Historically, elder flowers and leaves have been used to relieve pain, swelling, inflammation, diuresis (urine production) and as an expectorant. The bark, once aged, has been used as a diuretic, laxative or emetic (causes vomiting). Berries have been used traditionally to flavor certain foods and in the preparation of elderberry wine and pies.
The benefits of black elderberry as a food supplement
Historically, elderberries were used to relieve pain, inflammation, swelling, or as an expectorant and diuretic. Today, research seems to show an effect of black elderberry food supplements to help treat hyperlipidemia, to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease or in case of influenza. But clinical trials are lacking to be able to certify it. It is not recommended for pregnant or breastfeeding women or young children to consume elderberry. Also, people with arthritis problems, cardiovascular disease, or even diabetes should consult their doctor before undertaking a cure of black elderberry.
Use of black elderberry
Black elderberry, useful for colds and inflammation of the respiratory tract
How to use black elder flowers?
- Infusion. Infuse 3 g to 5 g of dried flowers in 150 ml of boiling water for 10 to 15 minutes. Drink three cups a day.
- Fluid extract (1: 1, g / ml). Take 1.5 ml to 3 ml per day.
- Tincture (1: 5, g / ml). Take 2.5 ml to 7.5 ml per day.
How to use black elderberries?
- Extract or syrup. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions, as the concentration of extracts or syrups can vary from one product to another.
Black elderberry to limit the risk of cardiovascular disease
Patients received two capsules (500 mg) of elderberry extract (containing 125 mg of anthocyanin), equivalent to the anthocyanin levels measured in 25 g of elderberries, twice a day (morning and night) for 12 weeks.
Black elderberry in case of hyperlipidimia
400 mg of dried powder capsules containing 10% anthocyanins were administered three times a day for two weeks.
Black elderberry in case of flu
Patients have received 15 mL elderberry syrup four times a day for five days to reduce symptoms of the flu.
Little story of black elderberry
The Latin name Sambucus refers to flutials (sambuca) that the Greek shepherds carved from the soft wood of elderberry. Galien (Greek doctor of IIe century AD) recommended elderberry against catarrh and excess mucus. He got his knowledge from his colleagues who had laid the foundations of modern medicine in the previous era. Indeed, a few centuries earlier, Pliny the Elder attributed the same properties to elderberry. Greek knowledge also traveled to Asia and the elderberry was integrated into the pharmacopoeia of Ayurvedic medicine (India).
In North America, Native Americans attributed the same properties to white elderberry (Sambucus canadensis) whose composition is, as we discovered later, similar to that of its European cousin. In Quebec, white elderberry has long held a special place in the domestic medicine of French Canadians.
In Italy, Belgium, France, Germany and England, we recognize diuretic, diaphoretic (which causes sweating) and anti-inflammatory properties. In the Middle Ages, elder water was used (water in which flowers were macerated) to lighten the complexion and reduce freckles. Flowers and fruit have long been used to make refreshing drinks. In the spring, large amounts were drunk to purify the body of toxins accumulated during the winter. It is even said that certain wines were adulterated with elderberry. A legend dating from the end of the XIXe century wants an American sailor who got drunk on port with elderberry juice to be cured of his rheumatism.
Even today, elderberries are often found in old monastery gardens and, hopefully, an old monk or nun will remember that flowers and fruit were used for cough syrup.
