During the pandemic, you may have seen advertisements about the immune-boosting properties of a small, dark purple fruit known as elderberryElderberries have been marketed to treat colds and flu. Some advocates even claimed that they are helpful against COVID-19. You may also have heard that they can help with other conditions, such as diabetes, High blood pressure and tall cholesterol.
So what is the problem? Are elderberries really a miracle fruit that can give you superimmunity?
What are elderberries?
Elderberries are small purple berries that are used in jams, jellies, sauces, wines, and desserts.
However, they have traditionally been used as medicine and today are popular as a dietary supplement for colds and flu. Elderberry supplements are typically sold in the form of pills, syrup, gummies, and teas.
Are Elderberries Nutritious?
Elderberries are a great source of many nutrients, including:
- Anthocyanins, flavanols, and phenolic acids, which are compounds that fight disease and protect your body from damage.
- Fiber, which is necessary for intestinal and stomach health and to prevent disease.
- Potassium, which performs many necessary functions in the body.
- Vitamin A, which is important for vision, immunity, and growth.
- Vitamin C, which stimulates the immune system and is important for making proteins.
What does the research say?
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) believe that more research is needed on how useful elderberries are in fighting colds and flu.
A. Study 2018 found some evidence that elderberry supplements can help you recover more quickly from colds or the flu and also lessen the severity of symptoms. However, this study reviewed only a few research articles that were conducted on a small number of people. Most of the studies on elderberries have been done in test tubes or in animals.
There is also not enough evidence to support the use of elderberries to treat heart conditions, diabetes, or other health problems. And there is no evidence that they protect against COVID-19.
Are Elderberries Safe?
It is important to cook elderberries before eating them, because the berries and other parts of the elderberry plant contain cyanide and lectins, which are toxic when eaten raw. Toxic materials are destroyed when cooked, making them safe to eat.
Children and pregnant or nursing women should not eat elderberries at all, as it is not known how they can affect them.
Elderberry supplements can interfere with diabetes medications, laxatives, and diuretics, so you should not take elderberry supplements if you are taking any of these medications.
The bottom line
While research shows that elderberry supplements can be helpful in treating colds and flu, we still need more research.
If you want to take one, always check with your doctor first.
However, elderberries as a food are a great source of vitamins and minerals and a powerhouse of antioxidants. Always be sure to cook the berries first, but you can enjoy them sparingly in elderberry jam, gravy, or cake.