Elderberries have a history of medicinal use dating back to the time of Hippocrates, and some say even as far back as prehistoric man. Famously known for its antiviral and antibacterial action, the elderberry has been called the “medicine chest of the common people.” Oh, the sweet integrity of this little berry!
Although there are many varieties of elderberry trees, the black elderberry (Sambucus nigra and Sambucus canadensis) is most commonly used for medicinal purposes. Elderberries contain quercetin and phenolic acids and are naturally high in vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin B6, iron, potassium, and other essential nutrients. They also contain flavonoids, which have antioxidant properties that can help prevent cell damage, and anthocyanins, which are chemical compounds that are known to have immune-boosting properties.
While some people prefer to take elderberry in powder form, it is advised that taking elderberry powder/capsules will not yield the best results. Consuming elderberries in syrup or tea is much more beneficial, as the water infusion helps extract the valuable properties of elderberries, making them readily available for our bodies to absorb.
In Western energetic medicine, we consider the effects elderberries and other plants have on humans in a different vein than contemporary research. We look at tissue states of the body on a continuum of certain qualities conjoined with looking at the particular characteristics of plants. For example, we use a spectrum of hot-cold, dry-damp, and tension-laxity. Elderberry has a unique set of qualities that can alter tissue states within a body (i.e. changing the internal human environment) to help the body resist disease and illness. This brings the body closer to equilibrium and health. For example, a cold or flu may have a damp and/or warm effect on our tissue state, while elderberries are, generally speaking in Western energetic medicine, cool and dry.
Elderberry works on an energetic and tissue level to release the dampness and heat from the tissues bringing them back to a healthier state. This is an oversimplified explanation of Western energetics and tissue states; however, it is important to note this alternative way of looking at illness and health. Practitioners working in various traditional medicine systems often have a way of viewing the body that is not allopathic, meaning it does not solely focus on disease, pathogens and pathogen eliminators. Rather, Western energetics looks at how tissue is out of balance and works to bring tissue closer to stasis. For more on this topic, Kiva Rose Hardin has an outstanding and approachable layout on her site (Hardin).
If modern science gets you excited, you will be delighted to know that credible research confirms elderberries reduce the symptoms and duration of colds (Tiralongo et al. 2016). Furthermore, the flavonoids present in elderberries can bond to influenza viruses, helping to control influenza symptoms (Kong 2009). Research suggests that if elderberry is consumed at the onset of flu symptoms, it can shorten the duration of flu symptoms by an average of four days (Zakay-Rones et al. 2004). Elderberries also help with seasonal allergies. With their ability to improve immune response and inflammation, elderberries help soothe the overreaction of the immune system that creates an allergic response (Ho et al. 2017).
From whichever perspective you choose to approach elderberries, they have a meaningful place in your kitchen treasure chest.
- Hardin, KR. “Tissue States.” The Enchanter's Green, enchantersgreen.com/tissue-states. Accessed 6 January 2021.
- Ho, Giang., et al. “Elderberry and Elderflower Extracts, Phenolic Compounds, and Metabolites and Their Effect on Complement, RAW 264.7Macrophages and Dendritic Cells.” International Journal of Molecular Science, vol. 18, no. 3, 2017, p. 584. MDPI, doi:10.3390/ijms18030584. Accessed 6 January 2021.
- Kong, F-kun. “Pilot Clinical Study on a Proprietary Elderberry Extract: Efficacy in Addressing Influenza Symptoms.” Online Journal of Pharmacology and PharmacoKinetics©, vol. 5, 2009, pp. 32-43. Semantic Scholars, pdfs.semanticscholar.org/367d/1c92716b6be462f26dbfe6c223863dc78464.pdf. Accessed 6 January, 2021.
- Tiralongo, Evelin, et al. “Elderberry Supplementation Reduces Cold Duration and Symptoms in Air-Travellers: A Randomized, Double-Blind Placebo-Controlled Clinical Trial. Nutrients.” Nutrients, vol. 8, no. 4, 2016, p. 182. MDPI, www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/8/4/182. Accessed 6 January 2021.
- Zakay-Rones, Z., et al. “Randomized study of the efficacy and safety of oral elderberry extract in the treatment of influenza A and B virus infections.” The Journal of International Medical Research, vol. 32, no. 2, 2004, pp. 132-140. PudMed, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15080016. Accessed 6 January, 2021.