The Benefits of Elderberry
References to elderberry appear in history books, fairytales and even modern-day fiction, but does it deserve a place in your medicine cabinet? Knowledge of the healthful benefits of this ancient berry has been passed down for centuries. Historians say Hippocrates, the “father of medicine,” always kept it on hand, and records of its use as a health tonic date as far back as ancient Egypt. Researchers have even found evidence that our prehistoric ancestors may have cultivated elderberry.1
Elderberries are the fruits of a flowering tree scientifically known as Sambucus, but the plant is more commonly called elder or elderberry. The berries are used throughout Europe for making dyes, elderberry extract, syrups, pies and a variety of beverages. Both the ripe berries and flowers of elderberry plants are used to make elderberry supplements and health tonics, but other parts of the elderberry plant (leaves, roots, seeds and stems) are toxic.2
Elderberry Tree or Elderberry Bush?
If you're researching the health benefits of elderberry, you'll probably see the terms “elderberry tree” and “elderberry bush” used interchangeably. Officially, elderberry is a bush, but it can be pruned and trained into tree form and some European varieties can grow up to 20 feet in height.3
There are many varieties of elderberry plants, but the type that's most frequently used in culinary and health applications is Sambucus nigra L.4 This species of elderberry plant has many common names worldwide, most often known as Black Elderberry. There are some species of elderberry plants that shouldn't be consumed because of toxicity, like Sambucus emulous (dwarf elder).4
Black elderberry is a classic variety used in herbalist traditions for supporting immune health. It’s an excellent tonic for promoting the body’s natural defenses in everyday health and seasonal wellness. Elderberries are a source of vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin B6, calcium, potassium and iron.5
Black elderberry is also a potent source of carotenoid pigments or flavonoids with antioxidant properties, including quercetin, which helps protect cells from oxidative damage.6 According to the University of Maryland Medical center, “elderberry outranks blueberries, cranberries, goji berries and blackberries in terms of total flavonol content.”4
Elderberry is a concentrated source of anthocyanins, a particularly powerful class of antioxidant flavonoids that may boost immune health and help protect cells from damage.7
Elderberry could be considered one of the world's most essential and enduring herbs for promoting immune health. Numerous modern studies have shown the immune health benefits of elderberry,5 and the bioflavonoids, antioxidants and vitamin A in elderberry are great for skin health, too. Compounds in elderberry may also help eliminate excess water from your system.6
Elderberry Benefits Quick List:
- Immune Support
The science behind your immune system is continuing to grow, and many studies have highlighted the potential immune-supporting benefits of elderberry and bioflavonoids may help strengthen cell membranes.6.8
- Healthy Skin
The bioflavonoids, antioxidants and vitamin A in elderberry are great for skin health,9 helping to fight free radical damage which is one of the primary mechanisms of aging. Learn more about the Benefits of Vitamins.
- Fluid Balance
Elderberry may also have a diuretic effect, helping to eliminate excess water from your system.6
- Antioxidant Support
Elderberries are packed with antioxidant flavonoids, more so than many other berries that are antioxidant sources like blueberries, cranberries, goji berries and blackberries.4
You can get the benefits of elderberries from supplements in many forms, including elderberry juice, elderberry tea, elderberry extract syrup, elderberry supplement capsules and even elderberry gummies. There are also formulations of elderberry syrup for kids that often have vitamin C and zinc added for immune support as well.
Elderberry supplements deliver the beneficial properties of elderberries in a potent form. Most elderberry supplements are derived from both the berries and the flowers of the black elderberry plant. Some elderberry juices and syrups also include other fruit extracts, like red raspberry.
Benefits of Elderberries
Elderberry has a long history of supporting health and wellness and plenty of modern, scientific studies backing its benefits for immune support and antioxidant capacity to protect the body from the effects of oxidative stress.
Elderberry may help reinforce your body’s natural defenses and provide a healthy, everyday or seasonal wellness boost.
About Lindsey Toth, MS, RD
Registered Dietitian, Swanson Health Products
Lindsey is a nationally-recognized registered dietitian and nutritionist with a soft spot for pie. She empowers people to take charge of their health by finding the balance between the pleasure and nourishment in food. Her philosophy is that you should take care of your body because it’s the only permanent home you have. It’s what inspired her to pursue a career in nutrition and, ultimately, led her to Swanson Health.
Lindsey is a nationally recognized registered dietitian and nutritionist with a soft spot for ice cream. She empowers people to take charge of their health by finding the balance between the pleasure and nourishment in food.
Her philosophy is that you should take care of your body because it’s the only permanent home you have. It’s what inspired her to pursue a career in nutrition and, ultimately, led her to Swanson Health Products.
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
1. Elderberry History. The Herb Society of America. Read source
2. Common Elderberry. United States Department of Agriculture. Read source
3. Elderberry. The National Gardening Association Learning Library. Read source
4. Elderberry. Millenium Hospital. Read source
5. Elderberries. Just Vitamins. Read source
6. Elderberry. Madeleine Mumcuoglu, Daniel Safirman, and Mina Ferne. Encyclopedia of Dietary Supplements. Read source
7. Elderberry By-products. ScienceDirect. Read source
8. Quick Guide to Vitamins, Minerals, and Supplements. Helen Pensanti M.D. See source
9. The Benefits of Vitamin A. HealthLine. Read source
10. Red Raspberry. WebMD. Read source