Here locally in North Carolina, I have come to adopt my new nickname of The Elderberry Lady. I love my new alias! It has been so fun getting to spread the word of holistic wellness through something as amazing as elderberry. But I get asked all the time what it is and what it does for you. So, I thought I would put this blog post together to help share all the amazing healing benefits of elderberry!
What is it?
During cold and flu season it seems like everyone talks about the benefits of elderberry. So, what is it? Elderberry is a flowering tree/shrub that produces black berries (do not eat these berries unless they have been dried, the drying process removes the toxins). There are 10 different species of elderberry plants but the two that are associated with all that healing goodness, are the European (Sambucus Nigra) and the American (Sambucus Canadensis). The European species has been documented as far back as Hippocrates when he referred to the tree as his “medicine chest.” (It is speculated that it was used prior to Hippocrates but there is no documented evidence.) The American version has also been noted amongst many indigenous people in North America to treat many ailments. Throughout Europe, prior to the rise of Christianity, the tree was part of pagan folklore and revered as magic. People would plant them outside their homes to spread good health. They also used the elder branches as part of burial ceremonies to bring the person good health in spirit. If you are interested in diving even further into the history, there is a whole article on this amazing healing plant’s history, click here.
How the immune system work
Before we dive into what amazing things elderberry can do, we first need to understand how the immune system works. This can get a little confusing with all the medical terminology, so bare with me! The immune system is made up of organs and different cells that line the body (70% of the immune system is in the intestinal lining.) and is split up into two different portions: innate (which we are born with) and acquired (developed after contact with pathogens). The innate immune system produces antibodies that help trigger an immune response to protect the body from an invader (antigen). This strengthens the response the next time you come into contact with the same pathogen. The B Lymphocytes or better known as white blood cells, make the antibodies that help fight the infections. Because the immune system is so large and spread out it uses a protein called cytokines in order to communicate. These cytokines are a group of proteins that act as chemical messengers that bond the antigen with an antibody, in order for the body to rid itself of the infection. When they are released, this tells the body to produce more cytokines in order to knockout the infection.
How elderberry works
The benefits of elderberry are pretty amazing! Elderberry is full of special proteins and bioflavonoids that can destroy viruses making it a potent antiviral. Sambucol, the protein found in the elderberry, has potent antioxidants that increase the production of white blood cells, which are needed to fight an infection. Elderberry also gives the immune system a nice boost by increasing the production of cytokines in the body (the protein needed to bind the antigen to the antibody in order for the body to kill the infection). So, what does all this mean for you? If you were to take elderberry daily as a preventative or at the onset of symptoms that you will shorten the length of your illness and decrease the severity of your symptoms. In a recent study, 60 people with flu like symptoms took 15 ml of elderberry 4 times per day until symptoms stopped. Their symptoms improved 4 days before the people who were given a placebo. (read more about the studyhere).
Benefits and uses
With elderberry being a proven antiviral, it is most beneficial when it comes to cold and flu viruses. However, it has also been proven to be helpful with bronchial and respiratory issues by loosening and expelling congestion from the lungs. Some other conditions that have seen improvement from taking elderberry daily are: shingles, hepatitis, HIV, asthma, Rheumatoid Arthritis, and heart conditions. It is important to note here, that if you do have a diagnosed autoimmune disease, to please speak with your doctor prior to starting an elderberry regimen.
There are so many different ways to enjoy the benefits of elderberry. Elderberry is most commonly ingested when made into a syrup with local honey. The raw local honey also has immune boosting properties which makes this a great way to boost your immune system-and kids love it! The amount needed as a preventative would be 1 tsp per day. Once symptoms start, increase the amount to 2 tsp 3 times per day until symptoms subside. You can also steep the dried berries and make an elderberry tea, or you can find elderberry tinctures.
Have you ever tried elderberry? What did you think about it? Did it work for you or would do you prefer something else for colds and flu? Let me know in the comments below! Curious about other natural ways to reduce stress and anxiety? check out my other blog post here.
All my love,
The Natural Mystic
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