In many parts of the world, autumn means that elderberries are in season. It makes sense that the peak season for the elderberry is during cold and flu season, as they do wonders to naturally boost immunity. There are several species of elder, but Sambucus nigra, or European elder is the one most commonly used for medicinal purposes.
The tree is common throughout Europe, North America and Asia and was once regarded as a complete medicine chest. And while all of the parts have medicinal properties, today it is the fruits and flowers that are most commonly consumed. As the immune boosting benefits of elderberries are becoming more widely known, they are making a resurgence of sorts.
Elderberries contain concentrated amounts of vitamin C and beta carotene, flavonoids, fruit acids, and antioxidant polyphenols, flavonoids and anthocyanins. In some cases, levels of these nutrients are comparable to or exceed the values found in blueberries and strawberries. The anthocyanins in elderberries have been shown to enhance immune function by increasing the production of cytokines, proteins that act as messengers in the immune system to help regulate immune response.
During cold and flu season, elderberries become particularly important. Because they contain potent antiviral compounds as well as high amounts of bioflavonoids, elderberry extract can help fight cold and flu symptoms. The extract is most often taken as syrup and research has shown it to be extremely effective.
In fact, when tested in the lab, elderberry syrup worked better than echinacea to stimulate a healthy immune response by increasing anti-inflammatory reactions. Not only that, but elderberry is effective in shortening the duration and lessening the symptoms of the common cold and influenza A and B. A double-blind placebo-controlled trial conducted during a flu outbreak found that within two days, there were significant improvements in symptoms, including fever, among 93.3% of those taking elderberry syrup. Complete recovery was achieved within 2-3 days in nearly 90% of the elderberry group compared to 6 days in the placebo group.
So, this season, consider taking an elderberry supplement to increase your immunity and lessen the miserable symptoms of common colds and flu. It is important to note that elderberry cannot and should not replace the flu vaccine.