Black Elderberry Benefits, Uses & History

There are lots of different herbs that are renowned for their uses, and black elderberry is just one of many.

However, it does offer many different benefits, and it is super easy to use as long as you are careful with it.

If you have just started to get into all the different herbs, then you might be wondering more about what this one in particular has to offer. We are going to explain all of the different benefits and uses of black elderberry and even its history here. 

Black Elderberry Benefits, Uses & History

In this article, you can find out everything you need to know about black elderberry and its properties, including how it can be beneficial for certain purposes.

This will help you find out if this is a herb that could be of use to you and why.

What is Black Elderberry?

Elderberry is the umbrella name that refers to many different varieties of the Sambucus tree, which is a flowering plant that belongs to the Adoxaceae family.

One of the most common types is Sambucus Nigra, which is also known as the black elderberry.

This is a tree that is native to Europe, but it is also widely grown in lots of different places around the world. It can grow up to 30 feet tall, and it has clusters of small white or cream flowers that are commonly known as elder flowers.

The berries can be found in small black or blue bunches, and they are quite tart, and they need to be cooked if you want to eat them. The flowers are known to have a delicate muscat aroma, and you can actually eat them either raw or cooked.

There are other varieties of elderberry, and some of these include the  American elder, dwarf elder, blue elderberry, danewort, red-fruited elder, and antelope brush.

Different parts of the elderberry tree have even been used throughout history for both culinary and medicinal purposes, and historically, the flowers and leaves have been used for pain relief, swelling, inflammation, stimulating the production of urine, and inducing sweating.

The bark of the tree has also been used in the past as a diuretic, a laxative, and to induce vomiting. In folk medicine, the dried berries or juice are used in order to treat influenza, infections, sciatica, headaches, dental pain, heart pain, and nerve pain. It is also used as a laxative and diuretic

As well as all of this, the berries can be cooked to make a variety of different foods, like juice, jams, chutneys, pies, and elderberry wine. The flowers can even be boiled with sugar to create a sweet syrup or to be infused with tea.

The History of Black Elderberry

Elderberry is actually one of the most commonly used medicinal plants in the world, and it was traditionally used by Indigenous people to treat both fever and rheumatism.

The ancient Egyptians also used it to improve their complexions and heal burns. It is still gathered and used in folk medicine in many areas in Europe, and today, elderberry is commonly taken as a supplement to treat cold and flu symptoms.

This is a herb that was commonly used in Europe, and it has been for more than centuries. The Elder tree actually has a rich history of superstition, folklore, and mysticism.

In Great Britain, it is thought that the life cycle of the Elder tree will be the end of summer.

There is also an old tale that suggests that the season does not begin until the Elder tree flowers, and it will end when the berries are ripe.

The elder tree actually provides two different herbs, which are the elderberry and elderflower.

In both Denmark and England, there is an old superstition that the Elder Mother was the one that protected the tree, and that you must recite a rhyme for her consent before harvesting or altering any part of the plant.

This is a superstition that has led to many landscapers refusing to make any changes or to cut down Elder trees.

In other countries, it was believed that this tree would protect all against evil and sorcery, which was why it was commonly grown near residences.

In the late 1600s, Elder leaves would be gathered on the 30th of April and secured to houses to protect the residents from evil. 

In herbalism, the uses of this herb actually date all the way back to the physician Hippocrates during the Classical Period in Ancient Greece. They also date back to the first century in the Roman Empire with the naturalist Pliny the Elder.

The tubes that were created from hollowed out Elder branches were even used for stoking fires, as pipes, and as toys. This just goes to show how diverse this plant has been throughout history.

The roots and mature bark of the plant have been known to have been used as black dyes in the Scottish Highlands, and today, the ripe berries are still used as a natural colorant in the food and beverage industry.

Elderberries are still used in things like preserves, wines, and other drinks in both Britain and Scandinavia.

Now that we know more about the world of plants, the Black Elderberry has actually changed from its original family.

Today, it is now classified as part of the Viburnaceae family, along with other herbs like the black haw and cramp bark. 

The Benefits of Black Elderberry

Black Elderberry

Black elderberries are known to have lots of different benefits, and they are also highly nutritious.

They are thought to help with cold and flu symptoms, support heart health, and fight both inflammations and infections. We will highlight some of their main benefits for you below.

High in Nutrients

One of the main benefits of elderberries is that they are low in calories and full of antioxidants.

One cup of these berries contains 106 calories, 26.7 grams of carbs, and less than 1 gram each of fat and protein.

They are also really high in vitamin C as they contain 52 mg of vitamin C per cup, which is around 57% of your daily value.

They are also high in dietary fiber, and each cup of these berries contains around 10 grams of fiber.

