While a plant-based diet will do most of the work — plants are naturally rich in antioxidants, anti-inflammatory properties, and immune system boosters — another great source of these body-friendly characteristics is the herb world!
When it comes to herbs that pair nicely with your immune system, you’ll want to look at Elderberry.
This ancient herb has been used for thousands of years to treat a variety of ailments. In more modern times, studies have found that elderberry is quite effective at boosting the immune system, decreasing the severity of certain ailments, and infuses the body with other wonderful health benefits.
Let’s dive in and learn all we can about Elderberry!
What is Elderberry?
Elderberry is one of the most trustworthy herbs and happens to be “one of the most commonly used medicinal plants in the world.” From the ancient Egyptians to Native Americans, Elderberry has been used to treat infections, heal burns, improve skin clarity, and speed recovery from ailments such as the common cold and the flu.
While the flowers have been used for a wide variety of ailments — from “pain relief, swelling, inflammation, to [stimulation of] the production of urine and [induceing] sweating” — the berries are where the nutrients live — including vitamin C, dietary fiber, and antioxidants such as phenolic acids, flavonols, and anthocyanins — and where the immune-boosting powers are at.
Elderberry and Your Immune System
When it comes to kicking ailments, elderberry has been tried and tested through a variety of studies.
One of the largest studies involved “312 air travelers taking capsules containing 300 mg of elderberry extract three times per day.” The study found that “those who got sick experienced a shorter duration of illness and less severe symptoms.”
There were two other smaller studies, one which involved “60 people with influenza” and another that involved “64 people [who took] 175-mg elderberry extract lozenges for two days.” The first study found that “those who took 15 ml of elderberry syrup four times per day showed symptom improvement in two to four days, while the control group took seven to eight days to improve.” The second study saw “significant improvement in flu symptoms, including fever, headache, muscle aches, and nasal congestion, after just 24 hours.”
How does it work?
Based on research, the immune-boosting properties rely on a few different components of black elderberry, the first of which is an extract called Sambucol. Sambucol is a “natural [remedy] with antiviral properties, especially against strains of influenza virus.” It’s been found that Sambucol and “its formulations activate the healthy immune system by increasing inflammatory cytokine production,” as well as contain “immunoprotective or immunostimulatory [effects].”
Other Health Benefits of Elderberry
Elderberry isn’t just good for your immune system but has been found to be a loving agent for the entire body. This natural medicinal aid has been linked to a wide variety of health benefits, making this supplement a wonderful immune booster with benefits!
1. Increased Heart Health
While it’s true that more studies need to be conducted on the relationship between elderberry and heart health, the preliminary findings are super positive!
Elderberry juice has been found to “reduce the level of fat in the blood and decrease cholesterol,” which are two markers that may indicate overall heart health. On top of that, it’s a well-known statistic that diets “high in flavonoids like anthocyanins [have] been found to reduce the risk of heart disease.”
Along with these factors, elderberries may also “reduce levels of uric acid in the blood,” — a component that is linked to “increased blood pressure and negative effects on heart health” — as well as “increase insulin secretion and improve blood sugar levels.”
2. Rich in Antioxidants
One of the best benefits of a plant-based diet is the high levels of antioxidants. Antioxidants are major protectors of the body and help to avoid the harm that is caused by oxidative stress.
What is oxidative stress?
As our body works through the normal metabolic process, it releases reactive molecules that accumulate and cause oxidative stress. This “stress” has been found to lead to the “development of diseases like type 2 diabetes and cancer.”
Antioxidants, on the other hand, “are natural components of foods … that are able to remove these reactive molecules.”
While most berries contain high amounts of antioxidants, elderberry “is one of the most effective antioxidants” of the bunch!
Elderberries are a great addition to a plant-based diet. They’re not only low in calories and high in antioxidants, but they’re rich in a slew of nutrients! For example, “100 grams of fresh berries contain [only] 73 calories, 18.4 grams of carbs and less than 1 gram each of fat and protein.”
Elderberries also deliver vitamin C, dietary fiber (great for your gut!), phenolic acids and flavonols, — “powerful antioxidants that can help reduce damage from oxidative stress” — and anthocyanins — the compounds that give fruit “its characteristic dark black-purple color,” plus they’re a “strong antioxidant with anti-inflammatory effects.”