Elderberries are the fruit produced from different varieties of the Sambucus tree, also referred to as Elderberry. These berries are packed with antioxidants and vitamins and have traditionally been used to treat ailments such as pain, swelling, inflammation, and more. Elderberries are a low calorie food packed with antioxidants like phenolic acids and flavonoids and are high in nutrients such as vitamin C and dietary fiber. They can also be used to reduce the length and severity of symptoms caused by the flu or common cold. Other reported benefits of elderberries include: fighting harmful bacteria, supporting the immune system, protecting against UV radiation, and even helping battle cancer.
What makes Elderberry so powerful
Elderberry contains a high level of naturally-occurring anthocyanins, which are a type of flavonoid that are thought to be a key benefit driver behind the traditional immune-supporting properties. Anthocyanins are also what give the berries their intense, dark purple color.
The Habitat of the Elderberry
The most common type of Elderberry tree (also referred to as bush, plant, or shrub), Sambucus nigra, is native to Europe, where it is typically found growing in woodlands and hedgerow. It can also be found in other parts of the world, such as Western Asia, North America, and North Africa.
If you’re trying to identify Elder bushes while you’re out and about in the great outdoors, note that they have fluffy white flowers in summer, and, at other times, their branches are full of plump blue-black berry clusters.
Historical Uses of Elderberry
People have been using Elderberry for centuries. In fact, if you think about the name of the plant, you’ll see that the Elder shrub was so revered that its very name reflects the respect that it was given.
The plant has been used since the fifth century AD, and it has been venerated by both Native American and European herbalists throughout history. Native Americans used the branches of Black Elderberry to make flutes, so it is sometimes called the "tree of music".
Black Elderberry pies were seasonal treats for early American settlers, and the berries were even used to make wine on occasion.
While it is more common today to see the berries used in herbal preparations, historically, the flowers and leaves of the Elder plant have also been used.
Modern Uses and Research
Because of its immune-modulating and antioxidant properties, Black Elderberry is able to work at the cellular level and provide support for overall immune health.
By normalizing and promoting the production of cytokines (an action that is essential for overall wellness), the immune system is able to maintain balance, which is especially important during those winter months when our bodies need all the support they can get.