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This page presents a brief introduction to the nutrition and potential health benefits of elder berries and flowers. For a better collection of relevant research on both native and European elderberry - including peer reviewed journal articles and extended presentation excepts from the First International Symposium on Elderberry (2013), please go to Midwest Elderberry Cooperative's About website by clicking here.

Why are Anthocyanins like Found in Elderberries, Put in GMO Foods?

The dark pigments found in dark berries like elderberries, blueberries, blackberries and a few others are so desirable that Big Food is using GMO technology to add them to tomatoes and other foods. Is that desirable or even safe? Our network of American growers are working hard and environmentally smart to bring you the these antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, healthy nutrients naturally from plants originally collected out in the wild and transplanted to where we can manage them organically. To learn more about what GMO techies are doing, why, how and a discussion of safety, please read the linked article.  

Promising Coronavirus Research looks at Elderberry 

The drawback to medications is that they are used once an infection has been established. Ideally, we would want to find something that could prevent or be protective against serious infection. Some laboratory research suggests elderberry may actively prevent the binding of COVI-19 like viruses to cells, thus limiting the potential for infection.

All viruses enter the host cell and recruit various mechanisms in the cell to produce viral genetic material (DNA or RNA), manufacture the membranes that coat the virus and stimulate the mechanism for viral release. There are a number of defense therapies that can moderate the effect of a viral infection. Anti-viral medications usually interfere with the ability of the infected cell to produce viral genetic material. Some natural products prevent the binding of the virus to the host cell. Several compounds found in elderberry, especially caffeic acid, limit the binding of the virus to the host cell. 

Vaccines seek to stimulate the body’s immune response to an identified pathogen, but viruses mutate fairly rapidly. This is what all viruses do. COVID-19, cold coronaviruses, flu and the others. Despite the constant changes, elderberry and other natural antioxidants have been effective against them, to one degree or another, for thousands of years. In simplest terms, they make it hard for the virus to reproduce giving the body time to develop new antibodies that work against it.

How Do Gut Bacteria Affect COVID-19 Severity?

Traditional healing practices recognize the immune support benefits of elder berries and flowers. They also identify elderberries as good for gut health. This article about SARS-Cov-2 and gut health illustrates how those two concepts are related. The body is a complex set of systems. Long term good health requires a holistic approach.

We know that the human gut is one of the largest organs in our body that actually regulates our immune response. In fact, it helps protect us against different infections, including SARS-CoV-2. Each one of us has trillions of bacteria in our guts, and they play a lot of roles."

"And it's like an organ on its own. It controls our immune system; it controls how we work our metabolic system, how our brain functions, the hormones in our body. I think in this context of COVID-19 it's fascinating, but we found that patients with COVID-19 have very different composition of the gut microbiome to those without disease. But what's more important, what is missing in those with COVID-19, are the good bacteria that help generate a very good immune response."

"What's remarkable is that after the patient has recovered from COVID-19, you would have thought that they would have cleared the virus and the body would have come back to a normal state. But their missing bacteria continues. The good bacteria have never been novelized, what we call as dysbiosis, and we are very concerned because it is likely that dysbiosis may account for some of the symptoms of long COVID that we now hear: Fatigue, mental problems, people who can't sleep, loss of taste, and loss of scent continue. It's quite clear that this multisystem inflammatory state may actually relate to our gut microbiome."

A Comparative Evaluation of the Anticancer Properties of European and American Elderberry Fruits, JOURNAL OF MEDICINAL FOOD. J Med Food 9 (4) 2006, 498–504
© Mary Ann Liebert, Inc. and Korean Society of Food Science and Nutrition

ABSTRACT European elderberry (Sambucus nigra), recognized in Europe for its health-promoting properties for many generations, is known to contain a range of anthocyanins, flavonoids, and other polyphenolics that contribute to the high antioxidant capacity of its berries. American elderberry (Sambucus canadensis), on the other hand, has not been cultivated, bred, and promoted as a medicinal plant like its better-characterized European counterpart. In this study, aqueous acetone extracts of the berries from these two species were fractionated and tested in a range of assays that gauge anticarcinogenic potential. Both cultivated S. nigra and wild S. canadensis fruits demonstrated significant chemopreventive potential through strong induction of quinone reductase and inhibition of cyclooxygenase-2, which is indicative of anti-initiation and antipromotion properties, respectively. In addition, fractions of S. canadensis extract showed inhibition of ornithine decarboxylase, an enzyme marker related to the promotion stage of carcinogenesis. Analysis of active fractions using mass spectrometry and liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry revealed, in addition to flavonoids, the presence of more lipophilic compounds such as sesquiterpenes, iridoid monoterpene glycosides, and phytosterols. [Click here to download a pdf of the entire article.] 

World Council for Health

Midwest Elderberry Cooperative partners with the World Council for Health to promote initiatives from the people, rather than from governments, that pragmatically help to effect a better way forward for both humanity and the planet. 

Click on the heading below to learn more about their mission and resources.

