elderberries

Health benefits of elderberries

As we drift into autumn, you may spot bunches of elderberries blooming in woodlands, hedgerows, and along the verges of our country roads. But before you start foraging, what wellness benefits do these wild berries have to offer?

Elderberries are the fruit of the elderberry shrub. They’re a common sight, but what you may not know is this purple-black berry has a long history of therapeutic applications. Over time, this humble wild berry has gained a reputation for performing various wondrous feats for wellness. Although some of these claims lack the backing of scientific research, it’s clear that these purple berries have a lot of nutritional value to offer.

Here we discuss some of the health benefits associated with elderberries.

Elderberry nutritional profile

  • Vitamin C. 100g of elderberries offers somewhere between 6mg and 35mg of this immune supporting vitamin. This could be more than half of your recommended daily intake in a single serving.1

  • Fibre. The high fibre content supports digestion by aiding the smooth movement of food through your gut.

  • Anthocyanins. The deep pigment of these berries suggests a high concentration of anthocyanins. These are powerful plant compounds that not only give the fruits they contain a more vivid hue, they also add an abundance of antioxidants.

  • Flavonols and plenolic acids. Another dose of antioxidants to keep free radicals in check and reduce the damage caused by oxidative stress.

A nutritional breakdown:2

Per 145g (raw)
Water 116g
Calories 105 (444KJ)
Carbohydrates 26.7g
Fat & fatty acids 0.7g
Protein 1.0g
Vitamin A 870IU
Vitamin C 52.2mg
Vitamin B6 0.3mg
Folate 8.7mcg
Calcium 55.1mg
Iron 2.3mg
Magnesium 7.3mg
Potassium 406mg

Elderberry health benefits

But how does all this goodness benefit your wellness? The results of small studies hint at some impressive elderberry health benefits. Hopefully in time this will be further proven from larger scale research.

Like other fruits, elderberries are bursting with vitamin C and fibre. This brings some of the traditional advantages associated with consuming your five-a-day. But there are some more standout elderberry health benefits too. These can be attributed to the potent power of anthocyanin and flavonols – two powerful plant compounds that deliver a rich serving of antioxidants.

They help reduce cold and flu symptoms

Elderberry syrup is an age-old home remedy used to relieve symptoms of the common cold and flu.3 But it's not all anecdotal. There’s some evidence to support claims that elderberries can reduce the severity and duration of cold and flu symptoms. A small study found flu sufferers taking an elderberry syrup experienced a reduction in symptoms in two to four days. While those not taking it took seven to eight days to start to feel better.4

They could contribute to the prevention of some chronic diseases5

Your body produces unstable molecules called free radicals. When these rogue molecules cause oxidative stress, they can lead to the problems linked with some chronic diseases. A rich antioxidant content suggests elderberries could prevent or slow damage to cells caused by free radicals. However, research on the antioxidant effects of elderberries in humans and animals is currently limited.

They may be good for heart health6

There’s some promising research to suggest elderberry extract could lower cholesterol levels, which can reduce the risk of heart disease. In addition, elderberries can also reduce the amount of uric acid in your blood. And as high levels of uric acid can contribute to high blood pressure, reducing it can have a positive effect on heart health.

So, can you eat elderberries?

The clusters of purple-black fruit of the elderberry shrub definitely offer an appealing alternative to more standard wild berries. But before you start munching on the fruits of your foraging, remember this – they must be cooked to destroy toxins present in the raw berries. Eating them uncooked could spur on an uncomfortable bout of sickness and diarrhoea.7 And over-consumption is also discouraged for similar tummy-unsettling reasons. So, when using elderberry in your own culinary creations, eat them ripe, cooked and in moderation.

Ways to eat elderberries

Elderberries have lots of culinary uses. From pies and crumbles, to jams and wines.

  • Make a batch of elderberry syrup to use as a cold-fighting cordial or dessert syrup
  • Or use up foraged berries in elderberry wine
  • Add it as a seasonal twist to your jams and chutneys
  • There are lots of elderberry supplement options too, such as gummies, lozenges, syrups and teas

Summary: Are elderberries good for you?

Elderberries are bursting with vitamins, fibre, and a range of antioxidants. Although more studies on people are needed to support all of the health claims, there’s no doubt this naturally purple-coloured berry could be a nutrient-rich addition to your diet.

Last updated: 7 September 2020

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