Elderberries have been used in a variety of ways for a few millennia from a basic food source to cloth dyes and medicine. These small, dark colored berries grow in clusters on elderberry bushes. These bushes are quite hardy and a several types can be found growing all around the world in a number of climates. They grow fast with aromatic flowers in the spring time followed by berries in the late summer.
The two main varieties of elderberry bushes include the European Elder and the American Elder. The European Elder produces dark blue to black berries while the American Elder grows similar colors, only they taste slighter sweeter. There is a species of elderberry tree that produces red berries but these should not be consumed as they may be harmful when ingested.
Elderberries can be eaten raw but are best when cooked into recipes such as jams, muffins, cakes and even wine. Even the white flowers of the elderberry bush can be consumed. The berries have tiny seeds that do not break down during the cooking process but they are not noticeable. If you plan to eat the berries raw, make sure they are fully ripe as under ripe berries can make you ill.
There is evidence that people in ancient civilizations consumed elderberries for its healing properties in addition to using them as a food source. Even the Native Americans used the flowers and berries for health to alleviate a host of ailments such as fever, aches, pains, colds, skin rashes and more.
Healing with Elderberries
You have probably heard that consuming berries, particularly the dark colored ones can help boost your immunity because they contain powerful antioxidants that help fight free radicals that prematurely age your body or cause disease. The same principle applies with the dark colored elderberries. They contain the same source of anthocyanins, a powerful antioxidant.
Elderberry is primarily used to combat flu and colds because of their antioxidant properties as well as their high amounts of potassium and vitamin C. These berries also have anti-viral and anti-inflammatory properties which greatly help in the fight against colds and flu. Together with the potassium and vitamin C, they help shorten the duration of colds and flu and may even help prevent them too.
The white flowers of the elderberry bush are also healthy. They contain flavonoids and a compound called rutin that, when combined with the vitamin C of the berries, pack quite the powerful immune boosting punch.
If you contract a cold, you will want to purchase elderberry syrup which will soothe your throat due to excessive coughing. You can also purchase elderberry extract and add some to your drinks to build your immunity or shorten the duration of the flu. Even the United States Drug Administration agrees that elderberry can be quite beneficial to your recovery from a number of different viral ailments. In controlled lab studies, people who took elderberry recovered twice as fast from the cold or flu than people who took a placebo.
To garner the most benefits from elderberries, purchase the syrup from a health food store for colds and coughs or the extract to add to drinks for the flu and immune system boosting. Consuming recipes containing the cooked berries may offer a few benefits but the syrup and extract are the best options.