7 Surprising Elderberries Benefits

Some of the most important health benefits of elderberries include their ability to boost immune system function, protect against bacteria and infection, slow down the spread of cancer, moderate the digestive process, prevent the development of diabetes, reduce the pain and speed associated with autoimmune diseases, help with weight loss, lower blood pressure, and alleviate allergies.

Elderberries are the fruit from 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. 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 elderberries 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.

Most of the berries in the genus Sambucus are toxic, with the exception of Sambucus nigra, and even then caution is suggested and cooking the berries before consuming is always a wise choice. The branches, leaves, and twigs of all species contain trace elements of cyanide, which can build up in your body and eventually kill you, so be careful! However, despite the implicit risks of elderberries, they are packed with beneficial nutrients, so they have been a part of traditional medicine for hundreds of years, and some of the health benefits have even made it into the mainstream. The recent popularity of elderberries can largely be attributed to the discovery of its many health benefits, which are explained below!

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Nutritional Value of Elderberries

Elderberries pack a very nutritious punch, including minerals like iron, potassium, phosphorous, and copper, as well as vitamins, such as vitamin A, vitamin B, and vitamin C, proteins, and dietary fiber. Add some of the beneficial organic compounds that function as anti-inflammatory and antioxidant agents in the body, and you have one powerful berry!

Health Benefits of Elderberries

Digestive Health: Although most fruits and vegetables can help you hit your fiber goals for the day, few fruits can boast more than 40% of your daily requirements for fiber in a single serving. Elderberries are packed with dietary fiber that can help eliminate constipation, reduce excess gas, and generally increase the health of your gastrointestinal system. Fiber can also help to increase the nutrient uptake efficiency in your gut so you get more out of your food!

Cardiovascular Protection: It seems that heart health and fruits and vegetables go hand in hand, and with good reason. The high fiber levels help to eliminate excess cholesterol from the system and make room for “good” cholesterol that the body needs. This can help eliminate the chances of developing atherosclerosis and other cardiovascular issues. The high level of potassium in elderberries also protects the heart by relaxing the tension of blood vessels and arteries. As a vasodilator, potassium can significantly reduce blood pressure and keep your heart healthy!

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, elderberries contain active ingredients (bioflavanoids like anthocyanins, to be exact) that can soothe inflammation and irritation and also act as an expectorant and clear out phlegm that can trap foreign agents in your glands. Elderberry juice is even recommended for people with asthma.

Immune System Health: It seems like people love to discuss elderberries in relation to its effects on the immune system. It has certain antibacterial and anti-infectious qualities, and is very commonly used to ward off influenza during bad seasons where it seems like everyone is catching it. Furthermore, elderberries can strengthen the immune system against itself, protecting against the effects of autoimmune disorders, even alleviating certain symptoms and associated pain of AIDS.

Diabetes Aid: Some of the active antioxidant ingredients in elderberries work directly on the pancreas to regulate insulin and glucose levels, either providing stability for people who suffer from diabetes or helping non-diabetics to avoid developing this terrible condition.

Bone Health and Inflammation: While the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds found in elderberries can help alleviate joint pain and soreness from inflammation, the high levels of essential minerals will help promote bone strength and the development of new bone tissue. Osteoporosis is a condition that millions of people face in the future, but increasing bone density during your younger decades can delay the onset considerably.

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Skin Health: Elderberry makes its way into a lot of cosmetic applications, primarily because the bioflavonoids in elderberries plays a very important role for the skin. 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 Booster: With the high level of dietary fiber, combined with the metabolism-speeding effects of a solid vitamin and mineral injection, elderberries are great weight loss aids. The fiber keeps you feeling full, the low calorie count doesn’t affect your intake too much, and you also get dozens of other health benefits as well!

Word of Caution: Considering that so few species are edible, it is always wise to find elderberries in a licensed and reputable store. Don’t pick wild elderberries and it is suggested to cook all berries before eating, as they may contain dangerous traces of cyanide. Furthermore, being allergic to plants in the honeysuckle family is not uncommon, so be careful about being up-to-date on your food allergies before adding elderberries to your diet. Finally, elderberries are known to act as diuretics for some people, so if you are already struggling with kidney problems, then elderberries may exacerbate them.

References
  1. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1046/j.1365-2745.2002.00698.x/full
  2. http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/jf102083s
  3. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0040403900009941
  4. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0378874103000473
  5. http://bmccomplementalternmed.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1472-6882-10-17
  6. http://www.nature.com/ejcn/journal/v58/n2/abs/1601773a.html
  7. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0378874105000656
  8. http://jn.nutrition.org/content/130/1/15.short
  9. http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/jf980296g
  10. http://www.academicjournals.org/article/article1380715471_Hearst%20et%20al.pdf
  11. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S027153170200533X

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