For centuries, mankind has prepared jams, pies, wines and syrups from the blue and purple berries of the elderberry plants. Some cooks use elderberry flowers to add flavor to pancakes and fritters. In fact, the elderberry plant’s flower cluster is often dipped in batter, fried and eaten in Native American and Spanish cultures.
Elderberry plants also have uses far beyond the kitchen. For example, basket weavers use elderberry fruit and twigs to create a potent black dye for their basketry materials. The hard wood of the elderberry plant has been used to make pegs, combs and spindles, and the hollow stems have been used to make flutes and blowguns.
In addition, many health practitioners have used elderberry tea to help people to recover from flu symptoms, to relieve headaches, to break fevers and to fight bladder and kidney infections.
Elderberry’s Effect on Influenza
In 2004, Norwegian scientists published study results in the Journal of International Medical Research demonstrating how elderberry significantly improves flu symptoms and shortens flu duration. Patients who received elderberry recovered four days earlier than patients that received a placebo. Also, the elderberry patients reported better sleep quality, fewer aches and pains and less frequent coughing than patients who received the placebo.
According to researchers, elderberry’s active ingredients are flavonoids, or plant pigments, called cyanidin 3-glucoside and cyanidin 3-sambubioside. These flavonoids may inhibit flu in the following ways:
Stimulating the Immune System
The flavonoids in elderberry may increase the production of cytokines, which are molecules aiding in cell-to-cell communication in the body’s immune response. For example, cytokines stimulate cells to move toward areas of infection, trauma and inflammation.
According to research in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine elderberry keeps the influenza virus from binding to the body’s cell receptors.
Producing an Anti-inflammatory Effect
Elderberry’s anti-inflammatory effect is similar to aspirin, which may explain why patients report less pain, fewer body aches and lower fever when taking elderberry for flu.
Elderberry and Wound and Skin Care
Researchers writing for the Journal of Ethnopharmacology published a paper in 2010 on the remarkable wound-healing properties of elderberry. They tested a methanol-based elderberry extract on wounds in laboratory mice and rats. The researchers reported an elderberry solution demonstrated cicatrizing properties, which means that it prevented the formation of scar tissue in wounds.
Common ways health practitioners use elderberry for wound and skin care include:
As a Wash
A wash of lukewarm elderberry tea over a wound, sprain or bruise can speed healing. It may also work on certain domestic animal sores.
As a Poultice
Mixing a poultice of elderberry leaves, flowers, bark and twigs with equal parts chamomile can reduce soreness and inflammation. For example, a patient could apply the poultice to stiff joints or to bee stings. Also, a salve made from elderberry juice may be good for burns and scalds.
As a Beauty Aid
Some people steep elderberry flowers in water and then use the mixture as a toner for their skin, particularly to lighten freckles or unwanted spots.
Elderberry’s Antioxidant Power
Elderberry contains a pigment called quercetin, which acts like an anti-inflammatory or anti-histamine compound within the body. Quercetin may reduce seasonal allergies symptoms, and it may also have heart disease prevention effects similar to the resveratrol in red wine including lower cholesterol and lower blood pressure.
Also, for patients with interstitial cystitis, quercetin has been associated with reduced pain and urge to urinate. Additionally, quercetin and other antioxidants may inhibit cancer cell growth.
How to Use Elderberry
Elderberry tea is a delicious and convenient way to incorporate the benefits of elderberry into the diet. Steep one bag of elderberry tea for 10 to 15 minutes and add some honey or lemon if desired. Drink the tea throughout cold and flu season to ward off illness or use it during a bout of cold or influenza to ease symptoms and speed up healing.
Use caution when gathering elderberry in the wild. Blue and purple berries are edible and flavorful, but red berries are toxic and potentially poisonous. Instead, to be safe, purchase prepackaged elderberry tea bags. Enjoy the sweet flavors and extraordinary health benefits that come from the elderberry plant.
Photo Credit By: activistpost.com