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“Mudge, Elizabeth, Wendy L. Applequist, Jamie Finley, Patience Lister, Andrew K. Townesmith, Karen M. Walker, and Paula N. Brown. “Variation of select flavonols and chlorogenic acid content of elderberry collected throughout the Eastern United States.” Journal of Food Composition and Analysis 47…”
Tart and tangy, elderberries are a treat in pies, crumbles, jams, and liqueurs. But if you are an avid tea drinker, elderberries spell good news for you too! The elderberry plant or Sambucus nigra is a potent remedy in the traditional medicine trove and has been used over the ages. While many species of elderberry can be found across North America and Europe, those with black or blue berries are thought to have medicinal value as against those with red berries.[ref]Elderberry. The University of Michigan.[/ref] A cup of elderberry tea made with the dried berries or flowers is both easy to prepare and packs a punch health-wise. Here’s what it has lined up for you.
1. Gives You A Shot Of Protective Antioxidants
Elderberry fruits (berries) and flowers are a rich source of antioxidants like anthocyanins, flavonols, phenolic acids, and proanthocyanidins and can increase your body’s antioxidant capacity thanks to these polyphenols.[ref]Sidor, Andrzej, and Anna Gramza-Michałowska. “Advanced research on the antioxidant and health benefit of elderberry (Sambucus nigra) in food–a review.” Journal of functional foods 18 (2015): 941-958.[/ref] And why is this important? Antioxidants counter free radicals that damage your DNA and cells and contribute to aging as well as many diseases like cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, vision loss etc. All of us grapple with them on a daily basis – not only does your body produce free radicals during the process of converting food to energy, these damaging chemicals are also a reality when we eat refined and processed foods in excess, smoke and drink, expose ourselves to environmental pollutants, grapple with stress etc. Besides a balanced lifestyle, a healthy dose of antioxidants via diet can work well to fend off free radicals. So enjoy the strong dose of antioxidants that your elderberry tea provides.[ref]Antioxidants: Beyond the Hype. Harvard T.H Chan School of Public Health.[/ref] [ref]Netzel, M., G. Strass, M. Herbst, H. Dietrich, R. Bitsch, I. Bitsch, and T. Frank. “The excretion and biological antioxidant activity of elderberry antioxidants in healthy humans.” Food Research International 38, no. 8-9 (2005): 905-910.[/ref]
2. Bolsters Your Immune System And Fights Viruses
Both the flowers and elderberries have strong antiviral properties. The berries, in particular, have been seen to be effective against ten strains of influenza virus, apart from HIV and herpes simplex viruses.[ref]ELDERBERRY/ ELDERFLOWER FACT SHEET. NEW ZEALAND HERB FEDERATION.[/ref]
We may be constantly exposed to dangerous pathogens but our immune system is, thankfully, always standing guard, protecting us from infections and diseases. If you want to give your immune system a helping hand, think elderberries. A cuppa may be just what the doctor ordered to strengthen this defense system.
Elderberries are not only a rich source of phytochemicals such as carotenoids, phytosterols, and polyphenols, they also offer up other nutrients like vitamins A, B1, B2, B6, B9, C, and E, trace elements like copper, zinc, and iron, and minerals such as potassium, calcium and magnesium. Together, these nutrients can boost your overall health.[ref]Tiralongo, Evelin, Shirley S. Wee, and Rodney A. Lea. “Elderberry supplementation reduces cold duration and symptoms in air-travellers: A randomized, double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial.” Nutrients 8, no. 4 (2016): 182.[/ref]
It is well known that beneficial bacteria present in our gut such as Lactobacillus acidophilus support the immune system and stimulate the production of a signaling protein called interferon (IFN)-β. Elderberry fruit extracts have been found to enhance this process in lab studies. This, in turn, has a protective effect on the body, helping fight viral attacks on the body and enhancing your immunity. So to shore up your natural defenses against disease, sip on some elderberry tea.[ref] Frøkiær, Hanne, Louise Henningsen, Stine Broeng Metzdorff, Gudrun Weiss, Marc Roller, John Flanagan, Emilie Fromentin, and Alvin Ibarra. “Astragalus root and elderberry fruit extracts enhance the IFN-β stimulatory effects of Lactobacillus acidophilus in murine-derived dendritic cells.” PloS one 7, no. 10 (2012): e47878.[/ref]
3. Fights Respiratory Illnesses Like Cold And Flu
Echinacea is another herb with immune-boosting properties that can tackle cold and flu. You could combine elderberries with this herb to make a potent healing tea.[ref]Echinacea. The University of Michigan.[/ref]
A sore, painful throat, constant sneezing, and a runny nose – the common cold may be comparatively harmless but its symptoms can sure wear you thin. If a cold is something you’ve come to dread, a cup of elderberry tea may be just what you need to fight this common scourge.
