Firstly, what are the health benefits associated with elderberries?
“Elderberries can be found growing wild in our hedgerows and they have been used for centuries as a home remedy as they are believed to have laxative, anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving effects. However, elderberries are perhaps best known for their anti-viral, immune-supporting properties. In addition to gut bacteria-boosting polyphenols, which also act as antioxidants, they are very high in vitamin C, and in clinical trials have demonstrated protective effects against the severity and duration of cold and flu viruses.” – Kerry Beeson, nutritional therapist at Optibac
“In particular, black elderberries have been used as a traditional, natural remedy to fight colds in many parts of the world due to their immune-supporting and antioxidant properties. The high antioxidant benefits of black elderberries are attributed to their high flavonoid levels, specifically anthocyanins, that are responsible for the dark colour of the berry. Often taken as a supplement, the inherent properties of the black elderberry have been shown to reduce viral infections and have immune health benefits too.” – Andrew Petrou, osteopath & dietary counsellor at Sambucol
How do they affect the immune system?
“Elderberries are thought to activate the immune system by increasing inflammatory cytokine production, part of the immune response against germs and viruses. Immune health has been a constant on everyone’s mind during the pandemic, one of the main questions being how to best support it. The first thing to note is that 70% of your immune cells (and thus system) reside in your gut, so one of the best ways to support immunity is to optimise your gut health. Gut bacteria works with the immune system to keep it functioning properly, so it’s really important to keep your friendly bacteria populations well supported. Research has indicated that probiotic bacteria enjoy feasting on micronutrients called polyphenols as well as prebiotics. Like other prebiotics, most polyphenols arrive in the colon undigested, where they are metabolised by probiotic bacteria and support the growth of the good bacteria. Polyphenols are found in many plant-based foods and beverages, such as onions, tea, coffee, red wine, cocoa, grains and beans. Fruit is also a rich source of these antioxidant micronutrients, especially red fruits such as strawberries and raspberries. Cue elderberries. They’re less well-known but they’re a powerhouse when it comes to boosting immune health.” – Kerry
“Elderberries are full of antioxidants which are a great way of boosting overall immunity when consumed regularly. These antioxidants include vitamin C, vitamin A and flavonoids which work wonders when it comes to helping protect your cells against the free radicals that contribute to many illnesses and diseases. Just 100g of elderberries contains 20% of your recommended daily intake of vitamin A. That’s a higher proportion than any other fruit. As we know, vitamins and minerals, especially those with antioxidant properties, are a fantastic way to boost the immune system. However, it’s important to consume them regularly if you want to feel the effects.” – Mina Khan, nutrition expert
How do they work in cold and flu?
“Clinical studies have shown that Sambucol, which contains black elderberries, is effective in helping reduce and restrict the viral spread resulting in a shortened duration and less severe symptoms of infections such as cold and flu. Studies have also shown that they stimulate cytokines – one of the many, key components of the immune system. They are small, secreted proteins released by cells to send messages to other cells and are important for healthy immune system function. When a harmful invader enters the body, immune cells, cytokines and organs respond by working together. The first immune cell to notice the invader sends out messages (cytokines) to notify the body’s natural defences such as helping to stop the spread of viruses.” – Andrew
“Elderberries’ antioxidant properties have been found to prevent the growth of bacteria in various clinical trials, with some studies also finding that the consumption of elderberries correlated with improved symptoms of sinusitis and bronchitis, for example. Given that one of Covid’s primary symptoms is a persistent cough, researchers are now looking into this as a potential treatment for the virus.” – Mina
Tell us more about the link between elderberries and Covid-19…
“Sambucol has been shown to be effective with supporting the immune system and helping patient recovery in the context of a wide range of influenza viruses. While the findings regarding protection against flu strains are preliminary and ongoing, it has prompted lab tests on Covid-19 which have shown promising results as an anti-viral against the disease, significant enough for a full-scale, independent and randomised control trial to be carried out by the NHS. While there is yet to be conclusive evidence, it’s certainly promising research.” – Andrew
“It’s important to note that research is still ongoing to determine the effect that elderberries can have on those with Covid and those wanting to prevent transmission of the virus. It’s too early to say for sure whether or not elderberries will prove beneficial, however you really do have nothing to lose if you want to include them into your diet – as long as you consume them in the correct way.” – Mina
So what is the best way to ingest them?
“Raw elderberries are actually poisonous to humans as they contain what we call cyanide-inducing glycoside which can build up in the body and cause you to become really ill. I’d definitely stay away from eating the fruit itself, but specially formulated supplements containing elderberries are safe to take. A really beneficial supplement that can help to reduce your risk of illness is Immunium, also known as the Immune System Formula. It contains a carefully formulated blend of Andrographis, selenium, vitamin D3 and BioPerine which are all 100% natural ingredients that have been clinically proven to improve overall immune function. A supplement like this would be far more effective and safer than simply trying to include elderberries alone in your diet.” – Mina
“If it’s for maximising the health benefits, I recommend a supplement format which has evidence-based clinical studies such as Sambucol to guarantee consistent, immune-supporting properties in every serving. If you want to experiment with healthy herbs or fruits in everyday cooking, then juicing, teas and jams are a great way to make use of the fruit.” – Andrew
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DISCLAIMER: Features published by SheerLuxe are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent any disease. Always seek the advice of your GP or another qualified healthcare provider for any questions you have regarding a medical condition, and before undertaking any diet, exercise or other health-related programme.