Amazing Elderberry Properties

Elderberry is incredibly effective for boosting immunity and shortening the duration of colds and flus. Learn more about the history and uses of this ancient herb.

| November/December 2017

  • Delicious, medicinal and easy to grow, every part of the elderberry plant — from leaves and root to flowers and bark — can be used to benefit your well-being.
    Photo by iStock/Adam88xx

The elder plant is indigenous to broad stretches of the Northern Hemisphere — across North America, Europe and Asia, and into North Africa along the Mediterranean coast. In North America, the native species is Sambucus canadensis, commonly called American elder; its European relative is S. nigra, known as European elder or black elder. Although both have served as a medicine chest for millennia, you’ll find elder’s flavor reason enough to hunt down a shrub for making delicious treats with its berries and blossoms. Don’t want to walk a country mile for your elder? This shrub is easy to grow and lovely in the landscape.

The plant has sustained generations as a source of food and medicine. Archaeologists found elder seeds in a Neolithic dwelling in Switzerland, and European villagers have planted the shrubs close to their homes for many centuries. Throughout North America, native tribes ate the dried berries as a winter staple and used the twigs and fruit in basketry and the branches to make arrows and musical instruments. Native Americans also used elderflowers and berries to treat colds, joint pain, fever, skin problems and more.

All parts of the elder plant — roots, flowers, leaves and bark — have been used medicinally. Modern research supports the use of elder syrup as a treatment for coughs and colds. According to the USDA, elderberries are exceptionally rich in vitamin C and antioxidants, which enhance the immune system. The flowers contain flavonoids and rutin, which also are known to improve immune function, especially in combination with vitamin C. In addition, laboratory studies have shown that elderberries also have significant anti-inflammatory and antiviral abilities. In clinical trials, patients taking elderberry extract recovered from the flu earlier, and had less severe symptoms, than patients in a control group. Take advantage of the immune-boosting properties of this ancient plant with these recipes.

For more helpful immunity tips visit:

Guide to Winter Immunity

Immune-Boosting Herbs

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