A Deep Dive on Elderberry and 4 Impressive Health Benefits
By Dr. Josh Axe, DNM, DC, CNS
In recent years, elderberry is drawing a lot of attention in the wellness space. It’s on shelves in nearly every grocery and health food store, and it’s touted for its ability to support immune system health.
The elder plant’s berries are jam-packed with polyphenols that have big benefits, making it an excellent tool for combating seasonal changes, weakened immune system, and even symptoms of stress. But with so many elderberry products available, how do you know their benefits and which ones are right for you?
What Is Elderberry?
Elderberry, or elder, is a plant that’s part of the Sambucus genus and native to Europe, African and parts of Asia. It has become increasingly popular in the United States for its therapeutic properties, as the plant’s berries are commonly used for their nutrition content and immune-supporting effects.
Sambucus nigra is the most common variety of the plant and its flowers and berries contain powerful antioxidants and anthocyanidins, plus micronutrients including vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin B6, iron, and potassium.
Health Benefits of Elderberry
1. Rich in Antioxidants
Elderberries have an impressive antioxidant profile, containing quercetin and anthocyanidins, two notable compounds that help to fight oxidative stress. Quercetin is considered one of the most abundant antioxidants in a healthy diet. It’s a potent compound that helps to support a healthy response to inflammation and has skin-protecting compounds, helping to inhibit pro-inflammatory markers.
Anthocyanidins, which are also found in blueberries and cherries, are valued compounds in elderberries because of their immune-supporting and potent antioxidant effects. Research suggests that these antioxidants also support respiratory system health.
The polyphenols in elderberries may also support heart health. Although research is limited, the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity of elderberry compounds may support healthy blood pressure and overall heart health.
2. Supports Healthy Immune System
Elderberry is well known and researched for immune system-supporting benefits. The anthocyanin antioxidants in the berries have general immune-boosting effects and help to boost the immune system’s natural protective response when it faces an intruder.
3. Boosts Skin Health
Preliminary research suggests that the antioxidants present in elderberries may promote healthy skin structure and boost overall skin health. Some topical skincare products may also contain elderberry because of its vitamin A content. Vitamin A plays a role in maintaining optimal skin health and supporting healthy aging.
4. Supports Healthy Digestion
Although research is limited, some studies show that elderberry helps to support healthy digestion. It supports regularity and has mild laxative effects, making it useful for constipation.
How to Use Elderberry
To maximize the benefits of elderberry, using it consistently is best. Choose one time per day to take an elderberry supplement of your choice and try to stick to it. You can use elderberry for short periods of time to support healthy immune function and then take a break. You may find that using it during the weeks of seasonal changes, during travel, and in periods of stress is helpful.
One of the best things about the rising popularity of elderberry is its availability. In fact, you can find it in several forms. Here’s a breakdown of the different types you can use:
Elderberry syrup: Perhaps one of the most commonly used forms of elderberry is syrup. To make the syrup, the berries are simmered in water. Sometimes, sweeteners or natural preservatives are added for taste and texture, so check the ingredient label. Read the label directions to know how much to use, as the potency will vary from product to product.
Elderberry capsules: Capsules are made with elderberry extract, which undergoes a fermentation process that breaks down the compounds and supports their absorption. This is an easy way to use elderberry and it’s dose-specific, so there’s no need to do your own measuring.
Elderberry gummies: Gummies with elderberry are popular for their taste and convenience. They are made with syrup and gelatin, which acts as a sticky adhesive that allows for the gummy shape and texture. Some gummies may have added sugars, sweeteners, or preservatives, so check the ingredients.
Elderberry tea: Elderberry tea is available as loose-leaf, in tea bags, or can be made at home. To make it, one tablespoon of berries and flowers are simmered in hot water. For flavor, you can add honey, mint leaves, lemon, or cinnamon.
Considering the impressive nutrition content in elderberry, including its potent antioxidants and micronutrients, it’s no wonder the fruit’s extracts have been getting plenty of attention in the wellness space and will continue to do so for years to come.