Elderberries are getting a lot of looks these days. With natural health guru, Joe Mercola, and celebrity Dr. Oz, talking about all the wonderful health benefits it offers, it’s no surprise you’ve come here to learn more about this delicious, healthful berry which is formed from the most gorgeous spring flowers.
The elderberry comes from a family of flowering bushes called “Sambucus nigra.” Like you, my first though on hearing this name was “That must be what they make Sambuca out of!” Turns out, the popular Italian liquer does have some elderberry in it, just not much. Though if you’re looking for a liquor that uses elderberries, pick up a bottle of St. Germaine from your local liquor outlet; a distinctive drink made from the elderflowers, not the berries.
The berry has been used for hundreds of years in folklore remedies, mainly to prevent and treat the common cold and flu, but also several other pathogens in the air we breathe. The dried bush from the plant has also been traditionally used to make Native American flutes. Early Europeans used the hollowed out branches of the plant for making flutes. As you’ll quickly learn, there are a number of great health benefits that daily consumption of the elderberry can offer.
Top 5 Elderberry Supplements
|View on Amazon||View on Amazon||View on Amazon||View on Amazon||View on Amazon|
|Brand||Nature’s Way||Nature’s Way||Nature’s Answer||Gaia Herbs||Now Foods|
|Overall Rating||5 / 5||5 / 5||4.9 / 5||4.8 / 5||5 / 5|
|Serving Size||2 Capsules||10ml||5ml||5ml||5ml|
|Effectiveness||5 / 5||5 / 5||5 / 5||5 / 5||5 / 5|
|Quality||5 / 5||5 / 5||5 / 5||4.9 / 5||5 / 5|
|Taste||5 / 5||5 / 5||4.8 / 5||4.8 / 5||5 / 5|
|Digestibility||5 / 5||5 / 5||5 / 5||5 / 5||5 / 5|
Types of Elderberry
Elderberries prefer dry, temperate (ie., cool to warm in temperature), sub-tropical climates, mainly in the Northern Hemisphere. Because of this, the northern variety is the most popular kind you’ll find used in supplements.
There are 4 types of the berry, each containing several unique cultivars that make up the elderberry family. The black elderberry is most common because it grows in larger numbers exclusively in cooler parts of North America, Europe, and Asia:
1. Black Elderberry: Grows mainly in cool-to-warm areas of North America. Some genus are found in northern South America, Mexico and the Canary Islands. The berries are a blackish/blue color.
2. Red Elderberry: This genus can be found in cooler parts of North America, Korea, parts of Asia, and Northern Europe. The berries, as you might guess are very red.
3. Dwarf Elderberry: Dwarf elderberries are easy to identify just by their small stature. The bush grows to approximately half the size of other genus, but can produce either deep black or bright red berries.
4. Australian Elderberry: This kind of elderberry grows only in Australia and the berries have a distinctive yellow and white color. These are much more rare due to only growing in Australasia, and according to Michael Murray, ND, author of “The Pill Book Guide to Natural Medicines,” this variety doesn’t offer as much antioxidant value.
The following nutritional values are for the cooked (read “Precautions” to learn why) elderberry. A quality supplement will offer much more of a nutrient punch, without the need to consume excess sugars.
*Values based on 1 cup (145 grams) of cooked fruit:
|Vitamin C:||87% (D.V.)|
|Vitamin A:||17% (D.V.)|
|Vitamin B6||15% (D.V.)|
Elderberries and Inflammation Relief
Most of the benefits detailed below come from the elderberry’s ability to reduce inflammation throughout the body. There are various healthful compounds they contain that help to curb inflammation; the number one enemy to preventing aging and the diseases that come along with the aging process.
Note: Eating more fruits and veggies will always equal more health. Because they actually pack quite a lot of sugar per 100 grams, I don’t recommend trying to eat your daily elderberry quota by consuming the cooked fruit itself every day, in large quantities. Most of the scientific data found about the health benefits of the fruit come from studies that used concentrated syrups and tinctures on subjects.
Potent Antioxidants Found in Elderberry
It’s important to note that while elderberries are indeed a “superfruit” their nutritional values are on par with blackberries, black raspberries and other dark fleshy berries. The real immune-boosting magic is in the phenols, flavonoids (quercitin), anthocyanins (a more potent antioxidant than vitamin C) and other antioxidant compounds. Scientists are working on methods to select genetically superior elderberry bushes, to isolate them and maximize the amount of each that this yummy berry offers (source).
