Elderberry is revered is revered in the medical world because of the astonishing medicinal benefits it has. In the olden times, Native Americans use elderberry to fight off infection, Egyptians use it as a skincare product, and Europeans use it for many medicinal reasons. Nowadays, the elderberry acts as a supplement to treat cold and flu. However, some parts of the elderberry plant have its drawbacks. The bark and leaves of the elderberry plant are quite poisonous and if ingested, might cause digestion problems. This article aims to tackle both the risks and benefits that you can get from the elderberry plant.
Elderberry comes from a variety of the Sambucus tree. The Sambucus tree belongs to the flowering plant of the Adoxaceae family. The most common variety of the Sambucus tree is Sambucus nigra which is also known as the elderberry plant (black elder). This known variety of the Sambucus nigra originated in Europe but has long since grown in different parts of the world.
This plant goes as high as 9 meters and is adorned with the beautiful, cream-colored flowers which are called the elderflowers. Berries of the elderberry can be found in bunches and are colored black or blue. They are quite tart and most of the time needs to be cooked if locales decide to eat it.
The other known varieties are American elder, dwarf elder, blue elderberry, danewort, red-fruited elder, and antelope brush. Some of these varieties are also used in medicinal and culinary purposes. In the olden times, the flowers and leaves of the elderberry tree are used to treat inflammation and swelling. It is also used to trigger urine production and sweating. The bark of the elderberry tree is used as a laxative, diuretic, and to trigger vomiting.
As an edible entity, the berries of the elderberry tree can be made into jams, pie, chutney, and even wine. You can also infuse this on tea to add a flavor to your favorite hot tea. Sometimes, berries can also be tossed into salads for color and flavor.
Benefits of the Elderberry Tree
We had already established the many benefits the elderberry tree can give., not only is it nutritious and medicinal, its berries are also delicious.
1. High In Nutrients
Elderberries are packed with antioxidants and is a low-calorie food. It contains vitamin C in which you can get up to 60% of the daily recommended intake if you consume a 100 grams of elderberries in a day. It also contains a high content of dietary fiber. You can cover a quarter of your daily recommended intake of fiber in every 100 grams of elderberries.
It also gives you a powerful antioxidant like phenolic acids, flavonols quercetin, kaempferol, anthocyanins (gives the purplish characteristic of the elderberries), and isorhamnetin to fight off the oxidative stress of the body. Servings may vary in nutrition due to the variety of plant, ripeness, climate, and environment.
2. Supplement to Cold and Flu Treatment
Elderberry extracts can reduce the duration and viciousness of influenza.
Commercially, elderberries are made into many forms to treat colds. They come in liquids, capsules, lozenges, and gummies.
3. Serves as an Antioxidant for Our Body
Oxidative stress is internally present in our body and is triggered by normal metabolism and might lead to cancer and diabetes. Antioxidants counteract this vicious effect. Parts of the elderberry tree are great sources of antioxidants. However, processes that are involved in making the parts edible, might diminish the presence of the antioxidant in the elderberry tree. Thus, if elderberry is processed as syrups, juices, teas, and jam, it might not be that potent to produce antioxidant.
4. Good for Heart Health
The elderberry tree and its parts may have positive effects on the heart and blood vessels. Medical journals tell us that the elderberry extract reduces the fat level in the blood and eventually decreases the cholesterol level.
In addition to that, elderberry extract lowers the uric acid level in the blood. Increase in the uric level leads to heart ailments and increased blood pressure.
5. Helps Fight Cancer
European and American elderberry plants have been discovered to contain properties that inhibit cancer cell growth.
6. Fights Harmful Bacteria
Elderberry properties are found to inhibit the growth of bad bacteria (Helicobacter pylori). Thus, improving the symptoms of sinusitis and bronchitis.
7. Immune System Support
In a study where rats were the subject for experiment, elderberry polyphenols trigger the production of the white blood cells.
8. UV Radiation Protection
Skin companies sometimes infuse an elderberry extract to their sunscreen products as this increases the SPF up to 9.88.
9. Increases the Urge to Urinate
In studies where lab rats are the subject of an experiment, elderberry extracts trigger the frequency of urination and salt excretion.
Risks of Elderberry Plant
Like any other plant, if it has potential health benefits, it may also have bad side effects.
1. Stomach Problems
Parts of the elderberry tree contains a lectin substance that might cause stomach problems if too much of it is eaten.
2. Catalyst For Cyanide Production
The elderberry tree contains cyanogenic glycosides, to which if infused in a particular substance, might cause the production of cyanide. Cyanide is a toxic substance that if left untreated, kills a human being. Commercially produced elderberry product do not contain cyanide because it is processed well and refined.
3. Nausea, Vomiting, Weakness, Dizziness, Numbness, and Stupor
There are reports of people experiencing the symptoms above after drinking from an elderberry variety, Mexicana. This might possibly come from a property of the plant that is not refined or process well. To avoid this, please cook your berries well. Do not cook or juice the elderberry branches, bark or leaves, they are generally not edible.
Personally select your elderberry plant and make sure that is it only European or American to avoid other types of elderberry that might have toxic properties.