5 Potential Benefits of Elderberries

Elderberry (Sambucus nigra) is a berry that grows in European or black elder trees. The fruit has been used in folk medicine for centuries to treat flu and other respiratory infections. Some research supports the benefits of elderberries for immune support and upper respiratory infections. However, adverse effects are also possible. Read more to learn about the potential benefits and risks to health of elderberries.

Nutrient profile of elderberries

Elderberries are rich in fiber, vitamins, and minerals such as calcium, magnesium, potassium, and vitamin C. They are also rich in bioactive compounds such as anthocyanins, which give the black-purple color to the fruit.

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One cup of elderberries contains:
Energy
106 kcal
Protein
1 g
Total fat
0.7 g
Carbohydrates
26.7 g
Fiber
10.2 g
Calcium
55.1 mg
Iron
2.3 mg
Magnesium
7.2 mg
Phosphorus
56.6 mg
Potassium
406 mg
Vitamin C
52.2 mg
* 1 cup is approximately 145 g (5.1 oz).

What is elderberry syrup?

Elderberries have been used in folk medicine to treat flu or other respiratory infections.

Weak evidence supports elderberries' beneficial effects on easing flu and colds. However, there is no standardization in elderberry syrups. Therefore, studies exploring different brands of elderberry syrup may not be comparable.

Also, the optimal dosage for safety and efficacy is not yet known. Dosage changes within batches from the same manufacturers and different brands. Therefore, you should consult your doctor before taking elderberry syrup.

5 health benefits of elderberries

Elderberries contain vitamins, minerals, fiber, and non-nutrient compounds with potential health benefits.

1. Strong antioxidant compounds

Elderberries contain antioxidant compounds, including, but not limited to, polyphenols, anthocyanins, flavonols, and phenolic acids. Most health benefits of elderberries have been linked to their antioxidant potential.

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Harmful molecules called free radicals harm DNA, proteins, and cells. Free radicals occur as a result of metabolic processes and environmental factors such as radiation, sun exposure, air pollution, smoking, and drugs. Antioxidant molecules are crucial in eliminating free radicals that otherwise damage cells, leading to diseases.

The amount of antioxidant compounds can change due to the processing and storage of elderberries. For example, blanching reduces polyphenols while increasing the anthocyanin content of fresh elderberries.

Many fruits and vegetables contain vitamins, minerals, and potent antioxidant molecules. Antioxidant-rich diets can promote healthy cells by helping to minimize the effects of free radicals.

2. May promote heart health

Antioxidant-rich diets support heart health. Elderberries can promote cardiovascular health due to their effects on antioxidant capacity and blood pressure.

Elderberries may lower blood pressure; however, people with hypertension or other cardiovascular conditions are advised not to take elderberries and their products without their doctor's approval. Elderberry and its products can interact with blood pressure medications.

3. May promote healthy blood sugar levels

Abnormal blood sugar levels may be a symptom of type 2 diabetes, a chronic disease characterized by impaired production and efficiency of insulin.

Some animal studies suggest blood glucose-lowering effects of elderberry extract in diabetic rats. Additionally, the extract has been shown to improve insulin efficiency.

However, diabetic patients are advised not to use elderberry products before consulting their healthcare provider. Keep in mind that elderberry and its products can interact with diabetes medications.

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4. May support the immune system

Blood anthocyanins rise when the fruit is eaten. Anthocyanins are antioxidant compounds found in elderberries. These compounds have been shown to enhance immunity.

5. May prevent colds and influenza

In folk medicine, elderberries are known for treating colds and influenza.

Microbes have to penetrate cells to infect the host. If the binding of a microbe is blocked, infection can be prevented. Some animal studies showed that elderberry juice can effectively prevent influenza by preventing microbes from penetrating cells.

Potential adverse effects of elderberries

Elderberries can cause toxicity and adverse effects.

Elderberries toxicity

Be aware of toxicity.

Warning
Do not consume raw, unripe elderberries and elderberry stems, roots, bark, and leaves because they contain a cyanogenic toxin that can cause cyanide poisoning.
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Keep in mind that you can eliminate the risk by cooking elderberries.

Other adverse effects

In addition to toxicity, there are other potential adverse effects:

  • Cardiovascular. Cyanide poisoning can cause cardiovascular problems such as tachycardia (rapid heart rate).
  • Dermatologic. Applying elderberry to the skin can cause reactions.
  • Gastrointestinal. Consumption of raw elderberry juice made from leaves, stems, and uncooked berries can lead to gastrointestinal distress, diarrhea, vomiting, cramps, and weakness.

Elderberry may also have a laxative effect.

Eating high quantities of elderberries can cause side effects, including nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Who shouldn't consume elderberries?

People with certain conditions should be cautious about consuming elderberries and its products:

  • Pregnant and breastfeeding women. According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, elderberries may not be safe for pregnant or breastfeeding women. If you're pregnant or breastfeeding, consult your doctor before eating elderberry.
  • People allergic to elderberries or plants in the honeysuckle family. Some people may show allergic reactions to elderberries. Do not consume elderberries if you're allergic to the fruit, and consult your doctor in case of an allergic reaction.
  • People who are taking medications. Elderberries may interact with medicine. For example, elderberries may lower blood pressure, so you should be cautious when taking blood pressure-lowering medications. If you're taking medications, consult your doctor about elderberry consumption.
  • People who have diarrhea. If you have diarrhea, elderberries may have laxative effects that can worsen diarrhea.
  • People with cardiovascular conditions. If you have arrhythmias or cardiovascular disease, be aware of potential cyanide poisoning from elderberries.

Elderberries are antioxidant-rich fruits with potential health benefits. However, it may cause side effects due to cyanide poisoning and allergies. Always consult your doctor if you have diseases and/or are taking medications, especially before taking elderberry products.

Key takeaways:

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