Elderberry can have many benefits for your heart and immune system due to its high concentration of vitamins and antioxidants.
Elderberries are beneficial because they contain antioxidant pigments that both support your immunity and may prevent flu viruses from reproducing inside our bodies.
The berries can also decrease inflammation, which may reduce your risk of chronic diseases like heart disease or cancer.
Elderberry is an antioxidant-rich purple berry that has been used in folk traditions to treat colds, as well as a variety of other ailments. Ripe elderberries can be made into a variety of treats, from pies and jellies to sweet wines — and you can also purchase elderberry supplements.
Here are the major benefits of elderberry for your health.
Elderberry can boost your immune system
Elderberry contains a whole host of immune-boosting antioxidants, including vitamins A, B, and C. These antioxidants and vitamins can help keep your immune system strong and allow you to better fight off infections, such as common viruses like the cold or flu.
For example, a 2016 study found that 300mg elderberry supplement capsules, taken twice per day, a few days before and after long-haul flights significantly reduced the duration and severity of cold symptoms for travelers.
Another 2020 review of five elderberry studies concluded that, when taken within 48 hours of initial symptoms, elderberry supplements may reduce the length and severity of fever, headache, runny nose, and congestion associated with cold and flu.
Elderberry also contains anthocyanins — a pigment with antioxidant effects that give berries their red, blue, purple, or black coloring. Anthocyanins are thought to prevent flu viruses from reproducing inside our bodies, which may prevent the onset of flu or decrease the duration of its symptoms.
In fact, laboratory tests have shown that anthocyanins can inhibit neuraminidase, which is "a part of a virus that allows for budding, and thus replication, of a virus, For example, the flu-busting antiviral oseltamivir, known by the brand name Tamiflu, is also a neuraminidase inhibitor and works to reduce flu symptoms by the same mechanism.
Elderberry can decrease inflammation
Elderberry contains a variety of "bioactives" — anti-inflammatory compounds you might've heard of like tannins and flavonoids that can help prevent damage to our bodies' cells.
Stress, polluted air, unhealthy foods, and substances like alcohol or tobacco can all cause inflammation in the body, which may contribute to cellular damage. That cellular damage can in turn generate free radicals — harmful byproducts of the body that can lead to chronic diseases like heart disease, Alzheimer's, and cancer.
"Taking foods, especially berries, that have these antioxidant, anti-inflammatory properties can prevent that onset of cellular damage, or decrease the inflammation that's happening," Holland says.
Elderberry may benefit your heart health
In a small 2017 study, adults 50 to 70 years old who were given a bioactive-rich mixed berry drink (including elderberries) daily for five weeks saw a significant decrease in cholesterol levels overall and LDL cholesterol in particular compared to those given a placebo.