Elderberry supplements are an alternative medicine treatment for various health problems. Elderberry supplements could be helpful in some circumstances, but they're not suitable for everyone. Below, you can find out what elderberry supplements are, whether they work and how to tell if they're a safe option for you.
Elderberries, also known as sambucus nigra, are berries from the elder tree. This plant grows naturally in warmer parts of the United States, Asia, Europe and North Africa. The elder tree is not the same as the American elderberry plant native across many parts of North America, including the Ellisville area in Missouri.
Raw elderberries and other parts of the elderberry tree contain toxins that could cause illness if consumed in large enough quantities. Therefore, it's essential to cook elderberries thoroughly before consuming them. Elderberries have a rich, sweet flavor that works well in desserts like cobblers and crumbles.
Elderberries are sometimes used in traditional medicine to treat illnesses like colds and influenza. You can purchase elderberry supplements from health food stores as a syrup or in capsules or gummies.
Elderberry supplements are sometimes used to treat stress, reduce high cholesterol and boost heart health, but there's little research to show that they work for these purposes.
However, there's some evidence to suggest that elderberry supplements could help treat flu symptoms. An Israeli study conducted in 2019 found that taking an elderberry syrup called Sambucol improved flu symptoms within 2 days in 93.3% of participants. Meanwhile, 91.7% of the group that didn't receive elderberry syrup showed improvement within 6 days.
Another 2019 study by the University of Sydney also showed that elderberry supplements could help boost the body's immune response to the flu virus. It found that the supplements blocked some of the viral proteins required for the flu virus to infect cells and inhibited the virus's ability to replicate after infection. According to the academics who conducted the study, these benefits are thanks to the elderberry's high phytonutrient content, which also gives it its vivid purple color.
However, the limited evidence available means that it's probably not a good idea to rely on elderberry supplements alone to treat and prevent flu. While elderberry supplements could help reduce flu symptoms, seniors may wish to consider taking other preventative steps such as getting an annual flu vaccine. The health care team at the Autumn View Gardens assisted living community in Ellisville can advise seniors and their families about reducing the risk of viral infections and how to treat symptoms.
You may have seen elderberry supplements touted as a treatment for COVID-19. According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), there's no evidence to suggest that elderberry supplements can prevent or treat COVID-19 effectively.
Furthermore, the FDA has taken steps to prevent companies from marketing elderberry and other supplements as effective against COVID-19. Although there's probably little harm in taking elderberry supplements if you don't have any medical contraindications, they're no replacement for proven COVID-19 preventative measures and treatments.
Elderberry supplements aren't recommended for children under the age of 5. There's not enough evidence to determine whether it's safe to take elderberry supplements during pregnancy or breastfeeding. Research hasn't concluded whether elderberry supplements are suitable for long-term use for more than 12 weeks.
Elderberry supplements are usually safe for adults, including seniors. However, some medical conditions could make taking elderberry supplements unsafe. For example, elderberry supplements could worsen the symptoms of certain autoimmune diseases like lupus and rheumatoid arthritis because they stimulate the immune system. Therefore, they could also make certain immunosuppressant drugs less effective.
Generally, it's a good idea to ask your doctor or the health care team at the Autumn View Gardens community in Ellisville before you start taking elderberry supplements, especially if you have a preexisting health condition or take medication.
Elderberry supplements are widely available in stores and online. However, you could also consider making your own elderberry syrup. The following recipe is alcohol-free, but you could add a cup of brandy or vodka after the mixture has cooled to prolong its shelf-life.
Start by placing 2 cups of dried elderberries and 4 cups of cold water in a large pan, and bring the mixture to the boil. Once the mixture reaches a rolling boil, reduce to a medium-low heat and simmer for around 30 minutes. Then, turn the heat off and leave the berries to steep in the water for an additional hour.
Next, strain the mixture thoroughly through a muslin cloth to remove the berries and stir in a cup of honey, maple syrup, or agave nectar. Pour the mixture into a glass bottle and store it in the fridge.