Mission Statement

The World Council for Health is a non-profit initiative for the people, that is informed and funded by the people. Our global coalition of health-focused initiatives and civil society groups seeks to broaden public health knowledge and sense-making through science and shared wisdom. We are dedicated to safeguarding human rights and free will while empowering people to take control of their health and wellbeing.

MEC - a WCH Global Partner

Benefits of the Elderberry (video introduction) 

Because of its numerous health benefits, elderberry has a long history of being used in natural healing. It is known to boost immunity, alleviate allergies, protect against bacterial infections, lower blood pressure, moderate digestion, help with weight loss, prevent the development of diabetes, and slow the development of cancer. It also has antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties, which should boost its popularity! From a nutritional point of view, elderberries are high in vitamin C, phosphorus, calcium, and iron, as well as anthocyanins and other polyphenols.

Elderberry: The Flu Fighter
"Elder was called the “country people’s medicine chest.”  Elder keeps viruses at bay by blocking the virus from entering the cell itself. All flu viruses have trouble with elderberry’s blockades. The symptoms of flus like coughs, sore throats and sinus congestion melt under this herb’s attention.

"Elder is a graceful shrub with elegant arching branches, vibrant green leaves and white sprays of flowers that turn into irresistible berries at the end of summer. Black elderberry is native to Europe and North America. Its availability increases its appeal. The elder species have several variations. Elders that produce blue-black berries are considered to be in part of the Sambucus nigra species. Black and blue elderberries, in my opinion, taste the sweetest.”

"Many symptoms connected to colds and flus are effectively treated with this tiny berry. Coughs, fevers and sinus infections all bow to elder’s healing touch.  This makes elderberry a rare herb as it not only prevents infection but also treats the infection after it’s taken hold.

"Elder is an important herb for the immune system, but it needs to be used as a daily supplement. Elder constituents do not cling to the tissue, which means daily treatment is not only safe but necessary to block viruses. It doesn’t overtax the immune system or cause imbalances in the digestive tract that allow yeast infections to take hold, either, making it safe for daily consumption.”

"People with compromised immune systems due to allergies or asthma benefit from this herb’s attention. Those who suffer from bronchitis would do well to add elderberry into their diet as well.”

[Click here to read this excellent overview from The Practical Herbalist.]

Elder Flower Production and Cyanide Concern
Andrew L. Thomas University of Missouri Division of Plant Sciences, Southwest Research Center Mt. Vernon, MO.  This article gives a photo and graph rundown of a multi-year study investigating the whether native North American Sambucus (nigra) canadensis contains proto-cyanide glycosides in quantities sufficient to warrant specific processing requirements beyond clean harvest. 

Summary of Findings:

  • Picrate paper method was successfully used to assess the total cyanogenic potential.
  • A control test with two apple varieties showed high levels of cyanide in the seeds.
  • No cyanide was detected in commercial (processed) elderberry juice
  • Levels of cyanide detected in tissues of fresh berries were very low; lowest in juice & seeds and highest in stems & green berries.
  • Levels of CNG’s detected with LC-MS method were very low in all tissues and consistent with picrate results.
  • Detected levels pose no threat to American Elderberry consumers. Excluding stems, green berries and leaves in juice preparation is recommended.

[Click here to read the full article.]

Elderberries Ranked #1 in Nutrition

RANKED: The 17 most nutritious berries for you

So for this ranking, we've stuck to edible berries that fit the botanical description without getting too broad while also throwing in some berries that are technically misnomers. To rank them, we stacked up their nutritional content. Areas like total carbohydrates and calories worked against their ranking, while vitamins A, B6, C, potassium, iron, and fiber counted toward a better ranking. All the berries were counted in one-cup increments in their raw form.

Raw Elderberry Nutrition Data

Health Benefits of Elderberry
Some of the most important health benefits of elderberries include their ability to boost immune system function, protect against bacteria and infection, slow down the spread of cancer, moderate the digestive process, prevent the development of diabetes, reduce the pain and speed associated with autoimmune diseases, help with weight loss, lower blood pressure, and alleviate allergies.  Click here to read more.

Elderberries were listed in the CRC Handbook of Medicinal Herbs as early as 1985, and are listed in the 2000 Mosby's Nursing Drug reference for colds, flu, yeast infections, nasal and chest congestion, and hay fever. In Israel, Hasassah's Oncology Lab has determined that elderberry stimulates the body's immune system and they are treating cancer and AIDS patients with it. The wide range of medical benefits (from flu and colds to debilitating asthma, diabetes, and weight loss) is probably due to the enhancement of each individual's immune system.

At the Bundesforschungsanstalt research center for food in Karlsruhe, Germany, scientists conducting studies on Elderberry showed that elderberry anthocyanins enhance immune function by boosting the production of cytokines. These unique proteins act as messengers in the immune system to help regulate immune response, thus helping to defend the body against disease. Further research indicated that anthocyanins found in elderberries possess appreciably more antioxidant capacity than either vitamin E or vitamin C.

