The Many Benefits of Immune-Boosting Elderberry

Elderberry has been used for centuries to fight colds and infections. Here’s your guide to the immune-boosting properties and benefits of elderberry.

8 minute read

Last Updated August 10, 2020

The Many Benefits of Immune-Boosting Elderberry

Elderberries are one of the most commonly used medicinal plants in the world. Traditionally used by Native Americans to treat infections, the elderberry is now also used for treating the common cold and flu. 

When taken correctly, elderberries provide heart health, antioxidant protection, pain relief, and digestive health, along with strengthening your immune system.

Boost Your Immunity With Elderberry

The benefits of the elderberry can be attributed to the antioxidant compound anthocyanin. Anthocyanin gives the elderberry its dark purple color and also helps to clear free radicals from your body. 

Free radicals are linked to inflammation and other chronic illnesses as they damage the cells in your body at the DNA level. Anthocyanin prevents this oxidative damage and can protect you from disease. 

The antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of elderberry allow it to support your immune system in several ways. Not only can it help to reduce pain, but it can also temper the immune response and reduce inflammation that can be associated with chronic disease. 

Fight Cold and Flu

When taken as part of a regular daily immune health supplement regimen, elderberry boosts your natural immunity. The most widely researched area of immune protection is the efforts of elderberries against the common cold and flu.

Elderberry juice has been used for centuries to treat cold and flu symptoms. Studies have found that elderberry reduces the severity of these viral infections when taken within the first 48 hours of symptoms appearing. There is a significant reduction in upper respiratory symptoms when elderberry is taken upon the first signs of a cold. 

It is important to note that elderberries do not prevent the risk of getting a cold. It will reduce the severity and longevity of cold symptoms. This means you will recover faster. When used to treat cold and flu, elderberry has shown a 50% reduction in the number of sick days taken.

Studies have proven that elderberry does reduce the risk of getting the flu virus by activating specific immune responses. The diaphoretic action of the flowers and berries of elderberry plants promotes a strong fever response that kills pathogens. 

On a molecular level, elderberries encourage cytokine action, which causes inflammation designed to clear infections. Elderberry extract or juice has also been found to provide post-infection benefits. Immune system function recovers much faster after an infection is cleared with elderberry support. 

Vitamin C Boost

Elderberry has a high vitamin C content. This vitamin is a powerful antioxidant and known to enhance the immune system in a number of ways. 

♦ Vitamin C stimulates the production of phagocytes and lymphocytes. These are white blood cells that protect the body from infection. 

♦ Vitamin C also helps these white blood cells function more efficiently and protects them from oxidative damage that can impair their function.

♦ Vitamin C is a big part of the skin’s defense system, which is integral to immunity. It is transported to the skin to provide antioxidant protection and strength to the skin’s barriers.

Pain Relief

The anthocyanins in elderberry trigger inflammation necessary to fight infection, but can prevent chronic inflammation associated with pain. By inhibiting the production of nitric oxide by the immune cells, inflammation can be controlled. By tempering the immune response, so inflammation is only triggered when needed, you can experience pain relief. 

Additional Health Benefits of Elderberry

Elderberry is primarily taken to boost immune system function. The powerful plant compounds within elderberries can benefit other systems within your body too. There are several additional benefits elderberry provides for your overall health. 

Heart health: The most dangerous markers for heart disease are high cholesterol and high blood pressure. The anthocyanin in elderberry can have positive effects on these. As part of a regular diet, elderberry can reduce fat in the blood, which lowers cholesterol. 

Studies have also found that elderberry compounds can reduce blood pressure by reducing uric acid levels that promote hypertension. Elderberry also improves insulin production, which improves blood glucose levels. This can help control diabetes, which is a risk factor for heart disease. 

Improved digestion: A compound in elderberry known as anthraquinone is a mild laxative. When made into tea, elderberries can relieve constipation and promote a healthier digestive function. Anthraquinone stimulates intestinal pressure and muscle contraction, promoting regular bowel movements. Elderberries are also high in fiber, which promotes regular bowel movements and prevents constipation. 

How to Take Elderberry 

Elderberry can be found in supplements and as a syrup as a natural treatment option. You can also make it into a tea or topical ointment, or you can eat the berries. You want to start taking elderberry within 48 hours of spotting symptoms to get the most effective results. 

There is no general recommendation for taking elderberry, but the manufacturer’s dosage guidelines should be followed closely. Treatment for specific conditions will vary, and so will the dosage and recommendations for elderberry treatment. Check with your doctor before starting a supplement

The FDA classifies elderberry-based medications as dietary supplements. Only buy supplements that have been certified and clinically proven to ensure you get quality and safety. 

Side Effects and Warnings

Ripe, cooked elderberry fruit is safe to eat within moderation. The amount used in supplements is also considered safe for consumption. Eating too many berries may cause an upset stomach or diarrhea, as it has laxative effects. Dried or ripe versions of the fruit are the only kind that should be used for medicinal purposes. 

You must always cook elderberries before eating. The roots, stem, leaves, and bark contain cyanogenic glycoside, which is poisonous. The berries also contain a small amount, and this can release cyanide when chewed. Only eat ripened and cooked berries or take elderberry in the dried supplemental form for safety. 

Elderberry extracts or supplements may also interact with certain medications. Consult your doctor before starting a supplement if you take any of the following:

♦ Corticosteroid drugs like prednisone
♦ Imuran (azathioprine)
♦ Prograf (tacrolimus)
♦ Rapamune (sirolimus)
♦ Sandimmune (cyclosporine)
♦ Simulect (basiliximab)
♦ Zenapax (daclizumab)

One final precaution to be aware of is regarding autoimmune diseases. Because elderberry has a significant effect on the immune system, those with autoimmune disorders should avoid prolonged use of elderberry as a natural treatment option. Only take elderberry in accordance with guidelines and your doctor’s guidance. 

The Bottom Line

Elderberry has been used for fighting colds and the flu for decades. The immune-boosting properties deliver protection from infection and the ability to reduce symptoms. As a supplement, elderberry can protect your heart and improve digestion too. So long as taken in accordance with guidelines, elderberry is a safe and effective option for strengthening your immunity.

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