Elderberry or Sambucus nigra is a fruit of the elder tree that has been used for several centuries in countries like Europe, Western Asia, North America, and North Africa as a folk remedy. It is known to possess many medicinal properties and has been used effectively for lowering cholesterol, improving the immune system, improving vision, and for treating colds, flu, coughs, and infections. The therapeutic effect of elderberry is considered to be mainly due to the presence of high levels of antioxidant flavonoids. Cooked elderberries are used as a flavoring agent in foods and wine. They are also used for making jams and pies. However raw elderberries and other parts of the elder tree are poisonous.
Nutritional value of elderberry
Elderberry is an abundant source of health benefitting nutrients. As mentioned before, it contains very high amounts of the anthocyanin, which is a powerful antioxidant that gives it the dark color. It is a healthy fruit that is high in dietary fiber and low in cholesterol, sodium and saturated fat. Elderberry happens to be a good source of vitamins like vitamin A, vitamin C and B group vitamins like thiamin, niacin, riboflavin, folate, vitamin B6 and vitamin B12. It is also a very good source of many essential minerals like calcium, magnesium, iron, potassium, phosphorus, zinc, copper and selenium. Eating elderberry can provide you with a good amount of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids that are extremely important for your health.
Health benefits of elderberry
Elderberry has been widely used for its medicinal and therapeutic effects for thousands of years in many parts of the world. In fact, it was once considered to be a Holy Tree because people believed that it had the ability to enhance and maintain health, and also to increase life span. This dark blue or purplish berry is packed with nutrition and has been found to have many health benefits.
Elderberry helps in improving the immune system
Studies conducted on elderberry showed that the presence of flavonoid anthocyanins in it helps in enhancing the functioning of the immune system by increasing the production of unique proteins called cytokines. These proteins work as messengers in the immune system and help to control the immune response, which in turn helps to protect your body against various diseases. The anthocyanins found in elderberry have been found to possess more antioxidant effects than vitamins like vitamin E and vitamin C.
Elderberry has anti-aging properties
The very high amounts of antioxidant anthocyanins in elderberry help in combating the harmful effects of free radicals in your body. These antioxidants also have anti-aging properties. By neutralizing the damage caused by the free radicals and protecting the cells from oxidative stress, antioxidants helps to delay the process of aging and also to reduce the signs of aging such as wrinkles and fine lines.
Elderberry aids in weight loss
Animal studies have revealed that elderberry contains a compound known as ursolic acid that may be beneficial in promoting weight loss, especially removing fat around the abdominal area. Another study conducted in by Germany by Chrubasik C and others from the Institute of Forensic Medicine, University of Freiburg also suggests that elderberry may help in losing weight. In this particular study, 80 individuals were given the juice of elderberry enriched with berry powder extracts and elderberry flower, along with asparagus-based extracts. The scientists found that this formula helped in improving the weight significantly. They also found that the formula improved the blood pressure as well as the physical and emotional condition of the participants.
Elderberry may help fight off influenza
Elderberry has been used in traditional medicine for the treatment of influenza. Studies have shown that a standardized extract of elderberry known as Sambucol may be an effective, safe and natural option for treating influenza type A and B. The effectiveness of this extract was determined by carrying out a placebo-controlled, double blind study on a group of people who lived in an agricultural community during a major outbreak of influenza B virus in Panama in the year 1993. According to the study, a large percentage of the individuals (90%) who consumed the elderberry extract were cured completely just within two or three days whereas it took almost six days for the placebo group to attain the same effects. Another study published in the July 2009 issue of “Phytochemistry” says that the effectiveness of elderberry extract is similar to that of the conventional Tamiflu and Amantadine that are used for treating H1N1 viral infections.
Elderberry for sinus infection
Elderberry has long been considered to be a natural and effective remedy for sinus infections and upper respiratory ailments. It is a rich source of many vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, which help in keeping your body healthy and disease free. Elderberry helps in reducing the duration and severity of common ailments like colds and flu by boosting the immune system. The juice of this wonderful berry has been found to be helpful in reducing the excess secretion of mucous and it is also believed to be beneficial in reducing the swelling or inflammation of mucous membranes, which in turn helps in improving sinus drainage.
Elderberry has strong anti-viral properties
Hemagglutinin is a spike shaped protein that the viruses use to attack our cells and multiply. This protein has the ability to cause the red blood cells to agglutinate or clump together. Hemagglutinin spikes help the virus to break through the membrane of the cells, enter the cells and finally take control of the cells. Elderberry has been found to contain a strong antiviral agent known as “antivirin” which is capable of negating the harmful effects of the hemagglutinin spikes. Antivirin deactivates the spikes, thereby preventing the viruses from entering the cells and replicating.