Studies at Austria's University of Graz found that elderberry extract reduces oxidation of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. Oxidation of LDL cholesterol is implicated in atherogenesis, thus contributing to cardiovascular disease.

Elderflowers are also used for their health benefits.

Elderberry Juice

Elder grows as s a shrub with excellent medicinal properties. It is native to North America and Europe. Botanically, elderberry is referred to as Sambucus Nigra. The elderberry fruit is reddish brown to purple and shiny black in color. It is therefore also known as black elderberry. Elderberry benefits have been known to mankind since ages, and elderberries have been widely used for medicinal as well as culinary purposes. They are also used as an ingredient in various skin creams and other cosmetics.

In order to derive maximum elderberry benefits, the best thing is to drink fresh juice of the elderberry fruits. Elderberry juice benefits are attributed to its nutrients, which include vitamin A, vitamin B, vitamin C, carotenoids, amino acids, and flavonoids. Elderberry juice is also very rich in certain essential minerals such as potassium, calcium, phosphorus, and several anti-oxidants…

The health benefits of elderberry juice or the black elderberry extract benefits are as mentioned below:

  • Elderberry juice has the ability to prevent and treat ailments and disorders of the respiratory system such as common colds and flu, cough, chest congestion, sore throats, bronchitis, and asthma. Regular intake of black elderberry juice protects you against any such ailments. Elderberry for flu treatment was being used by native North Americans as traditional medicine. Since common colds and flu are common and contagious and if someone at home happens to suffer from the flu, you can make use of elderberry for flu prevention.
  • Since it is very rich in vitamin C, elderberry juice is very beneficial in the treatment of various bacterial diseases. It boosts the immune system of the body, thereby preventing and curing various infections and diseases. In fact, elderberry benefits for kids can be attributed to the fact that it helps strengthen their immunity, thereby preventing diseases.
  • Elderberry is also antiviral in action, and as such, it is a potent cure for viral diseases like common colds and fever. In fact, elderberry for colds is one of the most effective remedies to treat the condition. Also, the intake of the extract of elderberry is a useful flu remedy.
  • Another great health benefit of black elderberry juice is that it helps in keeping the digestive system healthy. It improves digestion by promoting the secretion of digestive juices, and also prevents ailments of digestive system like constipation.
  • One of the elderberry uses is its ability to combat cancer. Some of the physiological reactions in the body leave free radicals as the by-products. These free radicals initiate chain reactions that cause cell division, leading to formation of tumors, which later become cancerous. The high content of antioxidants in elderberry helps prevent the formation of cancerous cells, thereby inhibiting the onset of cancer.
  • Elderberry is also anti-inflammatory in action and thus can be used for treating and preventing inflammatory conditions such as joint pains and arthritis.

How Much and How Often
For a preventative immune boost, most sources recommend that adults consume elderberry juice in small amounts such as 1 tablespoon or ½ ounce per day. Small children and infants are often given a teaspoon a day in consideration of body weight, especially at first. Remember, RHH elderberry juice is simply nutrient dense juice separated from the berry skin / pulp and not concentrated. Many these small amounts to water, soda water, teas, smoothies or other juices for taste and convenience. Small amounts taken a few times a day seems to be more effective than the equivalent quantity taken at one time, but much research remains to be done. 

Consuming reasonably larger quantities (3-4 tablespoons/day) by adults for some days to weeks to address certain health conditions does not bother most people either, which is consistent in principle with most traditional recommendations and some medical tests. Common sense indicates that any increased consumption will probably be more effective if spread out over the day, like a ½ oz. every three hours for adults and youth 50 lb. or more, one-third to half that amount for small children.

Much of the early research on black elderberry’s antiviral qualities was done by Dr. Madeleine Mumcuoglu, who created Sambucol and presented several papers at the First International Symposium on Elderberry. Her story is outlined in this article: Study shows Israeli elderberry extract effective against avian flu

North American cool processed elderberry juice is heated for significantly less time (bout 5-6 minutes @ 180 degrees F) than the (over 90% imported) European elderberry concentrates (heated three days) or dried extract used in most commercially prepared products made overseas or in the USA. Though not yet demonstrated the laboratory, reason suggests that the cool-processed elderberry juice should one day prove to be more potently alive biologically than the concentrates or extracts. Also, North America’s Sambucus canadensis is blessed with 7 different antioxidants: the same 4 as Europe’s Sambucus nigra plus 3 more, giving it greater antioxidant variety. 

Several animal studies, such as the one published in the September 2009 edition of the "Journal of Physiology and Biochemistry," have revealed that the polyphenols present in elderberry extracts help lower the blood sugar and fat levels in diabetic animals. The extracts also possess significant antioxidant activity, and may thereby protect individuals with diabetes from the harmful effects of unstable free radicals that are formed as a result of various metabolic processes in the body. [Be sure to check out the links on the Medical Research Notes and Symposium pages.] All of the established elderberry products have a good history of providing health benefits to consumers, so experience for yourself what a little elderberry can do for you every day. You'll probably like it.

© 2020 Midwest Elderberry Cooperative