Sunday Herald Sun - Body and Soul - - HEALTH FOCUS -


El­der­ber­ries are a fruit that grow on cer­tain species of the Sam­bu­cus tree. For thou­sands of years, ev­ery part of the el­der­berry tree has been put to some form of medic­i­nal use. The flow­ers and leaves have been used to re­lieve pain, swelling or in­flam­ma­tion. The aged bark can be used as a lax­a­tive, di­uretic or to in­duce vom­it­ing. How­ever, it is the blue-black berry in par­tic­u­lar that has a long his­tory of medic­i­nal and culi­nary uses. In 400 BC, Hip­pocrates ap­par­ently called the elder tree his “medicine chest”.

El­der­ber­ries are a rich source of flavonoids, which are both an­tiox­i­dants and im­muno­log­ics, mean­ing they stim­u­late the im­mune sys­tem.


El­der­berry ex­tract has been tri­alled for ef­fec­tive­ness in re­liev­ing the symp­toms of in­fluenza, bron­chi­tis and bac­te­rial si­nusi­tis.

In a range of placebo-con­trolled, dou­ble­blind stud­ies, el­der­berry ex­tract has proven ef­fec­tive against a va­ri­ety of flu viruses. A study at Hadas­sah Uni­ver­sity Hos­pi­tal in Is­rael found that el­der­berry an­tho­cyanins boost the pro­duc­tion of cy­tokines, which in­crease the body’s im­mune func­tion. The study found that black el­der­berry ex­tract re­duced the du­ra­tion of flu symp­toms to three to four days and was ef­fec­tive against 10 strains of the flu virus.

A study pub­lished last year in the jour­nal Phy­to­chem­istry found that el­der­berry flavonoids pre­vented swine flu (the H1N1 strain), and, also in 2009, a study un­der­taken by Ret­ro­screen Vi­rol­ogy at the London Bio­science In­no­va­tion Cen­tre found that black el­der­berry ex­tract was at least 68.37 per cent ef­fec­tive against the virus.

El­der­berry juice was used to treat a flu epi­demic in Panama in 1995 and led to a re­duc­tion in sever­ity and a faster re­cov­ery for many cases. It was found that 93.3 per cent of the cases treated with black el­der­berry com­pound ex­pe­ri­enced a sig­nif­i­cant im­prove­ment in their symp­toms.

El­der­ber­ries are a nat­u­ral rem­edy for si­nus and up­per res­pi­ra­tory con­di­tions. They also strengthen the im­mune sys­tem and re­duce the sever­ity and du­ra­tion of colds and flu.

The juice of el­der­ber­ries has been shown to re­duce ex­ces­sive mu­cous se­cre­tion and some re­searchers be­lieve that el­der­ber­ries play a role in re­duc­ing the swelling of mu­cous mem­branes and im­prov­ing si­nus drainage.

El­der­ber­ries are a rich source of vi­ta­mins A, B and C, potas­sium and an­tiox­i­dants. Some re­search sug­gests they may be bet­ter than blue­ber­ries at fight­ing free rad­i­cals.


Too high a dose of el­der­ber­ries can re­sult in vom­it­ing, di­ar­rhoea or other stom­ach up­sets. Raw and un­ripe berries con­tain cyanide, so en­sure the el­der­ber­ries come from a trusted source and are only con­sumed in rec­om­mended dosage lev­els.

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