Main Elderberry Benefits
Elderberries have really shown themselves effective at shortening the duration of the common cold and flu, by as much as 3 days. This might not seem like a huge deal if you haven’t suffered through one recently, but it sure will the next time you come down with one that lasts 7 – 10 days! It’s often used in the supplement regimen of people suffering from Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS)!
The high antioxidant value offered by the berry, particularly black elderberry syrup or a concentrated tincture, works to nourish the immune system, free up phlegm and works as a mild expectorant to help reduce cough and congestion. The berry has even shown to help more serious viral infections in the body like influenza and herpes (source) along with
Cardiovascular health and the consumption of antioxidant and mineral rich fruits and veggies like elderberry go hand-in-hand together. Elderberries contain heaps of vitamin C; a water-soluble antioxidant vitamin that doesn’t stay in the body for very long after it’s consumed. Vitamin C, in addition to the phenols and anthocyanins, work to stop inflammation of the arteries and blood vessels, which helps prevent the buildup of plaque inside your arteries (the #1 driving force behind high blood pressure and heart disease).
Other heart-healthy nutrients found in the elderberry include: plenty of fiber to keep cholesterol levels balanced; iron for the creation of the healthy red blood cells that carry oxygen throughout the body; small amounts of potassium for the regulation of blood pressure; and vitamin A, a prohormone, provitamin and antioxidant which has numerous benefits to the heart and rest of the body.
The anthocyanins found in abundance in elderberries have antiviral and antimicrobial benefits to the respiratory system, which is constantly being hammered with airborne pathogens in the air we breathe. Consuming a 5 – 20% extract solution from the berries has shown to eliminate bacterial and viral infections that cause respiratory ailments and disease (source).
Very little has been studied in the way of isolating the direct effects on respiratory health in those who eat the berries after cooking them. It’s not a hard stretch to imagine that consuming tons more vitamin C and A, along with all the antioxidants and minerals like potassium and iron, can have a huge positive effect on our lungs and sinuses (learn more).
Note: A quality black elderberry extract standardized to at least 38% is recommended to boost immunity to respiratory ailments and to get the expectorant benefits from this superfruit.
The polyphenols in elderberry help to induce an insulin response after meals. The antioxidants the berries contain keep the immune system healthy and prevent autoimmunity from occurring inside the pancreas; the organ responsible for releasing insulin into the bloodstream. As type II diabetes progresses, the Islets of Langerhans are increasingly destroyed due to autoimmune activity, which leads to the inevitable need for patients to inject insulin after every meal.
Please note that I’m definitely not suggesting you eat or consume the actual elderberry fruit in large quantities to help with your diabetes! Sugar is bad, no matter how many other healthy nutrients are found in any food you consume. If you want to take it to help lower blood sugar, use one of the supplements reviewed further down the page, which contain little to no sugar at all per serving.
5.Cancer Prevention and Treatment
Cancer is caused by free radical damage to the cells affected. Sometimes genetic predispositions make the problem worse, but most cancers are caused by diet and lifestyle factors that contribute to uncontrolled inflammation in the body.
The antioxidant anthocyanins and vitamins found in elderberry help to reduce the blood markers that contribute to inflammation. Consuming elderberry can also help to inhibit a process known as angiogenesis, where cancer cells develop blood vessels of their own.
Other Benefits of Consuming Elderberry
This is one benefit that will indeed require you to eat the actual berries. As noted in the nutrition table earlier, a cup of elderberries contains 10 grams of fiber, approximately half the required fiber intake for most adults per day. More fiber equals a healthier colon, lower cholesterol levels, and weight loss benefits.
Our skin is in a constant battle to keep the signs of aging that come from the sun and environmental toxins we consume at bay. More antioxidants in the blood means healthier, infection and disease-resistant cells throughout the body, including the skin.
Allergies result from the immune system’s inability to prevent compounds in the air from causing a reaction in the body. Many people suffer from allergy induced asthma too. Elderberries immune-boosting benefits have shown to reduce and even eliminate allergy symptoms when consumed on a regular basis.
I don’t know how much “weight” to give the claim that elderberries help people to lose weight. Though, like any antioxidant rich supplement, the fact that they contain such high levels of antioxidants, there’s no question that elderberry is essential for cleaning out the gunk that accumulates in our bodies when we become overweight – and as we’re losing weight and the burned fat cells release toxins into the body.
