taking it 10 days before you travel. Follow it up with 900 mg a day one day before you fly and keep that going for four or five days after you land.
But you should talk to a doctor to avoid any possible drug interactions or allergic reactions.
How To Take Elderberry
You now know it’s available in syrups and lozenges. You will also find capsules for cold and flu. But there are also some commercial skincare products.
Side Effects Of Elderberry
You already know that eating the berries raw might lead to stomach trouble. If you eat too many raw elderberries, stomach trouble is the doing of lectins which are present in small amounts in the bark, seeds and unripe berries.
You also know that poisoning is a possibility. This is because of substances called cyanogenic glycosides, which are capable of releasing cyanide under specific circumstances. Every 100 grams of this fruit contains 3 mg cyanide.
Every 100 grams of elderberry leaves contain three to 17 mg cyanide. The juice of this fruit can also be dangerous sometimes. By the way, it is also present in almonds and apricot seeds.
Consider yourself in trouble if you are experiencing nausea, diarrhea or vomiting. Cyanide isn’t present in commercial products because it is removed which is good news. But you should not use the bark or leaves when cooking any elderberry-specific dishes.
For obvious reasons, it’s not recommended for anyone under 18 years and also for pregnant and breastfeeding women.
Elderberry Health Benefits: Parting Thoughts
Elderberry is clearly an interesting plant. There’s nothing wrong with trying it, but you want to make sure that you are consuming it in the right form and dosage. And if you’re under 18 or pregnant, it should be completely avoided.