By Leah Porche, RDN, LDN

Elderberries are a prolific species of plant that can be found all across the Northern Hemisphere.  Along with their broad geographical reach, they also have deep roots in European and Native American Folklore. 

Elderberries belong to the honeysuckle family and have long been used as a food and medicinal source.  When ripe, the elderberry plants’ white flowers manifest as tiny, black, bead-like berries, making it the ideal, ornamental plant.  From the berries to the flowers and leaves, many parts of the elderberry plant can be consumed; however, the berries should be ripe and cooked to avoid the toxic effects of some compounds. 

Today, common preparations of elderberry include an extract or syrup that can be taken by the spoonful or used in food preparation.  While the sweet flavor may be enough on its own, there are other benefits that encourage elderberry intake as a daily practice. 

Throughout history, elderberry has been touted as the cure-all, from skin issues to influenza (flu).  Many of these claims have been verified with anecdotal evidence, some of which has been substantiated by science.  The elderberry’s amazing effect on the immune system is contributed to extremely high levels of vitamin C, which is 87% of the daily value. 

While there will always be a need to continue research, the plants’ long history of protective effects should be enough to encourage regular usage, especially during allergy, cold and flu seasons.  

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