Nourish and Flourish: Flavors of the Season
American Black Elderberry
Sambucus nigra ssp. canadensis
Folk medicine has been around for millennia, exploiting first wild then cultivated plants to prevent or cure a myriad of illnesses. Black elder has been used for centuries in Europe, northern Africa, and some parts of Asia for such purposes as to keep the evil spirits away and to prevent or cure numerous ailments and health problems.
Early settlers brought some of this knowledge to America where a closely related plant, the American elder, could easily be found in the wild. Native Americans also have a tradition of using elderberry for its healing properties and particularly to treat fever and rheumatism. While some of the reported effects lack adequate scientific validation, there are an increasing number of studies supporting important medicinal or therapeutic properties associated with American and black elders.
However, a recent study by a group of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering researchers from the University of Sydney’s Faculty of Engineering and IT has determined exactly how a popular ancient remedy, the elderberry fruit, can help the fight against influenza. The study showed that compounds from elderberries can directly inhibit the virus’s entry and replication in human cells and can help strengthen a person’s immune response to the virus.
The phytochemicals from the elderberry juice were shown to be effective at stopping the virus infecting the cells; however, to the surprise of the researchers, they were even more effective at inhibiting viral propagation at later stages of the influenza cycle when the cells had already been infected with the virus.