State and results of research on black elderberry
Influenza. In 1993, a double-blind placebo trial was conducted on 27 subjects in an Israeli kibbutz during an influenza epidemic. Results indicate that an elderberry extract (Sambucol® syrup) was significantly superior to placebo in quickly relieving flu symptoms. After two days, 93.3% of subjects treated with elderberry already saw significant relief from their symptoms, while it took six days for 91.7% of people in the placebo group to show a similar improvement. During the 1999-2000 influenza season, Israeli researchers conducted a double-blind placebo-controlled trial in Norway in 60 subjects with influenza types A and B. The authors report that elderberry syrup had the effect of worsening flu symptoms four days earlier and significantly reduced the use of emergency medications compared to those taking placebo. Overall, the authors concluded that elderberries have poor efficacy based on these results. Datas in vitro indicate that this preparation (Sambucol®) inhibits the development of many strains of types A and B of the virus influenza and has an immunostimulatory effect. Another study conducted in 2009 showed that consumption of an elderberry extract (175 mg) for 48 h reduced the symptoms of the flu (fever, headache, nasal congestion, body aches), compared to a placebo (12 ). However, no beneficial effects have been reported on coughing. More research is needed to confirm the effectiveness of elderberry in relieving flu symptoms.
Sinusitis and bronchitis. A meta-analysis was carried out on a preparation (Sinupret®) comprising elder flowers, gentian, verbena, primrose and sorrel on the treatment of sinus infections. Sinupret® decreases swelling of the nasal mucosa and congestion when combined with an antibiotic. In addition, Sinupret®R decreases the symptoms of bronchitis after 10 days of treatment. However, this effect seems less significant than that obtained with an expectorant.
Obesity. Elderberry (comprising 1 mg anthocyanins and 370 mg flavonoids), combined with Asparagus officinalis, decreases the weight and blood pressure of obese patients, according to a meta-analysis. This result could be explained by the fact that Sambucus nigra (5 g of leaf), combined with other plants, facilitates intestinal transit. More studies are needed to confirm these results
Gingivitis. Sambucus nigra, combined with other herbs, decreases gingivitis, according to a randomized clinical study of 53 participants. This beneficial effect has also been reported with HM-302, a mouthwash containing Sambucus nigra and Echinacea purpurea, used in 62 individuals for two weeks. No definitive conclusion can be drawn.
Hyperlipidemia. A consumption of elderberry juice (containing the equivalent of 4 g of anthocyanins) seems to decrease blood cholesterol levels after 3 weeks, according to a pilot study including a small sample (19).
Precautions and contraindications of black elderberry
Who should consume black elderberry carefully?
People with the following illnesses or taking the following medications should consume elderberry with care:
- Problems arrhythmia or cardiovascular disease (risk of tachycardia)
- Antihypertensive medication (increased risk of hypotension)
- Cancer (chemotherapy treatment)
- Central nervous system disease
- Dermatological problems
- Gastrointestinal disorders
- Breathing illness
Contraindications to the use of black elderberry
- Pregnancy, breastfeeding and young children. The WHO does not recommend the use of elder flowers in pregnant women, nursing mothers and young children due to insufficient evidence of their safety. Other sources believe that there is no restriction in this regard. The injection of an isolated substance (lectin) extracted from the elderberry to pregnant mice had a toxic effect on their fetus. The study authors noted that given the high doses administered, it was unlikely to happen in humans. In addition, a pharmacovigilance study involved 762 pregnant women who had taken, at least once during their pregnancy, a preparation containing, among other plants, elder flowers (Sinupret®). They gave birth to 786 children and no teratogenic or embryotoxic effects were observed. Medical literature also does not report teratogenic or embryotoxic effects attributable to ripe fruit, and elder syrup was traditionally given to children.
- People allergic to plants of the caprifoliaceae family.
The unwanted effects of black elderberry
- Rarely, mild transient gastrointestinal upset (e.g. cramps, diarrhea), tachycardia or weakness. No adverse effects were reported in the 3 clinical studies carried out with elderberry juice.
With plants or supplements
- Theoretically, the effects of elderberry could be added to those of plants or supplements that have a diuretic, decongestant or anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antiviral or hypoglycemic action.
- Theoretically, the effects of elderberry could be added to those of synthetic drugs which have a diuretic, decongestant or anti-inflammatory action.
- Theoretically, elderberry could counter the effects of immunosuppressants, antibiotics, antidiabetics, agents that modulate the central nervous system, laxatives or diuretics.