They also contain antioxidants, which can help to reduce damage from oxidative stress in the body.

High in Antioxidants

During normal metabolism, reactive molecules can be released, and they can accumulate in the body, leading to oxidative stress.

This is something that can go on to cause diseases like type 2 diabetes and even cancer. Antioxidants are natural components of foods, and they are able to work to remove these reactive molecules.

Research would suggest that eating diets that are high in antioxidants can help to prevent chronic disease.

The flowers, fruit, and leaves of the elderberry plant are all great sources of antioxidants, and one of the anthocyanins found in the berries has 3.5 times the antioxidant power of vitamin E. Elderberry has even been found to be one of the most effective antioxidants.

As well as this, there has been a study that found that antioxidant status improved in people just one hour after drinking elderberry juice. 

Can Improve Cold and Flu Symptoms

Black elderberry has been shown to help to reduce the severity and length of cold and flu symptoms, and there are many commercial options available for this.

Some of the forms in which you can find elderberry commercially for medicinal purposes are liquids, capsules, lozenges, and gummies. One study has found that people who take elderberry syrup 4 times a day when sick with the flu started to improve symptom-wise in 2 to 4 days.

Those that did not take this syrup started to improve after 7 to 8 days.

Good for Heart Health

It is also thought that elderberry can have positive effects on some markers of both heart and blood vessel health.

Studies have actually shown that elderberry juice can help to reduce the level of fat that is in the flood and decrease cholesterol levels. As well as this, a diet that is high in flavonoids, which elderberries are, can be found to reduce the risk of heart disease.

However, this might not be the case for everyone, though it is possible.

Elderberries are also thought to reduce the levels of uric acid that can be found in the blood. Elevated levels of uric acid in the blood is linked to increased blood pressure and negative effects on heart health.

So, elderberries can help with both of these things. Elderberry can also increase the secretion of insulin and work to improve blood sugar levels.

Type 2 diabetes is something that is a big risk factor when it comes to heart and vascular disease, which makes blood sugar management important for preventing these conditions. 

Other Benefits

As well as some of the more common benefits that we have mentioned above, there have been studies to suggest that elderberry can help with even more than this.

We will leave some additional benefits of black elderberry below for you to read about. 

  • Helps to fight cancer – Elderberry has some cancer-inhibiting properties, and it can fight harmful bacteria. It has also been found to stop the growth of bacteria such as Helicobacter pylori, and it might improve the symptoms of sinusitis and bronchitis.
  • Supports the immune system – Elderberry has been found to support immune defense in certain studies by increasing the number of white blood cells. 
  • Protects against UV radiation – Skin products that contain elderberry have been found to have a natural SPF OF 9.88.
  • Antidepressant properties – There has been one study that has found that elderberries can work to improve overall performance and mood markers.
  • Can increase urination – Elderberry flowers have been found to increase how often urination occurs and also increase salt excretion .
  • Treating acne – Due to the fact that elderberry contains high levels of flavonoids, it can have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, which can help to protect healthy cells from harmful free radicals. These play a role in skin problems. It has been suggested by the ANA that the use of an elderberry face wash can help to fight acne due to its antiseptic effects.
  • Reduce wrinkles – Elderberries contain high levels of vitamin A, which can help to soothe the skin, helping to ease the appearance of age spots, and preventing or lessening wrinkles.

The Uses of Black Elderberry

Things like elderberry capsules, lozenges, and syrups are available to purchase for helping to treat symptoms from cold and flu, and there are even elderberry-based skin care products in some places.

You should never eat raw elderberries, as they can be poisonous, but there are lots of other ways to prepare elderberries. One of these methods is creating a syrup.

If you want to make elderberry syrup, you need to remove the stalks, cook the berries in water and sugar, and then strain the mixture. You can then boil the liquid to reduce it, and it will then develop a syrupy consistency.

You can drizzle the syrup over a yogurt, cereal, or fruit salad, or even add it to a smoothie.

There is a specific elderberry juice syrup that is known to reduce flu symptoms if it has been taken within 24 hours of the first symptoms starting.

However, research does suggest that this might not work for everyone, especially those with lung conditions or children that are under 12 years of age.

Some people will even take elderberry lozenges within 24 hours of the first symptoms to reduce flu symptoms. When it is taken by mouth, elderberry is safe when it is used in certain amounts in food.

It can be safe when it is taken by mouth for up to 12 weeks, but there is not enough research to know if it is safe to take for longer periods of time than this.

It also may not be safe to consume elder leaves or stems or unripe or uncooked elderberries.

Cooked elderberries are safe for consumption, but raw or unripe berries can lead to nausea, vomiting, and severe diarrhea.