Top 5 Uses for Elderberry
Elderberry has been used for centuries to treat common ailments, strengthen the immune system, and ward off illness.
Historically, our Native American and European ancestors used the berries of the elder plant, both for medicinal purposes and to enjoy as a delicious treat! In fact, civilizations of old revered the elder plant so much that they gave it the name “elder” to reflect their respect for it.
The elder plant continues to be useful to modern humans. These days, we use elderberry extract to concoct pills, drops, and syrups to supplement a healthy diet and promote a strong immune system.
Elderberry supplements, whether in pill or liquid form, help promote health and well-being in multivariate ways. Here are just five of the best uses for elderberry as part of a healthy and balanced lifestyle.
Elderberry and the Common Cold
We have long known that elderberry has immune-boosting properties. But did you know that these properties could help you get over that pesky cold faster?
As a natural remedy, the flowers of the elder plant have long been used to help cold sufferers break fevers by promoting sweating – but it isn’t just an old wives’ tale. Modern supplements made from the berries of the elder plant may possess antiviral properties that help you fight the common cold.
Elderberry supplements may be especially useful to travelers in warding off the common cold. A double-blind placebo clinical trial found that the group of travelers taking elderberry supplements overcame their colds faster and experienced less severe symptoms.
Elderberry and the Flu
One of the reasons why elderberry is so powerful is its ability to be used in so many ways. Elderberries can be turned into pills, drops, and even pies – but syrup made from black elderberry extract in particular may have special properties that help us fight the flu.
A small double-blind trial tested the effects of black elderberry syrup in both children and adults fighting the flu. In both groups, those taking black elderberry syrup recovered faster than those who did not, suggesting that elderberry supplements are a useful treatment for influenza.
If you want to try taking black elderberry syrup next time you suffer from the flu, keep in mind the dosage: this study observed the effects of 4 tbsp per day in adults and 2 tbsp per day in children.
Elderberry and Heart Disease
Taking an elderberry supplement under your doctor’s supervision may make a good addition (read: not a substitution) to a healthy diet when it comes to preventing heart disease.
Elderberries are rich in compounds called flavanols that have powerful antioxidant properties. Studies show that consuming a diet rich in flavanols may decrease our risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
Research conducted specifically on elderberries has also found that these berries can lower cholesterol and improve blood sugar levels, both of which can contribute to our risk of heart disease if they become too high.
Elderberry and Constipation
In addition to its numerous other effects, elderberry can also be used as a laxative for the treatment of occasional constipation.
The elder plant contains a compound known as anthraquinone. Also found in natural laxatives like senna, anthraquinone stimulates the contraction of the bowel wall, known as peristalsis.
Peristalsis moves waste through the colon until it is passed as stool. Elderberry, and elderberry tea in particular, speed peristalsis, reducing the time it takes for waste to exit the body.
Elderberry is safe for use as a laxative for up to five days. It’s important to note that, like all laxatives, elderberry is intended for short-term use only. Overdependence on laxatives for chronic constipation can make the problem worse by making your bowels dependent on laxatives to move normally.
Elderberry and Pain Relief
There is a reason why elderberry salves have been popular in folk medicine for generations: elderberries contain anti-inflammatory chemicals known as anthocyanins that, when applied topically, can reduce pain caused by cuts, bruises, burns, and scrapes.
Unfortunately, elderberry is rarely used as a topical treatment in traditional medicine. For evidence that these pain treatments work, we must rely on the wisdom of our herbalist ancestors, who have used elderberry salve for centuries to ease the pain of minor wounds.
The elder plant and its berries continue to make themselves indispensable as a medical treatment and immune booster. From influenza to heart disease, the common cold to constipation, elderberry is a small but mighty supplement that packs a powerful punch!
Charlebois, D. (2007). Elderberry as a Medicinal Plant. Issues In New Crops and New Uses. https://hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/ncnu07/pdfs/charlebois284-292.pdf
Cirillo, C, Capasso, R. (2015). Constipation and Botanical Medicines: An Overview. Phytotherapy Research, 29(10). https://doi.org/10.1002/ptr.5410
Farrell, N. et. al. (2015). Anthocyanin-rich black elderberry extract improves markers of HDL function and reduces aortic cholesterol in hyperlipidemic mice. Food & Function, 6(4). https://doi.org/10.1039/c4fo01036a
Gray, A. et. al. (2000). The Traditional Plant Treatment, Sambucus nigra (elder), Exhibits Insulin-Like and Insulin-Releasing Actions In Vitro. The Journal of Nutrition, 130(1). https://doi.org/10.1093/jn/130.1.15
Healthnotes, Inc. (2015, June 4). Elderberry. Kaiser Permanente. https://wa.kaiserpermanente.org/kbase/topic.jhtml?docId=hn-2082006
Tiralongo, E. et. al. (2016). Elderberry Supplementation Reduces Cold Duration and Symptoms in Air-Travellers: A Randomized, Double-Blind Placebo-Controlled Clinical Trial. Nutrients, 8(4). https://doi.org/10.3390/nu8040182