We hear a lot about elderberry jam, tea, juice, chutney, pie, and more—especially during flu season. Many different opinions also exist as to its safety and efficacy, however these berries have been used for centuries: The Ancient Egyptians used them for beauty products as well as to heal burns. Native Americans found that they helped with infections. Today we use them primarily to treat cold and flu symptoms.
Elderberries actually have many more benefits than these due to their nutritional content:
- 1 cup of elderberries contains 52 mg. of Vitamin C
- 100 g. contains 18.4 g. of carbohydrates
- They are high in dietary fiber
- Berries contain phenolic acids (powerful antioxidants)
- They are rich in anthocyanins which are natural antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents.
Studies have shown that elderberries may help fight cancer, support the immune system, protect against UV radiation, fight harmful bacteria, help with depression, and boost heart health in that it reduces fat levels in the blood, decreases cholesterol levels, and improves blood sugar levels.
Both the berries and the flowers of the elderberry plant can be used for medicinal purposes. The berries are made into pies, jam, juice, or chutney. The flowers can be boiled with sugar to make a sweet syrup, or they can be infused into tea or added to a fresh salad.
The biggest reason for concern in the use of elderberries is that parts of the plant are toxic and can cause stomach distress such as nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea. While the berries and flowers are very beneficial, the branches, bark, unripe berries, seeds, or leaves should never be eaten. In their raw state, even the berries contain some cyanide. American or European elderberries have the lowest amount. For this reason, if you are gathering your own berries, it is best to be sure that you know the plant well and are sure of what you are getting. Even at its worst, in American elderberries, only 3 mg of cyanide would be found in 100 g. of berries, which is 3% of what is considered a fatal dose in a 130 lb. person. If you purchase a commercial elderberry product or cook the berries properly, there will be no cyanide present.
Formal dosing has not been established for this berry. However, a good rule of thumb is 1 tablespoon 4 times per day. Or if you have 175 mg. lozenges, 2 of those per day should be good. If you are taking elderberry because of cold or flu symptoms, it is best to begin taking it within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms for maximum benefit.
Elderberries can interact with prescription medications, so you should contact your physician before using them in any form. It is also not recommended for pregnant or lactating women.
*The information in this article is not intended to diagnose or treat any medical condition and does not substitute for a thorough evaluation by a medical professional. Please consult your chiropractor or physician to determine whether these self-care tips are appropriate for you.