Elderberry has been used for decades as a natural remedy against the cold and flu. Throughout history, it has also been used to treat toothaches, wounds, burns, fever, and over 70 other ailments. It is a potent plant with many restorative properties.
It is rich in various antioxidants, vitamins A, C, and some B vitamins. Anthocyanins are the specific antioxidants in elderberries that have an important function in strengthening the immune system and helping your body fight off any potential sickness or infection.
They are also the compounds that give elderberries their vibrant dark purple color. Some studies have shown that other antioxidant compounds in these berries increase the number of circulating white blood cells in the body, which are the main cells involved in immune defense. However, these berries are more than just immune-boosting. They also contain anti-viral properties that can actually help the immune system fight off viruses.
These properties are thanks to compounds known as bioflavonoids, which are able to deactivate the virus and prevent it from invading our cells. Without being able to invade a host cell, viruses cannot live. The high vitamin C content also plays an important role in the elderberry’s immune-strengthening powers. Vitamin C is essential for a properly functioning immune system and also acts as an antioxidant itself.
Many herbal and natural remedies are well-known to improve and treat various ailments, but the elderberry is one that has many research-based scientific studies that support its healing properties. Several controlled studies have shown that individuals with a cold or flu who took elderberry had significantly faster improvements in their symptoms compared to those who did not take it. Studies were conducted on the effectiveness of elderberry during an influenza outbreak that also showed similar, very positive results—the individuals who took elderberry syrup were feeling significantly better and were even recovered in one-third of the time that it took the individuals who did not receive the berry. Elderberry also has anti-inflammatory properties, which plays a role in alleviating some of the symptoms associated with a cold and flu, such as sneezing, runny nose, and congested sinuses.
Lastly, elderberries are also rich in fiber. Although fiber doesn’t have a fast acting effect of curing or preventing sickness, it helps strengthen your immune system over the long run. Humans don’t have the necessary enzymes to break down and absorb fiber, but it is not wasted. Fiber is a pre-biotic, meaning that it serves as food for the healthy bacteria residing in our gut. These bacteria are especially important for keeping us healthy, and they play an enormous role in fighting off those “bad” bacteria that cause us to get sick. Eating lots of fiber will help increase the population of healthy bacteria, which take up so much space in our gut that there isn’t any room left over for the nasty pathogens to reside. This, in turn, helps prevent us from getting sick from various bacterial infections.