This time of year we can go to great lengths to stay healthy. Maybe you’re eating cleaner, upping your veggies and whole foods, or taking vitamins. These are all great ways to help your body fight off illness. Another powerful tool to have in your wellness kit this time of year: the benefits of elderberry.
What Is elderberry
It’s likely you’ve seen elderberry added to a number of wellness products from tea and juice to supplements and even over-the-counter cold and flu products.
There’s a good reason for that.
Elderberry is known to strengthen your body’s natural immune response and support your overall well-being. Elderberry has been used for thousands of years to boost immunity. Ancient Egyptians used it; even Hippocrates—the father of medicine—used it. We don’t know how people stumbled onto its benefits all those years ago, but today, we have science to back up what our ancestors knew: elderberry supports immunity.
The elderberry comes from the ancient Sambucus elder tree, which grows in North America, and around the world. The flowers as well as the berries have medicinal uses. The berries are small and dark purple—appearing almost black. They’re typically cooked down into syrups (don’t eat them raw).
Benefits of elderberry
For thousands of years people relied on elderberry for a number of benefits: from headache and pain relief, to bring down fevers, rheumatism, dental pain, and healing the skin.
One double-blind placebo study conducted in 2016 found a significant difference in the number of colds between a group who took elderberry and a placebo group. Not only did those who took the elderberry get sick less often than the control group, but they also experienced shorter duration of symptoms.
A year after the immune study, in 2017, elderberry showed promise in balancing blood sugar by stimulating the secretion of insulin, making it a possible candidate in the fight against diabetes.
Other research has linked elderberries to a reduced risk of heart disease. In another 2017 study, a group taking elderberry saw improved heart health compared to the control group.
These benefits are likely due to their high antioxidant and anti-inflammatory content. When free radicals are left to do their thing in our bodies, they can cause oxidative stress, which is a key factor in the development of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. It also puts us more at risk for cold and flu.
Like other rich-colored foods, elderberry is high in antioxidants—those powerful little scavengers that help to protect our healthy cells from viruses and infection. Because elderberry is one of the richest sources of antioxidants, it’s one of the most effective at keeping our bodies healthy enough to stave off a cold or flu, and reduce symptoms if we do get sick.
Elderberries are also packed with nutrients including vitamins A, B, and C, as well as minerals such as iron, potassium, phosphorous, and copper.
Like with any food-based medicine, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts; elderberry works best when it’s not isolates or extracts. Look for pure syrups, teas, or juices. Or, when taking in supplement form, be sure it contains pure elderberry.
I have personally experienced the benefits of elderberry. We use it in my house whenever we need immune support, especially this time of year! It’s one of the reasons Mykind Organics offers elderberry products. We combined our own unique combination of Black Elderberry and Echinacea with antioxidant-rich vitamin C derived from Amla berry, rosemary extract, and zinc for delicious, sugar-free syrup, and our yummy gummies contain no gelatin and no added sugar. Our Elderberry products, as with all of our Herbals, are special because we source ingredients from sustainable organic farms and we use an Organic, Non-GMO extraction method without the use of conventional corn alcohol or other harsh chemicals. You can check out Mykind Organic Elderberry Immune Syrup here and the Immune Gummies here.
Make your own elderberry syrup
Fancy a fun family activity making your own elderberry syrup? If you’ve got an elderberry tree near you, don’t let those precious berries go to waste! Just don’t eat them raw. They contain lectin, which can make you sick.
Making elderberry syrup can be done with fresh, frozen, or dried berries. If using fresh or frozen, you’ll double up the amount versus dried. To make a simple syrup, you’ll cook elderberries in water for about an hour over medium heat until the water reduces by about half. If adding any spices, you’ll add them when you add the berries. Then strain, sweeten (use clean unrefined sugar for health benefits), and let cool.
There are lots of great recipes out there for elderberry syrup. Here are a few that sound absolutely delicious.
This one combines spicy ginger and cinnamon with maple for a splendid seasonal syrup.
You can make this lemony-clove elderberry syrup in an Instant Pot.
This one calls for homemade date syrup to sweeten it. How yummy.
Enjoy and stay healthy!