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Elderberry and your Immune System

A compromised or weak natural immune system leaves you exposed to any number of illnesses including the flu, common colds, etc. which can have a debilitating impact on your daily life. In addition, a weak immune system can lead to multiple illnesses throughout the year, not just around the traditional cold and flu seasons. No one wants to suffer from a "summer cold", or multiple colds or flu throughout the year.

The immune system is the body's natural defense against infections. A healthy immune system is one of the most important factors that contributes to your overall well-being.

A small, dark purple berry, native to Europe and North America, is renowned for its multitude of health benefits, most notably in supporting the immune system. Black Elderberry, also known as Sambucus nigra, contains active chemical compounds known as anthocyanins, a type of flavonoid which gives elderberry its characteristic deep purple color. These anthocyanins have been shown to have immunostimulant effects - benefits which help to support the immune system.

Science-Based Benefits

Clinical studies have shown that elderberry extracts are a very useful tool in supporting a healthy immune system year round, and not only during the cold and flu season:

  • A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study was performed in Norway during the influenza season 1999-2000 to determine the benefits, if any, of elderberry syrup for treating influenza A and B infections. This study determined that elderberry given to patients within 48 hours of the onset of flu symptoms were relieved of those symptoms an average of 4 days earlier than compared with a placebo.
  • A 2009 study in the Online Journal of Pharmacology and PharmacoKinetics (volume 5: 32-43, 2009) was performed to study the efficacy in addressing flu symptoms of a proprietary elderberry extract. The results of this study determine that this elderberry extract was effective in controlling flu symptoms and is complementary to other anti-viral agents.
  • Another randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study was performed in 2013/2014 and published in 2016. This study was performed on 312 economy class travelers from Australia to overseas destinations (the “long-haul study”) to determine what, if any, were the beneficial effects of taking elderberry supplement in capsule form (providing 45mg/day of anthocyanins) on those travelers relative to incidence and duration of colds. The results of the study showed a two-day shorter duration of colds, and a reduction in the cold symptoms.

In addition, there are other important health benefits associated with elderberry supplementation that makes year-round use of potent elderberry supplements a good decision. Elderberry has also been shown to have a number of other health benefits, including:

  • Clinical study to support sinus infections (sinusitis). A study showed that elderberry extract in conjunction with standard antibacterial therapy significantly reduced the acute symptoms and signs of sinusitis;
  • Elderberry is a potent antioxidant and counteracts oxidative stress which can lead to a number health issues;
  • Elderberry can increase insulin levels, and inhibit the enzyme alpha-glucosidase which supports healthy blood sugar levels;
  • Studies show that elderberry, in concert with other botanicals, supports regularity;
  • The bioflavonoids within elderberry supports skin health through its anti-oxidant properties and by supporting healthy inflammation levels.


A number of clinical studies over several years have shown that elderberries can have a supportive effect on the human immune system and provide additional health-related benefits. It is important to note that many of the studies evaluated the effects of anthocyanins, a potent flavonoid. Anthocyanins are present in elderberries in small amounts, and in much higher concentrations in elderberry extracts.

Elderberry powders, which are simply dried and pulverized elderberries, contain only small amounts of anthocyanins. Elderberry extracts are created by extracting, and therefore concentrating, the naturally-occurring anthocyanins.

Therefore, elderberry extracts are most beneficial forms of elderberry supplements available, and especially those standardized and tested for anthocyanin content - which should be reflected on the label of the supplement.



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