Sambucus nigra, or black elderberry as it’s more commonly known, might be small, but these berries pack quite a punch. Elderberry is one of the most incredible super-fruits you can hope to find, but it’s not necessarily the first thing you’d think to add to your diet. But don’t let its size fool you.
The wild elderberry tree, which belong to the wider sambucus genus, can be found in hedgerows and shrubland across both Europe and North America. Where there’s sufficient water, soil and sunlight, these shrubs are sure to grow. European folklore is awash with tales of the shrub helping ward off witches and being imbued with some ineffable magical power.
But the power of elderberries is not just apocryphal. They may be small, but elderberries have great nutritional value, making them one of the most incredible super-fruits you could hope to find.
Tangible Health Benefits to Consider
Elderberries stem from the elderberry flower, which blooms in the spring and summer. They are packed with flavour and have a dark and glossy skin when they are fully-ripened by the autumn. They are comprised of up to 80 per cent water, making them plump and full of a deep red juice and pulp.
The elderberry is small but it packs a mighty nutritional punch, thanks to the high concentration of Vitamin C - it’s estimated that just 100 grams of raw elderberry could provide the average person with up to 60 per cent of their daily recommended intake of Vitamin C.
Vitamin C, otherwise known as ascorbic acid, is essential for ensuring that your bodily tissues can repair themselves over time. It also helps aid the enzymatic production of some neurotransmitters.
It’s important to note that raw and uncooked wild elderberry fruit plus parts of the shrub are mildly toxic, while unripened black elderberry fruit is completely poisonous, as it contains a form of cyanogenic glycoside. Unripe black elderberrry should not be consumed if you come across it growing naturally.
Elderberry Nutrition - the Latest Findings
Elderberries serve as a suitable way of bolstering your immune system, thanks to the high concentration of Vitamin C in each serving. According to some of the latest elderberry research at the University of Sydney, the fruit could help fend off influenza.
Vitamin C is an integral component in the replenishment of white blood cells. Not only that, but ascorbic acid helps enhance the function of white blood cells, ramping up their ability to produce antibodies. These proteins are responsible for combating invading microbes and viruses. Your body's immunity is in a state of constant war against a variety of infections at any one time, so it makes sense to give it a leg up when you need it the most.
The researchers at the University of Sydney realised that consumption of certain compounds found within elderberries help inhibit the early stages of infection by limiting the function of those proteins that viruses use to attach themselves to healthy cells. The study found that elderberry sambucus extract even helps halt the spread of further viral infection.
This was because the fruit contains compounds which stimulate the production of cytokines, chemicals which help transmit messages between different cells, thereby helping it respond much more efficiently to invading pathogens. The researchers added that the Sambucus elderberry is such a remarkably effective antiviral supplement because of its high concentration of anthocyanidin compounds.
Additional Evidence of Antiviral Properties
A study published in the Nutrients journal in 2016 corroborates the assertion that sambucus black elderberry is an effective super-fruit with antiviral properties.
The article detailed a double-blind placebo trial conducted between 2013-14, in which hundreds of participants were offered either elderberry capsules or a placebo before flying from Australia to Asia, in order to see whether elderberry supplements limited the symptoms of respiratory infections. Long flights are known to exert strain on physical health.
The study found that, while few participants actually caught the common cold during the process, those who did but who had consumed elderberry capsules experienced shorter colds, with symptoms that were markedly less pronounced than those in the placebo group.
Researchers hypothesised that the presence of polyphenols and other antioxidants in elderberries might boost Vitamin C levels and also help minimise oxidative stress caused by free radicals. The article concluded that further research was warranted in order to explore further uses for elderberry and the fruit’s potential for boosting physical health.
Ways to Consume Elderberries
Elderberries can be made into cordial, wine, jam, jelly or even elderberry syrup. As previously mentioned, raw or unripe berries are not suitable for human consumption because of their natural toxicity. A number of fruits contain natural poisons as a way of dissuading animals from eating them.
One way of knowing that the black sambucus elderberry plant is suitable for harvest is when its berries are swollen, dark and bursting with juicy pulp. As we have seen, the elderberry’s deep red pigment, a product of anthocyanidin within the skin and pulp, possesses great antiviral properties.
It’s important to add that the pips of elderberries are not suitable for consumption, as they also contain toxins.
Elderberry Products for Better Health
The antiviral and antioxidant properties of elderberry use are clear, but how do you actually go about including them in your diet? It might be a tougher fruit to source in a typical grocery store than others - but don’t let this put you off. (And no, you don’t have go scrambling through your nearest elderberry bush to get your fix!)
There are a wide range of elderberry products on the market, but it’s important to identify the right ones to suit both your dietary requirements and your routine. Some prefer to simply consume elderberry capsules, but you could also eat delicious elderberry gummies.
The benefit of trying gummies is that they are great for anyone with a sweet tooth who wants to put some much-needed fun back into their healthy eating!
Fresh Body Mind has its very own range of vegan-friendly Elderberry Gummies. Made from gelatin sourced from non-animal-based protein, our gummies are a tasty and nutritious way of boosting Vitamin C levels.
Not only can our Elderberry Gummies help ensure that you maintain a healthier system - they also leverage a far more sustainable, eco-friendly and innovative way of sourcing gelatin. Consumers are more conscious than ever before about their impact on the environment, especially when it comes to animal welfare.
Elderberry for Adults and Children
First and foremost, it’s important to remember that many fruits contain naturally-occurring sugars. When buying elderberry products, check what additional sugars and other ingredients have been added.
Additional sugars need to be kept in check, especially since institutions such as the American Heart Foundation suggest that no more than nine teaspoons’ worth should be consumed per day by men and no more than six teaspoons’ worth by women. Excessive consumption of added sugars can increase risk of heart disease and conditions such as diabetes.
Products such as Fresh Body Mind Elderberry Gummies can be the perfect addition to a dietary regime. When you give them to children, though, just be mindful of their sugar content. Children need to maintain good dental health more than anyone else, so try to avoid elderberry products with high levels of sugar.
Children can get a much-needed boost to their immune systems by consuming Elderberry Gummies in sensible amounts on a regular basis, helping equip their bodies for fighting off infections as they grow up. Additionally, consumption of elderberry for adults can help maintain a healthier immune system, as this often become more vulnerable as we age.
The ideal Elderberry Gummy intake will be clearly labelled on the product itself to give you an idea of how much you can consume at any one time without overloading on excessive sugars.
When it comes to maintaining a strong immunity and fending off infections more effectively, preventative measures are always better than the cures, so it makes sense to consume the gummies in modest amounts to begin with and increase consumption if you start to feel the early symptoms of an infection taking hold.