Make Your Own Elderberry Syrup
It’s relatively simple to make your own homemade elderberry syrup concoction. Keep in mind that it isn’t likely to have near the potency of something extracted using lab equipment, but I suppose the main advantage is that you know exactly what’s going into your body.
Gather the following:
• 1 cup fresh black elderberries (fresh elders will be hard to the touch when squeeze – avoid soft ones)
• 3 cups fresh water
• Potato masher
• Cheesecloth or fine mesh strainer
• Medium saucepan
• Combine elderberries and water into medium saucepan
• Bring to a slow rolling boil (usually medium heat) for a half hour
• With the berries still in the pot, mash them thoroughly into a soupy solution
• Strain using cheesecloth or mesh strainer, into a mason or other sealable airtight glass jar
Take 1 teaspoons every 3 hours for cold, flu and influenza relief. Consume 1 or more teaspoons daily for preventative health treatment.
All parts of the elderberry plant contain significant levels of cyanide in it. Most, if not all of this poisonous compound are removed by cooking. Only eat cooked berries and flowers to be safe.
When it comes to what supplements you purchase, it’s recommended that consumers strive to buy US made products, to ensure the manufacturer is following FDA guidelines in order to avoid potential cyanide poisoning.
There are no current reliable and safe recommendations as to a safe dose of any elderberry product for pregnant or lactating mothers, nor for children under the age of 18.
Elderberry Supplement Reviews
Nature’s Way Elderberry Capsules
You won’t find a more affordable way to get your daily dose of elderberry, and all the wonderful benefits you’ve already learned about, than that found in Nature’s Way Elderberry. In my honest opinion, taking a syrup extract would be far more effective, but this ground elderberry formula combines the flowers and berries of the in one capsule. The flowers are thought to add an extra kick to the cold and flu protection and treatment benefits of the Sambucus nigra plant. This product gives you 1,200 mg of elderberry in each serving, and is one of the most highly-reviewed elderberry supplements that can be found on Amazon. Take this as a daily supplement to prevent cold and flu outbreaks, improve cholesterol balance, blood sugar control, bone health, and to reduce allergies and inflammation.
Nature’s Way Sambucus Black Elderberry Original Syrup
Another Nature’s Way elderberry supplement, but this one comes in concentrated syrup form, marketed to help fight off the cold or flu at their earliest warning signs. It’s also one of the most highly rated elderberry remedies of all time! This extract is super-concentrated, boasting to offer our body the equivalent of 6,400 mg of antioxidant and antiviral nutrition, derived only from the finest cultivars. Like all their supplements, this one is made in the USA, to the stringent standards set out by the FDA. I guzzle this stuff when I feel a cold coming on, nearly every single fall, and it works great to curb that cough right in its tracks. I recommend this for people who only get ill occasionally and don’t want to spend very much buying a product with more servings per container like those mentioned below.
Nature’s Answer Alcohol-Free Sambucus Black Elder Berry Extract
This extract from Nature’s Answer offers 4x the servings of the Sambucus Syrup mentioned above, with a slightly weaker standardization. Still, 48 servings at 5000 mg of the black elderberry plant is a great deal and affordable enough to take a concentrated dose every single day to reap all the benefits offered by the elderberry (please see “Precautions” before doing so please). Nature’s Answer never uses animal ingredients, alcohol, or unnatural preservatives in any of their products. Use this stuff year round, or during times of extreme stress when your immune and/or cardiovascular health may be compromised.
Gaia Herbs Black Elderberry Syrup
Just as with all natural health products “organic” always comes with a higher price tag. This organic elderberry extract from Gaia offers a much higher value than its price tag might indicate though. Each bottle comes with 32 servings each, but the high concentration of elderberry in each teaspoon serving size (14,500 mg) makes it easy to take much smaller servings to stretch things out if you want to take a smaller amount of extract daily to promote health, while having the ability to load up and take more when and if you get sick. Considering each bottle offers 464,000 mg of elderberry extract, it’s actually the best value out of all those listed on the page, if you have a set of smaller measuring spoons to half and even quarter the dose.
When it comes to antioxidant values among berries, elderberry is right up there with all the big boys like raspberries, blueberries and blackberries. The only berry that’s more jam-packed with antioxidant goodness is strawberries and only a small amount more.
I really recommend taking advantage of the benefits elderberries can offer you, your family and friends. If you have any further questions or would like to share your experience with this supplement, leave a comment down below.