Elderberry has been utilized for its medicinal qualities for hundreds of years. Traditionally, elderberry is used as a topical cream to treat wounds as well as to help alleviate respiratory ailments, which is why it is used as a cold and flu remedy throughout the world.
The elderberry plant is characterized by its shrub appearance, which can grow up to 30 feet tall. This plant is native to select parts of Asia, Africa as well as in Europe. While this plant is not native to North America, it has been naturalized to thrive within the United States. As with most shrubs, the elderberry plant blooms white flowers; however, the medicinal aspect of this plant comes from the black berries. While the berries do feature several medicinal compounds, it is vital that the berries are cooked before being consumed as raw berries feature a chemical that is similar to cyanide.
While this plant does feature a legacy of medicinal uses, what exactly makes the elderberry plant such a dominant fixture within the herbal remedy industry? Within the elderberry are a plethora of flavonoids. These compounds are known to contain a high concentration of antioxidants. For those who are unaware of what the purpose of antioxidants is, they help protect the body from damage caused by free radicals. Free radicals are mutated molecules, which when unbalanced in the body can damage the DNA of vital cells. This may result in premature aging, cancer and other potentially life threatening conditions.
One of the main uses for the elderberry plant is to help reduce the common cold or flu. While the active compounds within elderberry are still under research, as of 2010, to determine their overall effectiveness to shorten the duration and help prevent colds, a study outlined by the University of Maryland states that those who took lozenges filled with elderberry featured fewer symptoms after 1 day of use than those who took placebos.
To consume elderberry you can take it in a standardized extract, which should contain at least 38 percent elderberry extract. You may also make a tea from the elderberry flower. To do so, place five grams of dried flower into one cup of boiling water. Allow the tea to steep for 10 to 15 minutes, strain and consume up to three times per day.