Elderberries – Properties and Medicinal uses


Elderberries are the fruits of flowering plants in the genus Sambucus. They are used medicinally in the treatment of flu, back pain, constipation, and also boosting the immune system. Traditionally, folk healers have used its wine for several centuries in the treatment of rheumatism and pain.

Elderberries are found in the temperate to subtropical regions of the world. They are more common in the Northern Hemisphere, with Sambucus nigra being the dominant specie in Europe and North America.

It is important to note that uncooked berries and other parts from the genus Sambucus are poisonous, as they can contain cyanidin glucosides. These cyanidin glucosides when accumulated in the body may produce a number of illness. This is the reason why elderberries must be cooked before consumption.


Properties of raw Elderberries per 100 g (USDA)
  • Water – 79.80 g
  • Carbohydrates – 18.4 g
  • Dietary fiber – 7 g
  • Fat – 0.5 g
  • Protein – 0.66 g
  • Vitamin C – 36 mg
  • Vitamin B6 – 0.23 mg
  • Iron – 1.6 mg

Raw elderberries are contain water in about 80% of their total content. Contain significant amount of carbohydrates, and little amounts of protein and fat. Elderberries are a rich source of vitamin C, with 100 g providing up to 43% of the daily recommended intake for this vitamin. They also contain vitamin B6 and iron in significant quantities.

Medicinal uses of elderberries:
  1. Controls diabetes
  2. Fights respiratory tract infections
  3. Aids in weight loss
  4. Prevents cardiovascular diseases’
  5. Fights constipation
  6. Important in skin care
  7. Fights cancer
  8. Improves bone health
  • Controls diabetes

There are many reports on how elderberries are able to regulate insulin and blood sugar levels. A particular research carried out not long ago (2017) has reported how the extract from this fruits can be used as co-adjuvants in the management of diabetes (1). The research also showed how extracts of elderberries can help attenuate insulin resistance.

Professional bodies have predicted that diabetes will affect over 300 million people by the year 2030. To escape being one of those affected, then your diet will play a major role. Consumption of foods such as elderberries can help greatly in avoiding this dangerous disease.

  • Fights respiratory tract infections

This is one of the most popular and oldest medicinal use of this wonderful fruit. Elderberries are effective in clearing up a sore throat, and fighting cold and cough. Their expectorant effect can help clear out mucus from your airways.

A research carried out on fellow humans showed how supplementation with elderberries extract was able to reduce cold duration and symptoms in air-travelers (2).

If you are battling with an incessant cough and cold, elderberries might do wonders for you. It can relieve you of these conditions in no time. This use has been from our fore fathers, and has been validated by scientific researches.

  • Aid in weight loss

Elderberries have a low calorie content. They are also rich in fiber which can help keep you full, up and running throughout the day. The satiating effect and low calorie content of this fruit is just want someone who needs to lose weight needs. It can help greatly in one’s weight loss adventure.

  • Prevents cardiovascular diseases

The high fiber content of elderberries can help eliminate excess cholesterol from our bodies. Excess cholesterol is very bad to the cardiovascular system, and possess a threat to a persons life. When cholesterol is in excess in the body, some of it clumps in the arteries, and obstructs the flow of blood to vital organs such as the heart and the brain. This is where conditions such as heart attack and stroke come in.

By consuming elderberries, not only do you lower your risk of cardiovascular conditions, but you also increase your body’s ability to fight several diseases.

  • Fights constipation

The high fiber content of elderberries can help prevent constipation. Fiber adds bulk to your stool, and accelerates its passage through your gut. It can also help reduce flatulence, increase nutrient absorption, and improve digestion of food materials.

Just as most fruits and vegetables, elderberries can help you achieve an efficient digestion after food consumption without that constipated feeling and excess gas.

  • Important in skin care

The antioxidant activity of elderberries along with their vitamin A content makes them good for skin care. They can help prevent wrinkles, and improve the glow of the skin. Their ability to fight free radicals in your body helps keep your skin in a glowing condition.

  • Fights cancer

Thanks to elderberry’s richness in antioxidants. Vitamin C alone is a powerful antioxidant that can fight off free radicals in our body. These free radicals if left untreated, are capable of causing cancerous growths. Thole JM and his colleagues in 2006 carried out a research on the anticancer properties of elderberries. They found it to possess a strong chemo-preventive effect in the process of carcinogenesis (formation of cancer).

  • Improves bone health

Although the calcium content of elderberries is not that high, its antioxidant capacity and essential mineral content can go a long way in helping you achieve stronger and healthier bones. Also, antioxidant rich-foods like elderberries fights inflammation, thus, reduces the chances of joint diseases.

Some word of caution

It is important to note that not all elderberry species are edible, as some can be very poisonous. Try as much as possible to get your elderberries from a verified store, and avoid picking randomly from the wild. Also, it as well very important you cook the berries before consumption, as it contain some poisonous elements like cyanides.

By Abbati

Abbati studied Biological sciences at Ahmadu Bello Univeristy, Zaria. He loves learning about the medicinal properties of foods, and the need to explore them!

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