Elderberry is one of the most commonly used medicinal plants in the world.
Traditionally, Native Americans used it to treat infections, while the ancient Egyptians used it to improve their complexions and heal burns. It’s still gathered and used in folk medicine across many parts of Europe.
Today, elderberry is most often taken as a supplement to treat cold and flu symptoms.
However, the raw berries, bark and leaves of the plant are also known to be poisonous and cause stomach problems.
Elderberry refers to several different varieties of the Sambucus tree, which is a flowering plant belonging to the Adoxaceae family.
The most common type is Sambucus nigra, also known as the European elderberry or black elder. This tree is native to Europe, though it is widely grown in many other parts of the world as well.
S. nigra grows up to 30 feet (9 meters) tall and has clusters of small white- or cream-colored flowers known as elderflowers. The berries are found in small black or blue-black bunches.
The berries are quite tart and need to be cooked to be eaten.
Health Benefits of Elderberry
There are many reported benefits of elderberries. Not only are they nutritious, but they may also fight cold and flu symptoms, support heart health and fight inflammation and infections, among other benefits.
High in Nutrients
Elderberries are a low-calorie food packed with antioxidants.
Plus, they have many nutritional benefits. Elderberries are:
- High in vitamin C
- High in dietary fiber
- A good source of phenolic acids
- A good source of flavonols
- Rich in anthocyanins
Elderberries are a low-calorie food packed with vitamin C, dietary fiber and antioxidants in the form phenolic acids, flavonols and anthocyanins. The flowers are particularly rich in flavonols.
Other Health Benefits
There are many other reported benefits of elderberry, though most of these have limited scientific evidence:
- Helps fight cancer: Both European and American elder have been found to have some cancer-inhibiting properties in test-tube studies (5, 8Trusted Source, 29Trusted Source).
- Fights harmful bacteria: Elderberry has been found to inhibit the growth of bacteria like Helicobacter pylori and may improve symptoms of sinusitis and bronchitis (8Trusted Source).
- May support the immune system: In rats, elderberry polyphenols were found to support immune defense by increasing the number of white blood cells (30).
- Could protect against UV radiation: A skin product containing elderberry extract was found to have a sun protection factor (SPF) of 9.88 (31Trusted Source).
- May increase urination: Elderberry flowers were found to increase the frequency of urination and amount of salt excretion in rats (32).
- May have some antidepressant properties: One study found mice fed 544 mg of elderberry extract per pound (1,200 mg per kg) had improved performance and mood markers (33Trusted Source).