If you follow superfood trends even a little, you've probably heard of elderberries before. The fruit has been a staple of local diets in certain parts of the world for centuries, and more recently, they have found their way into dietary supplements for those who want to reap the benefits of elderberries quickly. With so much buzz surrounding this berry, it can be hard to know which information you can trust. Read on for answers to the biggest questions like "what are the benefits of elderberry?" and "is it safe to take as a supplement?"
What Is Elderberry?
Elderberry is a dark purple fruit that grows on a shrub commonly called by the same name. Although there are several species, the European or black elderberry (Sambucus nigra) is the one best positioned to support immune health because of its constituents and the one most often found in elderberry supplement products.
Where Do Elderberries Grow?
The European elderberry is native to Asia and Europe and usually grows in areas with four distinct seasons with colder winters and warmer summers. Another species, the Sambucus canadensis, grows wild in the U.S., mostly along riverbanks.
What Does Elderberry Taste Like?
Each species has a slightly different flavor, but generally, elderberries have a tangy, tart taste. Some people describe them as being very bitter. Those who choose to eat elderberries may mix them with sweeter fruits to enhance the flavor.
What Does Elderberry Do for the Body?
Elderberries are rich in antioxidants derived from the polyphenols contained within them. Polyphenols are the compounds that contribute to the dark and deep purple color of the berries. These beneficial compounds help to fight the effects of free radicals found in UV and environmental pollutants. Some studies indicate that elderberries may also reduce inflammation and fight some types of viruses.
What Are the Benefits of Elderberry Supplement Products?
Eating large quantities of elderberry fruit can cause unpleasant digestive symptoms like diarrhea and stomach cramps. As a result, some people prefer to use supplements that contain the concentrated extract of the berry. People may also opt for an elderberry supplement if they don't like the fruit's taste, have trouble finding it in local stores, or find it challenging to work into their diet due to their hectic lifestyles.
What Is Elderberry Supplement Good For?
Elderberry supplements and fruit has been used as a natural remedy for centuries. Here are some of the traditional uses of the fruit:
- Soothing Cold and Flu Symptoms. Because of its potential antiviral properties, people sometimes use elderberry as a home remedy for the cold and flu. One study found that airline passengers who took elderberry for ten days before and five days after a flight were less likely to need to take sick days due to colds. Although they still caught colds at the same rate as those who did not take the supplement, their symptoms were less severe and shorter-lived.
- Easing Constipation. Elderberry may be useful as a natural laxative to address occasional constipation symptoms. The berries contain a compound called anthraquinone that blocks the intestines from absorbing water, leading to increased pressure that triggers contractions to expel feces.
- Pain Management. In natural healing traditions, elderberry is often applied to the skin to ease discomfort related to toothaches, wounds, and burns. Some people also believe that the berry's ability to slow down nitric oxide production in the body could help address sciatica and other kinds of nerve pain.
- Promoting General Well-Being. Antioxidants have been found to protect many human organ systems, including the cardiovascular system.. Some people take elderberry supplements because they contain antioxidants and could potentially offer these benefits.
Does Elderberry Work?
It's important to understand that research into elderberry benefits is ongoing. While early studies have yielded positive results and provided support for the traditional immune health benefits, continued research will shed further light on the beneficial effects of elderberry extracts and specifics about how elderberry benefits the immune system and other systems in the body.
Is Elderberry Safe?
The bark, leaves, roots, and stems of the elderberry plant contain a substance called cyanogenic glycoside. Because they may contain small amounts of this substance, fresh, whole elderberries should only be eaten after they are cooked. High quality elderberry supplements that contain standardized extracts of elderberry have been shown to be rather safe as they don’t contain cyanogenic glycosides. As with any supplement, it is important to talk to your health care provider before adding one to your diet. However, it is best to look for a supplement that contains the species Sambucus nigra (European elderberry) and is a highly concentrated extract to get the best results.
Can You Take Elderberry Daily?
As long as your doctor does not provide you with other advice, it is generally safe for most people to take an elderberry supplement daily. Always follow the directions for use printed on the elderberry supplement you choose unless a medical professional gives you different instructions.