Air travelers often bear the brunt of colds and other respiratory illnesses because of cabin climate conditions, fatigue, and lowered immunity from travel. But one study that looked at overseas air travelers found that elderberry fruit extract helped protect them against respiratory symptoms. People who took it – starting 10 days before they the trip and continuing to have them till 4–5 days after – experienced a reduction in the duration as well as the severity of cold if they did get one. The researchers concluded that the antioxidant property of elderberries might be responsible for this beneficial impact.[ref]Tiralongo, Evelin, Shirley S. Wee, and Rodney A. Lea. “Elderberry supplementation reduces cold duration and symptoms in air-travelers: A randomized, double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial.” Nutrients 8, no. 4 (2016): 182.[/ref] If you feel a cold coming, brew yourself a cuppa and have it diligently every day till you weather it.
Elderberries are also used traditionally to break a fever and helps you sweat it out. If you have a fever coupled with a cold, a cup of elderberry tea would be a good choice.[ref]Elderberry. The University of Michigan.[/ref]
The flu is another fairly common respiratory illness that affects millions in the United States each year. Elderberry has traditionally been used to treat flu for ages. Scientific research suggests that elderberry can act against the influenza virus. In fact, one study found that people who took elderberry syrup experienced relief from flu symptoms 4 days earlier than those who took a placebo. They also used less medication to deal with it.[ref]Zakay-Rones, Z., E. Thom, T. Wollan, and J. Wadstein. “Randomized study of the efficacy and safety of oral elderberry extract in the treatment of influenza A and B virus infections.” Journal of International Medical Research 32, no. 2 (2004): 132-140.[/ref]
4. Eases Aches And Pains
Animal studies show that elderberry has a reasonable analgesic effect, so if aches, pains, or muscle soreness is making you miserable, having a cup of elderberry tea may be a good idea. It has even been suggested as a supplementary painkiller for medical conditions such as sciatica, migraine, or neuralgic pain.[ref]Młynarczyk, Karolina, Dorota Walkowiak-Tomczak, and Grzegorz P. Łysiak. “Bioactive properties of Sambucus nigra L. as a functional ingredient for food and pharmaceutical industry.” Journal of Functional Foods 40 (2018): 377-390.[/ref] A polyphenol compound known as chlorogenic acid present in elderberries has anti-inflammatory properties and has been found to reduce pain in animal studies.[ref]Mudge, Elizabeth, Wendy L. Applequist, Jamie Finley, Patience Lister, Andrew K. Townesmith, Karen M. Walker, and Paula N. Brown. “Variation of select flavonols and chlorogenic acid content of elderberry collected throughout the Eastern United States.” Journal of Food Composition and Analysis 47 (2016): 52-59.[ref] [ref]Dos Santos, Michel David, Maria Camila Almeida, Norberto Peporine Lopes, and Glória Emília Petto De Souza. “Evaluation of the anti-inflammatory, analgesic and antipyretic activities of the natural polyphenol chlorogenic acid.” Biological and Pharmaceutical Bulletin 29, no. 11 (2006): 2236-2240.[/ref]
5. Helps Manage Your Blood Sugar Levels
Unmanaged diabetes can lead to serious conditions such as nerve damage, heart disease, kidney disease, and eye problems. If you have been on the lookout for alternative complementary remedies for controlling diabetes, elderberry tea is worth a shot.