Elderberry may protect against vascular diseases
Studies were conducted to determine the action of anthocyanins on endothelial cells and to find out their possible benefits against various oxidative stressors. Endothelium is the inner membrane of the blood vessels. The results revealed that anthocyanins found in elderberry had been found to show protective effects on the endothelial cells against certain oxidative stressors. By protecting the endothelial cells, elderberry improves blood circulation and also protects against vascular diseases.
Elderberry for treating anemia
Iron deficiency anemia, as the name implies is a condition caused when your body does not get adequate amounts of iron from the diet. Eating foods high in iron can help in preventing this condition. Elderberry is rich in iron content and hence is ideal for treating iron deficiency anemia.
Elderberry reduces inflammation
Eating elderberries is a great way to supply your body with plenty of flavonoids like anthocyanins. These compounds in addition to having strong antioxidant properties also have anti-inflammatory effects which help in reducing inflammation and pain. Hence elderberry is often used for treating inflammatory diseases like rheumatoid arthritis. It has been found that drinking elderberry tea is more effective and safe when compared to taking anti-inflammatory medications.
Skin benefits of elderberry
Elderberry is a wonderful detoxifier and is helpful in maintaining healthy and clear skin. The juice of this berry has been used in the treatment of many skin problems such as acne breakouts, boils, burns, bruises and rashes. Because of its skin benefitting properties, elderberry can be found as an ingredient in many skin lotions, creams and moisturizers. The antioxidants in this fruit exhibit anti-aging properties and protects your skin from the appearance of aging signs like wrinkles, fine lines, dark spot and pigmentation. The flowers of the elderberry have been found to be helpful in improving the skin tone.
Elderberry lowers blood sugar
Studies show that elderberry has the ability to lower blood sugar levels. This property is particularly useful for people suffering from diabetes. The effects of polyphenols found in this fruit on diabetes mellitus were studied. The results revealed that the polyphenol compounds helped in reducing the lipids peroxides, inhibiting the LDL oxidation and in neutralizing the lipid peroxil radicals. Due to the polyphenolic protection, the risk of atherogen is maintained at normal limits. The study also suggests that elderberry may be used in the treatment of diabetes.
Elderberry fights off cancer
Elderberry has been found to have cancer fighting properties and hence is used for the treatment and prevention of this deadly disease. This fruit is rich in antioxidants that can protect your tissues from the damage caused by free radicals. By protecting the cells and tissues from oxidative damage, these antioxidants help in preventing many serious diseases like cancer and cardiovascular disease. Elderberry is believed to have an inhibiting effect on the growth and proliferation of cancer cells. According to a study published in the 2002 issue of “Free Radical Research”, elderberry had the ability to inhibit angiogenesis, which is the process by which the cancerous tumors develop new blood vessels. Besides its immune boosting effects, elderberry also increased the number of white blood cells along with anti-inflammatory and inflammatory chemicals. It’s also helped in stimulating the production of tumor necrosis factor (TNF) that was released as an anti-cancer agent.
Elderberry for heart health
Studies show that the antioxidants in elderberry may help in reducing the bad cholesterol levels (LDL) while increasing the good cholesterol levels (HDL). A research conducted at Austria’s University of Graz found that the extract of elderberry reduced the oxidation of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. Elderberry is high in potassium that acts as a vasodilator and lowers high blood pressure. This fruit has diuretic properties that prevents water retention and also prevents hypertension. By maintaining healthy levels of cholesterol and blood pressure, elderberry goes a long way in protecting your heart from serious diseases.
Recipe of elderberries tea
All you require are – 2 cups water, 2 cups of fresh elderberry juice or 2 tbsp of elderberry syrup or 2tbsp of dried elderberries. Other herbs include 1 cinnamon stick, 2 cloves and 2 cardamom pods. Place all ingredients in a pan, bring the mixture to boil and simmer for 20-30 minutes. Strain the liquid in a cup. Add sugar or honey as per taste. Consumption of this elderberries tea is good way of enjoying its benefits to our body.
From the above list of health benefits that elderberry offers, it is clear that eating this fruit on a regular basis can help in improving your overall health and wellness. Not only is it a tasty fruit but also has been used for centuries in traditional medicine for the treatment of several ailments.Image Credits: Pinterest, Pickardsmountain