Looking for a supplement that seems like it can truly do it all? Enter elderberry, a plant native to Europe that has the potential to not just improve your heart health but also reduce inflammation and keep you from getting sick. (The last thing any of us want heading into these warmer months is a summer cold!) Here’s what you need to know about it.
What is elderberry?
Elderberry is a white or cream flowering plant that’s part of the Sambucus tree. It’s mostly found in Europe and has been used for medicinal purposes in the region for hundreds of years to treat everything from influenza to sciatica. While elderberry stems and leaves should never be eaten, the tart berries themselves — when ripe and cooked! — can have a positive impact on your health.
Current research shows that in addition to potentially preventing a cold or the flu, elderberry may also help lessen the severity of symptoms and shorten the amount of time that you feel them because it is so rich in vitamin C, antioxidants, and other nutrients that strengthen the immune system.
Additionally, these antioxidants, as well as a compound called anthocyanin, have anti-inflammatory properties that can lessen swelling and tenderness that often come from the body’s aging immune response.
What are its side effects?
The most common side effects that people experience are nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, especially if they eat the parts of the elderberry plant they shouldn’t, such as the bark or seeds, or if they consume uncooked or unripened berries. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should also avoid eating anything from an elderberry plant, as should people taking immunosuppressants.
How should you take it?
You can consume elderberries in a number of ways, whether that’s on their own or through an elderberry juice (Buy on Amazon, $24.99) or an oral supplement (Buy on Amazon, $11.99). For elderberry juice, research has shown that taking one tablespoon or 15 milliliters three to four times a day over the course of five days can be effective for shortening cold or flu symptoms. Oral supplements usually come in the range of 500 to 2,000 milligrams and may be taken for days or weeks at a time. You can also buy or make elderberry products like jams or beverages depending on your preferences that’ll often be sweeter in taste than the berries on their own, which can be a little bitter.
No matter what you end up doing, just make sure you talk to your doctor first before beginning a new regimen!