Elderberry is the fruit of the flowering plant known as Sambucus, more commonly referred to as elder or elderflower. The full scientific name of the most common variant, from which we get the majority of our elderberries, is Sambucus nigra. You will primarily find elderberries in the Northern hemisphere, particularly in Europe and North America, although some southern species are grown in Australia.
Sambucus is a genus of flowering plants in the family Adoxaceae. The various species are commonly called elder or elderberry. The genus was formerly placed in the honeysuckle family, Caprifoliaceae, but was reclassified as Adoxaceae due to genetic and morphological comparisons to plants in the genus Adoxa.
The berries are black or very dark blue and have a sharp, sweet flavor that makes them highly preferred for desserts, syrups, jams, jellies, spreads, and as the base for various cocktails and beverages. Many people think that they lend this scientific name to Sambuca, but in fact, that is not true. Elderberry wine is very popular and can be made quite simply at home.
Nutritional Value of Elderberry
|Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)|
|Energy||305 kJ (73 kcal)|
|Dietary fiber||7 g|
|Vitamin A equiv.||
|Pantothenic acid (B5)||
|Percentages are roughly approximated using US recommendations for adults. Source: USDA Nutrient Database|
Health Benefits of Elderberry
- Improve Respiratory Health – When it comes to clearing up a sore throat, a cough, cold, bronchitis, or any other issue that affects your respiratory system, elderberry juice might be your best choice. Like many cough syrups, elderberry syrup contains active ingredients (bioflavonoids like , to be exact) that can soothe inflammation and irritation. The syrup also acts as an and clear out phlegm that can trap foreign agents in your glands. Elderberry juice is even recommended for people with asthma.
- Control Diabetes – The active antioxidant ingredients in elderberries work directly on the pancreas to regulate insulin and glucose levels. This either provides stability for people who suffer from diabetes or help non-diabetics to avoid developing this terrible condition.
- Improve Bone Health – The antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds found in elderberries can help alleviate joint pain and soreness from inflammation. ]The high levels of essential minerals help promote bone strength and the development of new bone tissue. Osteoporosis is a condition that millions of people face in the later years of their life, but increasing bone density during your younger years can delay the onset considerably.
- Skin Care – Elderberry makes its way into a lot of cosmetic applications, primarily because the bioflavonoids in elderberries can boost your skin health. The antioxidant activity, combined with its significant levels of vitamin A, make elderberries perfect for preventing or lessening wrinkles, helping age spots to fade, and generally improving the glow and tone of your body’s largest and most visible organ!
- Weight Loss – With the high level of dietary fiber, combined with the metabolism-speeding effects of a solid vitamin and mineral injection, elderberries aid in weight loss. The fiber keeps you feeling full, the low-calorie count doesn’t affect your intake too much, and you get dozens of other health benefits as well! The antioxidants in elderberries contribute to most of their benefits. They boost immunity, protect the heart, and prevent cancer. The berries also improve skin and hair health. The fiber in these berries improves digestion and prevents other digestive ailments.
- Boost Immunity – Several studies speak of the ability of elderberries to boost the immune system. One report published by the University of Maryland Medical Center talks about the powerful immune-boosting effects of elderberries (10). The same is true with elderberry syrup as well, which increases antioxidant levels in the body and helps fight disease. The vitamins A and C in the fruit help maintain optimal health. Elderberries also offer protection against viruses that might damage cell walls. The fruit also decreases mucus production during cold and flu, easing the symptoms. And it is one excellent remedy for the debilitating symptoms of influenza, as per a Japanese study (11). Elderberries boost immunity by increasing the production of inflammatory cytokines (12). And this way, they also help treat upper respiratory tract infections and other respiratory ailments.
- Improve Digestive Health – Though research is limited here, elderberries, like most fruits, are good sources of fiber and can enhance digestion. The fiber in the fruit can also treat other digestive issues like constipation, stomach upset, gas, and bloating.
- Can Help Prevent Cancer – Scientists from numerous parts of the world had used elderberries in cancer treatment, with much success. This can be attributed to the quercetin in elderberries – whose therapeutic effects can stimulate the immune system and aid the treatment (13). Other studies show that elderberries can also treat prostate cancer. The berries are known to inhibit a biochemical process called hedgehog signaling, which has been linked to cancer (5).
- Enhance Heart Health – Given that they are rich in potassium (and also they have a great potassium to sodium ratio), elderberries can help regulate blood pressure. They ensure the blood vessels relax. Also, a high potassium diet is known to reduce the strain on the heart. Studies have shown that individuals taking a high amount of potassium (and by this, we don’t mean excess) had a 49 percent less risk of death by ischemic heart disease. Elderberries also contain beneficial compounds called anthocyanins, which protect the inner layer of the blood vessels from oxidative stress. This protects the cells from inflammatory stressors, ultimately improving circulation and cutting the risk of heart disease (15). And not just elderberries, but several studies have proven time and again that all berries, in general, can have powerful protective effects on the heart (16).
- Strengthen Bones – The calcium, iron, and potassium in the berries are known to strengthen bones and increase bone mineral density, cutting the risk of osteoporosis as a result. Additionally, the anthocyanins in the berries might prevent bone loss in certain cases (17). As of now, we need more clarity on this. But do consult your doctor. This has been proven by a German study as well – where participants taking elderberry juice enriched with elderberry flower and the extracts saw a significant improvement in weight regulation.
- Improve Skin And Hair Health – Infused with innate anti-aging and free radical fighting properties, elderberries keep your skin radiant for longer periods. Furthermore, they also act as a natural detoxifying agent and help prevent distressing skin conditions like breakouts, boils, and scars. The anthocyanins in elderberries (the compounds that give them their characteristic red color) were found to give a natural boost to your skin’s health. This compound also protects against skin damage (18). In fact, distilled elderberry flower water is known to restore skin health and lighten the freckles (19). Applying the fruit extract can also reduce inflammation and bruising. The extract can help treat herpes as well. The antioxidants in the berry can fight the herpes virus and give relief.
- Natural Diuretic – Elderberries promote both bowel moments and urination. Studies show that elderberries have natural diuretic effects, which means they promote the production of urine. Doctors often prescribe diuretics if your body retains excess fluids, and older adults often encounter this complication. Moreover, elderberry juice is a good laxative and facilitates natural bowel movement and is, therefore, a great remedy for constipation.
- Reverse Signs of Aging – You do not need to splurge on a plethora of anti-aging products anymore. A small quantity of elderberry juice is important if a healthy and glowing skin is what you want. Elderberries are an ideal source of polyphenols, antioxidants, vitamins, carotenoids, phytochemicals, and flavonoids. They act as vital building blocks for a radiant and glowing skin.
- Can Boost Vision Health – Being rich in vitamins A and B6, elderberries can help prevent serious vision ailments like glaucoma and macular degeneration. The antioxidant activity of elderberries also helps ensure vision health in the long run.
- Help Treat Urinary Tract Infections – Though there is very limited research on this, certain sources note that infusions of elderberry juice can help reduce inflammation in the urinary tract and treat urinary tract infections.
- Fight Inflammation – Numerous studies talk about the anti-inflammatory properties of elderberries. In fact, the berries have even been used to treat eye inflammation. Another study states how anthocyanins in elderberries can help fight inflammation (20). They achieve this by fighting oxidative stress.
- Improve Brain Health – One study talks about how the anthocyanins in berries (including elderberries) can help treat cognitive impairment and the resultant conditions like Alzheimer’s (21).