Normally, the hormone insulin helps move glucose from your bloodstream into your cells where it is converted into energy. But in people with insulin resistance, liver, fat, and muscle cells don’t respond as they should to insulin and therefore are unable to absorb glucose easily from the blood. This can eventually lead to type 2 diabetes.[ref]Insulin Resistance. U.S. National Library of Medicine.[/ref] Animal studies have found that elderberry extracts can not only lower fasting blood glucose but also fight insulin resistance. A flavonol known as quercetin 3-rutinoside present in elderberries may at least be partly responsible for this beneficial effect.[ref]Salvador, Ângelo C., Ewelina Król, Virgínia C. Lemos, Sónia AO Santos, Fernanda PMS Bento, Carina P. Costa, Adelaide Almeida et al. “Effect of elderberry (Sambucus nigra L.) extract supplementation in STZ-induced diabetic rats fed with a high-fat diet.” International journal of molecular sciences 18, no. 1 (2016): 13.[/ref]
6. Is Good For Your Heart
A cup of elderberry tea might do your heart a whole lot of good by having a beneficial effect on your cholesterol levels. Cholesterol, on the whole, has managed to get quite a bad rap where heart health is concerned. But while artery-clogging LDL cholesterol may deserve some of this, HDL cholesterol carries cholesterol from your cells to your liver from where it is removed from your body. This “good” cholesterol is associated with a lower risk for stroke and heart disease. However, chronic inflammation can impair the functioning of HDL cholesterol. But animal studies show that antioxidant and anti-inflammatory elderberry fruit extracts can counter HDL dysfunction linked to chronic inflammation and reduce the progression of atherosclerosis.[ref]LDL and HDL Cholesterol: “Bad” and “Good” Cholesterol. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.[/ref] [ref]Farrell, Nicholas, Gregory Norris, Sang Gil Lee, Ock K. Chun, and Christopher N. Blesso. “Anthocyanin-rich black elderberry extract improves markers of HDL function and reduces aortic cholesterol in hyperlipidemic mice.” Food & function 6, no. 4 (2015): 1278-1287.[/ref]
7. May Relieve Constipation
You may feel uncomfortable, bloated, and sluggish if you have constipation. But elderberries and elderflowers are known to have a laxative effect and have traditionally been used to remedy constipation. Having a cup of elderberry tea may be able to improve bowel function and ease constipation.[ref]Charlebois, Denis, Patrick L. Byers, Chad E. Finn, and Andrew L. Thomas. “4 Elderberry: Botany, Horticulture, Potential.” Horticultural reviews 37 (2010): 213.[/ref]
8. Helps Ease Depression
Depression can rob your life of joy and leave you feeling empty, hopeless, and tired. You may also experience physical symptoms like stomach upsets, headaches, cramps, and aches and pains if you have this condition. And unfortunately, it’s a common problem that more than 19 million adults and teens in the United States grapple with. Along with conventional treatments such as talk therapy and medicines, elderberry tea may also be able to help.[ref]Depression. National Institutes of Health.[/ref] One animal study observed that elderberry fruit extract worked as a natural antidepressant and, in fact, showed better activity than a drug used to treat depression. It is thought that flavonoids and other polyphenols present in elderberry might account for this activity.[ref]Mahmoudi, M., M. A. Ebrahimzadeh, A. Dooshan, A. Arimi, N. Ghasemi, and F. Fathiazad. “Antidepressant activities of Sambucus ebulus and Sambucus nigra.” European review for medical and pharmacological sciences 18, no. 22 (2014): 3350-3353.[/ref] Do speak to your doctor to see if this can be a helpful adjuvant treatment for depression.
9. Helps Fight Cancer
Yes, elderberries even have potential to fight cancer. According to lab studies, extracts of elderberries show bioactivity that can help inhibit both the initiation and growth of cancer. Anthocyanins present in the berry have strong antioxidant properties and may, therefore, play a prominent role in its anticancer properties but other beneficial compounds may contribute to it too.[ref]Thole, Julie M., Tristan F. Burns Kraft, Lilly Ann Sueiro, Young-Hwa Kang, Joell J. Gills, Muriel Cuendet, John M. Pezzuto, David S. Seigler, and Mary Ann Lila. “A comparative evaluation of the anticancer properties of European and American elderberry fruits.” Journal of medicinal food 9, no. 4 (2006): 498-504.[/ref]
Whip Up A Cup Of Elderberry Tea
Remember uncooked and unripe elderberries, as well as elderberry roots, stems, and leaves, contain toxins called cyanogenic glycosides that could cause reactions like diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting. So use only the ripe berries and flowers to make your tea, preferably sticking to the dried version. Make sure the tea is boiled properly as well.[ref]How to pick and cook elderberries. British Broadcasting Corporation.[/ref] [ref]Młynarczyk, Karolina, Dorota Walkowiak-Tomczak, and Grzegorz P. Łysiak. “Bioactive properties of Sambucus nigra L. as a functional ingredient for food and pharmaceutical industry.” Journal of Functional Foods 40 (2018): 377-390.[/ref]
You can make elderberry tea with the dried flowers or berries. To make a cup of tea, add a couple of tablespoons of dried elderberries to about 16 ounces of water and bring it to the boil. Then let it simmer for around 15 minutes. If you are using elderflowers, steep a couple of tablespoons of dried flowers in 16 ounces of boiling water for 15 minutes, strain, and use. While both elderberries and elderflowers can be used, some experts suggest the antioxidant potential of the berries may be slightly higher than the flowers.
You can have elderberry tea up to three times a day.[ref]Elderberry. The University of Michigan.[/ref] Add a pinch of cinnamon or turmeric to your tea to boost its flavor as well as beneficial properties. A dash of honey works well too.