"Where did the flu go?" has been a relatively common question since the covid-19 pandemic began. The truth is that the various anti-epidemic measures inevitably reduce the risk for all respiratory infections.
Nevertheless, well-known conditions such as the common cold and the flu still occur. In fact, most people catch the common cold 2-3 times a year on average, and this rate is even twice as high for children.
The best way to protect yourself from the flu or the common cold is to maintain good hand hygiene and stay healthy by getting adequate physical activity and eating nutritious foods.
Yet, if you want to take your immune health a step further, it may be pretty hard to dig through all the information out there on immunity boosters and find something that actually works.
One surprisingly effective immune support option is the ancient Elderberry, which Hippocrates (the father of medicine) referred to as his "medicine chest." Let’s take a closer look at black elderberries and the most effective ways to incorporate them into your daily routine.
What makes Elderberries so unique?
Elderberries are the fruit of the elder tree. These are a family of flowering plants, with the most notable one being the Black Elder tree (Sambucus nigra).
It reaches up to 30ft in height, and its flowers form clusters of tiny white- or cream-colored blossoms (1). These elderflowers eventually develop into the blue-black bunches of elderberry fruit.
The plant is also known as the European Elderberry since it originated in Europe and was later naturalized to America and other continents.
The history of the plant dates back 2400 years. It has been used locally or via ingestion for pain relief, swelling, inflammation, and infections throughout the centuries. It was also a diuretic, expectorant, laxative, and emetic.
- Traditionally, Elderberries are also used to prepare meals and wine. Only the elderflowers and the elderberries are suitable for consumption, as long as they are adequately prepared.
To this day, herbal medicine experts consider Elderberry to be one of the most potent healing plants in the world.
- The flowers and the berries are packed with antioxidants, including vitamin C and polyphenols, mostly anthocyanins, flavonols (such as quercetin), phenolic acids, proanthocyanidins, and terpenes (2).
The anthocyanins such as cyanidin are some of the most potent antioxidants known to science.
Laboratory studies show that cyanidin can effectively neutralize active radicals and reduce oxidative stress (3, 4). These effects also lead to a significant reduction in inflammation and enhance immune health.
- Apart from its antioxidative and anti-inflammatory properties, cyanidin is being studied for its ability to activate an enzyme called 5'AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) (5). AMPK can lower blood sugar levels in insulin-resistant and type 2 diabetics.
Anthocyanins also contribute to the specific blue-black color of the Elderberries.
Should I eat raw elderberries or take a supplement instead?
Elderberries have a specific tart taste, while elderflowers have a muscat flavor. You should avoid eating raw elderberries because they contain cyanogenic glycosides that produce cyanide when chewed and digested (6).
Cyanide is a poison to humans, and consuming raw elderberries can lead to symptoms of toxicity such as nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, and dyspepsia.
On the other hand, cooked elderberries, elderberry wine, and the commercial preparation of elderberries found in supplements are safe because the processing neutralizes the cyanide.
The elderflowers also contain small amounts of cyanogenic glycosides, so you can also consume them after proper preparation. The rest of the plant contains much higher levels, so don't consume them in any form due to a risk of cyanide poisoning.
Keep in mind that cooking may neutralize many of the antioxidants in Elderberries, especially the vitamin C content.
Taking a gummy supplement with black elderberry extract is the most potent option for providing your body with adequate amounts of vitamins and polyphenols to gain the health benefits quickly and deliciously.
Immune system facts
Unfortunately, these active radicals increase the oxidative stress in your body and may also damage your healthy cells and tissues.
Antioxidants help your body control inflammation and balance your immune system to minimize collateral damage while at the same time eliminating the pathogens that may be causing harm.
During an infection, your body's need for antioxidants increases. In addition, your body produces active radicals all the time as a part of metabolizing oxygen. These processes further reduce the antioxidant capacity of your body.
This can distort that balance between oxidation and antioxidants and lead to prolonged infections, severe symptoms, and chronic inflammation.
Increasing your intake of antioxidants and stimulating your endogenous antioxidant production may help your body minimize the damage and resolve the inflammation faster.
Can elderberry supplements really help?
Increasing antioxidant intake helps your body reduce collateral damage during infection and quickens your recovery from conditions like the common cold and flu.
Furthermore, laboratory studies report that black elderberry extract given to rats resulted in a significant increase in the levels of immune cells that help fight infections (11).
Research also suggests that black elderberry and elderflower extracts may have antiviral and antibacterial properties.
Several studies report synergistic effects between the plant extracts and antibiotics in treating bacterial infections(12). These findings have led to the approval of elderflower extracts for complementary therapy in bacterial sinusitis.
Yet, the most researched are the benefits of black Elderberry on viral infections such as the common cold and the flu.
Several in vitro studies reveal that the extract can block the binding and the entry of influenza (flu) virus into human cells and thus shorten the duration of a flu infection (13).
Even when controlling for vaccination status and comorbidities, black elderberry extract supplementation significantly decreased the duration of symptoms.
One of the trials reported symptom improvement in 2 to 4 days, while the control group took 7 to 8 days to improve (16).
While the patients who took the supplement had a similar risk of developing a cold, they experienced a shorter duration of illness and less severe symptoms.
Gummies with extra Vitamins
Black elderberry gummies are edibles that incorporate the extract into a delicious gummy. Nutririse Black Elderberry Gummies contain pectin, a healthy fiber type, and are perfect for vegans.
They also provide you with 100% of your daily recommended vitamin C dose and 68% of your daily zinc needs.
Zinc also benefits a healthy immune system and may help speed recovery from infections. That is especially true when it can directly dissolve in the mouth, such as when taken as a lozenge or a gummy.
For example, a meta-analysis of several studies found that taking zinc led to a 40% reduction in the duration of common cold symptoms (19).
So If you are looking for a simple and tasty way to get your immune system in better shape, look no further than Elderberry gummies. With added Vitamin C and Zinc, you can rest assured that you’re affording your entire family the immune support of one of the oldest and most trusted natural sources in a gummy so tasty, you’ll actually enjoy taking them.
Note: This article is for informational purposes only, and not intended for use as medical advice. Always consult your healthcare provider before starting any dietary supplement.