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Black elderberry

Throughout the history, black elderberry has been used for treatment of many health issues including various colds, flu and for boosting immunity.

Elderberry History

Black elderberry was used for centuries in North America, Europe, Western Asia, and North Africa, and its medical benefits have been explored since then. At sites in Switzerland and Italy, researchers have uncovered evidence that the black elderberry may have been cultivated by prehistoric man, and there are recipes for elderberry-based medications. Hippocrates, the ancient Greek known as the “father of medicine,” who described this plant as his “medicine chest” for the wide variety of ailments it seemed to cure. The Romans used elderberry juice as a hair dye, and Pagans believed that the black elder tree is sacred to the Moon Goddess.

Over the centuries, elderberry has been used to treat colds, flu, fever, burns, cuts, and more than 70 other maladies, from toothache to the plague. Elderberry is used because of its antioxidant activity to reduce cholesterol, improve vision, strengthen the immune system, improve heart rate, and against cough, colds, flu, bacterial and viral infections. Extract from the elderberry was used to treat the flu epidemic in Panama in 1995. Bioflavonoids and other protein of the black elderberry extract destroy the ability of the flu and cold viruses to infect the cell and spread throught the whole body.

Black Elderberry Facts

• Black Elderberry has been found to be effective against the H5N1 strain of Avian Flu (Zakay-Rones et al 1995).
• Antivirin® is a mode of action that can help protect healthy cells and inactivate infectious viruses.
• When given to patients, scientists have found the Black Elderberry, has the ability to ward off flu infections quickly (Zakay-Rones 2004).
• Black Elderberries are rich in anthocyanins which are a type of flavonoid – anthocyanins are antioxidants that may protect cells from free radicals and support your body’s immune system.
• Black Elderberries have almost 5 times as many anthocyanins as Blueberries and twice the overall antioxidant capability of cranberries.
• Black Elderberry has a more potent antiviral effect than Echinacea.

Benefits of black elderberry

Health benefits of the elderberry plant include naturally improving symptoms of colds, flu, sinus issues, nerve pain, inflammation, chronic fatigue, allergies, etc. When used within the first 48 hours of onset of symptoms, the elderberry extract has actually been found to reduce the duration of the flu for 4 days.

The most important uses of black elderberry are:

1.      Cold and Flu relief

Black elderberry contains chemical compounds called anthocyanins, which are known to have a stimulating effect on the immune system.

Several studies have shown that black elderberry extract is very effective in reducing symptoms of cold and flu. In particular, the flavonoids in the black elderberry extract are linked to a human H1N1 virus, as well as bird flu virus H5N1. The 2009 study randomized patients in two groups: one group received four doses of 175 mg of black elderberry extract daily, and the other group received a placebo extract daily for two days. The group treated with black elderberry extract showed significant improvement in most of the symptoms of influenza, while the placebo group showed no improvement or increased severity of symptoms.

A second study, published in the Journal of International Medical Research, showed that when the extract is used within the first 48 hours of the onset of flu symptoms, it shortens the duration of flu symptoms by an average of four days.

2.      Sinus infection aid

Because of the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties of black elderberry, it is a great help for sinus infections. Black-flavonoids facilitate the inflammatory process, and they act completely naturally at the inflammation of the cavities around the nasal canals.

3.      Lower blood sugar

Both the flower and the berries are traditionally used to treat diabetes. The study confirmed that black extract stimulates glucose metabolism and insulin secretion, lowering blood sugar levels.

A study published in the Journal of Nutrition found that in vitro the effects of black elderberry on insulin have been assessed. The study showed that black elderberry extract significantly increased glucose transport, glucose oxidation and glycogenesis without additional insulin. This is extremely important, because glycogenesis is the process by which excess sugar is released from the bloodstream in the muscles and liver, which helps maintain normal blood sugar.

4.      Natural diuretic

Black elderberry has an effect on the urination. Studies have shown that black elderberry has natural diuretic effects. A diuretic is a substance that promotes the production of urine, and doctors prescribe diuretics when the body retains too much fluid, which is a common problem in the elderly.

5.      Natural laxative

Black elderberry can help with constipation. The results of a small study, conducted in Brazil, showed that black elderberry is a natural remedy for the treatment of constipation, but additional research is needed in this area.

