Commonly known as Black Elderberry, European Elderberry, European Elder
Parts used: Berries and flowers. Historically, all parts of the plant have been used at some stage or another.
Plant medicine used in Ayurveda, Traditional Chinese Medicine and Western Botanical Practice.
The Elderberry has been used for its health benefits for centuries. There is evidence that the Elderberry may have been cultivated by prehistoric man, and there are recipes for Elderberry- based medicines in the records dating as far back as Ancient Egypt, where some ancient Egyptians have been found with with the tincture buried with them. Hippocrates, the ancient Greek known as 'the father of medicine' described this plant as his 'medicine chest' for the wide variety of ailments and conditions it seemed to cure.
So, it must work, right?!
But how? What makes it so special?
Elders contain several hundred identified compounds including high levels of phosphorus, vitamins A, B6 and C and most of the amino acids. They are also very high in polyphenols and anthocyanins. Polyphenols are a category of chemicals that occur naturally in plants. They are micro-nutrients with antioxidant properties that play an important role in preventing the progression of diseases such as diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular disease, etc. Anthocyanins are water-soluble vacuolar pigments that are responsible for the red, blue, purple or black colouring of fruit/ plants. These have antioxidant properties and are used to treat a number of conditions including colds/ flu, blood pressure, cancer, cardiovascular complaints, cognitive function and many more. Both these antioxidants work to keep the immune system strong and resilient.
The plant is also high in compounds with a wide range of antiviral activity. The antiviral agents in the berries are highly potent where they are thought to be able to 'deactivate' viruses.
Even with this very watered-down, 'in a nutshell' information, we can already see the value in this amazing plant with it's beautiful, plump, glossy purple berries!
The Elder flavonoids have a strong affinity for influenza viruses working some what like a magnet and iron filings. The action of this is similar to the 'shot' of Tamiflu that we are familiar with from our Doctor when we actually have the flu.
The compounds in Elder are particularly active against enveloped viruses such as the influenza viruses, herpes viruses, pox viruses (shingles and chicken), some hepatitis viruses, HIV, plus many more. Research has been conducted with various parts of the plant against many of these viruses and have been found to be active against them. It appears as if the plant may in fact be a broad-spectrum anti-viral for all enveloped viruses. A randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial was conducted on Air Travellers. The outcomes and data from that trial suggested that Elderberry supplementation suggested a significant reduction of cold duration and severity in air travellers. This is just one example of research that has been conducted on the benefits of the humble Elderberry plant.
The Elder Flowers are not to be forgotten either! They are packed with bio-flavonoids that help to boost the immune system. Research has also been conducted on the flowers that has shown the flowers are also effective in killing common pathogens. The flowers are anti-catarrhal 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.
Elderberries and elder flowers are also very valuable in supporting someone with allergies, with its anti-inflammatory and immunostimulating properties.
Really, I could write about the amazing Elderberry plant all day... pages and pages! It is one of the most researched plants in regards to its use in the common cold and flu, but has been shown to be valuable in so many more conditions. It is one of my favourite herbs and I have been using it powers in my clinic to support the healing and well-being of the people that I see. Inner Peace utilises Elderberry in tincture form, dried tea blends and we create and make our own Elderberry Syrup.
And a plant that has been used for thousands of years for it healing properties...well that's saying something, hey?!
Herbal Antivirals (Stephen Harrod Buhner, 2013)