Covid-19 has been a wake-up call. Now, more than ever, we need to know the best ways to keep ourselves healthy. As we wait with bated breath for scientists to create a viable immunization against this latest biological threat, it is becoming more and more common for people to seek out and use traditional remedies that have proven effective for centuries.
Among some of the most powerful (not to mention tasty!) remedies is the humble Elderberry.
There are recipes for elderberry-based medications dating as far back as Ancient Egypt where some Ancient Egyptians even had the tincture buried with them. Historians, however, generally trace the tradition of the elderberry’s healing power back to Hippocrates, the ancient Greek known as the “father of medicine,” who described this plant as his “medicine chest” for the wide variety of ailments it seemed to cure.
There are several species of Elderberry but the most commonly used for medicinal purposes is Sambucus nigra, also known as the European elderberry or black elder. Both the Flowers and the Berries can be used medicinally, however, the berries have a far higher nutrient content and is far richer in antioxidants. Below is a breakdown of the top five components of the Elderberry.
A good source of flavonols: Elderberry contains the antioxidant flavonols quercetin, kaempferol, and isorhamnetin. The flowers contain up to 10 times more flavonols than the berries (4).
The antioxidants found in Elderberries work to keep the immune system strong and resilient. Dr Gerhard Rechkemmer is the President of Germany’s Federal Research Institute for Nutrition and Food. His research has shown that the anthocyanins in elderberries boost the production of cytokines – proteins that act as messengers within the immune system – thereby enhancing the body’s immune response.
It is also thought to have antiviral properties. In order to replicate itself a virus needs to attach itself to a live cell and deposit its genetic material inside. To do that the virus is covered in “spikes” that have an enzyme that allows it to puncture the cell wall. Elderberries have high concentrations of bioflavonoids which appear to inhibit the action of this enzyme, thus deactivating viruses and rendering them unable to pierce the cell wall and replicate.
In addition to its immune-boosting abilities, Elderberry also has the ability to bring relief to cold/flu symptoms. The Elderflower is an "anti-catarrhal" herb, meaning it is extremely effective for runny noses and congestion. Anti-catarrhal herbs prevent excess mucous formation and aid in removing mucous and reducing inflammation in the body.
The Elderberry is truly an amazing plant, but like all medicines, it needs to be used appropriately. Some things to keep in mind when using elderberries:
· Unripe or uncooked berries or flowers from the plant can cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
· Avoid taking Elderberries in large amounts.
· If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, you shouldn’t take it.
· Other parts of the elder tree, including the branches, twigs, leaves, roots, and seeds, are toxic. They contain a type of cyanide called glycoside.
· People with immune problems might have reactions to elderberry.
· If you get a rash or have trouble breathing after you have some, you might be allergic to it.
· Because it’s a diuretic, be careful when you take it if you’re on medicines that make you pee more
Using this miraculous plant in the correct amounts can help prevent and shorten illness so the next time we get a worldwide pandemic, you know exactly what to stock up on after toilet paper!