Elderberries – helpful or hyped?

Written by
on August 30, 2020

I have been hearing about elderberries, elderberries syrup, and elderberry extracts for several years and I finally sat down to look at the scientific evidence that supports the claims for using them both as a preventative supplement and an alternative to antiviral and antibacterial medication.

elderberry fruit

What I found really surprised me! I didn’t know there was so much compelling evidence to support the use of elderberry products in certain situations. Here’s what a found.

The benefits of Elderberries. Młynarczyk K, Walkowiak-Tomczak D, Łysiak GP. Bioactive properties of Sambucus nigra L. as a functional ingredient for food and pharmaceutical industry. J Funct Foods. 2018;40:377-390. doi:10.1016/j.jff.2017.11.025 (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7185606/)

Elderberry sourcing
Large quantities of elderberries are collected from wild sources, however since the 1980’s, they are commercially grown and harvested. Black elderberries (Sambucus nigra) are most abundant in European countries and in the USA, Canada, New Zealand and Chile.

The biggest producers are Germany, Denmark, Poland, Italy, Austria and the Czech Republic. In the USA, elderberries are grown commercially on a small scale in the states of New York, Ohio, Oregon, Missouri and Kentucky. However, in the USA, the most commonly grown are hybrids between S. nigra and S. canadensis. It takes 3-4 years of growth before an elderberry bush comes into full production.

elderberries and elderberry syrup

Can I consume all parts of the elderberry bush?
There are some harmful components of the elderberry plant to be aware of, shared by this paper.

“All parts of the elderberry contain cyanogenic glycosides… These compounds are potentially toxic and life-threatening, because they can be hydrolysed resulting in the release of cyanide. However, they occur primarily in unripe berries and are degraded during heat treatment… Moreover, elderberry contains the allergen Sam n1, which causes type 1 allergy…However, it was discovered that incubation in a boiling water bath for 5–10 min, made lectins completely sensitive to hydrolytic enzymes in vitro and thus reduced the risk of allergenicity.”

The takeaway here is that heated berry products are safe to consume.

Active components in elderberries
Polyphenols and anthocyanins are the primary bioactive constituents that give elderberries their healthful properties (antiviral, antibiotic, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antidepressant, etc…). The levels of these vary with variety and cultivation conditions such as soil richness, elevation, and temperature.

hanging elderberries

Over the next week, I am going to cover some of the science that backs the use of elderberry in various forms to support the body. I really didn’t know about any of the compelling evidence published recently until I started researching for this weekly topic. I’m floored and I think you will be too.

Join us this week in The Hassle-Free Family to find out if elderberries are right for your wellness routine, can be used as a tool in in your antiviral/antibacterial toolbox, can be used to support your body through obesity-related inflammatory symptoms, and much more.

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