6.      Encourage healthy skin

Black elderberries are increasingly used in cosmetic products. Bioflavonoids and antioxidants, together with vitamin A content, make black elderberry an excellent ingredient for skin health.

7.      Ease allergies

It is known that black flowers are an effective remedy for herbal allergies. Since allergies involve excessive response to the immune system, as well as inflammation, the influence of black elderberry on improving the immune system helps in the event of an allergy.

Some herbalists place black elderberry on the list of the most effective plants used to treat pollen fever symptoms. It can be used for allergies alone or in combination with other medicines. Black elderberry also acts as a detoxification aid, improving liver function.

8.      May help prevent cancer

The edible parts of black elderberry are rich in anthocyanin and have shown that they have a wide range of therapeutic, pharmacological and anti-carcinogenic properties. Laboratory studies specifically indicate that black elderberry have some hemopreventive properties, and inhibit, delay or change the formation of cancer.

One study compared the anti-cancer properties of European and American black elderberry. The European black elderberry (Sambucus Nigra L.) is known for it´s medical use and contains anthocyanins, flavonoids and other polyphenols, which contribute to the high antioxidative capacity of blackberries. On the other hand, American black elderberry (Sambucuscanadensis) has not been cultivated or promoted as a medicinal plant

This study took extracts from both plants and tested them. Both extracts showed significant hemopreventive potential. In addition, American black elderberry has shown the inhibition of ornithine decarboxylase, which is an enzyme marker in relation to the phase of promoting the formation of cancer. These studies indicate potential as an option for natural cancer treatment.

Clinical studies of black elderberry

Effective in the treatment of flu

Research data from studies around the world have proven black elderberry extract to be effective in shortening the duration of influenza A and B. Below are some research highlights:
• 1995 (Zakay-Rones) – A double-blind placebo-controlled study was conducted during an outbreak of influenza B Panama. 93.3% of the cases treated with black elderberry compound saw a significant improvement in the symptoms. A complete cure was achieved within 2 to 3 days in nearly 90% of those treated with the black elderberry extract.
• 2001 – (Barak, Halperin and Kalickman) 2 in-vitro studies have shown that extracts from black elderberry were beneficial to the stimulation of the immune system.
• 2004 – (Zakay-Rones) In a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study, black elderberry extract was shown to significantly reduce the duration of the flu by around four days. Significantly fewer people who were taking the extract took pain relievers compared to the placebo group.
• 2005 –(Balasingham) During an in-vitro study carried out in London, black elderberry extract was found to be at least 99% effective against the H5N1 strain otherwise known as Avian Bird Flu.

Effectiveness as an immune booster

Studies (Pietta 2000, Mateus 2004) have shown that elderberries are unusually rich in the phytochemicals known as flavonoids. Among all fruits, elderberries are the most concentrated source of anthocyanins, a class of flavonoids that act as powerful antioxidants to boost the immune system and protect the body’s cells from harm.

These anthocyanins are found in the purple pigment of black elderberries, and according to Dr. Gerhard Rechkemmer, president of Germany’s Federal Research Institute for Nutrition and Food, they have significantly greater antioxidant capacity than common antioxidants such as Vitamin C. In fact, Dr. Rechkemmer’s research has shown that the anthocyanins in black elderberry actually boost the production of cytokines, the proteins that act as messengers within our immune system, and thereby serve to enhance the body’s immune response.

Cytokines play a crucial role in the immune system’s response to cold and flu. Cytokines work in ways very similar to hormones. They are released by immune cells into the bloodstream or locally into body tissue during an immune response.

There are many different types of cytokines including interleukins, interferons and tumor necrosis factors. Several studies have shown that extracts from the fruits of the black elderberry (Sambucus nigra L) may help to activate the immune system by increasing inflammatory cytokine production. (Barak 2001, Barak2002). Both studies above found that extracts from black elderberries helped increase the production of interleukins 6 and 8 (IL-6, IL-8) and tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α). All of which have been shown to have pro-inflammatory properties in fighting infection (2,3).

One study (Barak 2002) also demonstrated that an extract of black elderberry increased the production of the anti-inflammatory cytokine Il-10.