(From the Black Elderberry Information site.)
At sites in Switzerland and Italy, researchers have uncovered evidence that the black elderberry may have been cultivated by prehistoric man, and there are recipes for elderberry-based medications in the records dating as far back as Ancient Egypt. Historians, however, generally trace the tradition of the elderberry’s healing power back to Hippocrates, the ancient Greek known as the “father of medicine,” who described this plant as his “medicine chest” for the wide variety of ailments it seemed to cure.
Over the centuries, elderberry has been used to treat colds, flu, fever, burns, cuts, and more than 70 other maladies, from toothache to the plague. In the 17th century, John Evelyn, a British researcher, declared, “If the medicinal properties of its leaves, bark, and berries were fully known, I cannot tell what our countryman could ail for which he might not fetch a remedy [from the elderberry], either for sickness or wounds.”
Black Elderberry Facts
Black elderberry extract has been found to be effective against the H5N1 strain of Avian Flu (Zakay-Rones et al 1995).
Black elderberry extract contains a unique compound called Antivirin® that can help protect healthy cells and inactivate infectious viruses
When given to patients, scientists have found the black elderberry extract, has the ability to ward off flu infections quickly (Zakay-Rones 2004).
Black Elderberries are rich in anthocyanins which are a type of flavonoid – anthocyanins are antioxidants that may protect cells from free radicals and support your body’s immune system.
Black Elderberries have almost 5 times as many anthocyanins as Blueberries and twice the overall antioxidant capability of cranberries.
Black Elderberry has a more potent antiviral effect than Echinacea.
Understanding the Immune System
Inside your body there is a protection mechanism called the immune system. It is designed to defend you against millions of bacteria, microbes, viruses, toxins and parasites that are waiting to invade your body.
The Immune System is made up of hundreds of different mechanisms and processes that are all kicked into action when it comes under threat from various ‘insults’ such as viruses, bacteria and pollutants. An example, are the cytokines which bring immune cells to the site of infection, to promote healing.Inflammation is one of the first responses of the immune system to infection. The signs of inflammation, redness and swelling, are caused by increased blood flow into tissues.
Due to the environment we live in today, we are constantly surrounded by these threats and having and maintaining a healthy Immune System becomes really important.
Free radicals damage and the role of Antioxidants.
Free radicals are molecules with one or more unpaired electrons. They are a by-product of a normal bodily process involving the metabolism of oxygen for energy. Environmental factors such as cigarette smoke, air pollution, radiation and ultraviolet light can also cause free radicals to form.
Because free radicals lack an electron, they are unstable and highly reactive. As a result of their instability they steal electrons from other cells. This in turn destabilizes those cells, turning them into free radicals. This can cause a chain reaction which can occur indefinitely, causing destruction to the body as cellular damage accumulates.
Free radicals enter our bodies as we breathe in polluted air and cigarette smoke, and are generated during prolonged stress or illness and through every metabolic reaction involving oxygen. When oxygen molecules become unstable they seek to stabilise by reacting with other chemicals. If left unchecked, this leads to inflammation and arterial wall damage.
This sort of damage is the number-one cause of ageing and a significant contributor to diseases in those aged 60 or over.
Defence of the Immune System – Antioxidants
One of the best ways our body deals with attacks on the immune system is with its own natural antioxidants. When a virus or pollutant enters the body these antioxidants work by attacking them to stop them damaging the body. As the name suggests they do ‘anti’ – or the opposite job of the attackers.
Our bodies contain natural antioxidants in the form of vitamins, minerals and hormones, but due to the increased stress modern society puts on us it can be good to take in more in our diet. Antioxidants are natural substances that may slow or prevent damage to the body’s cells. They are thought to protect the cells from these unstable molecules by reacting with them.
Antioxidants prevent free radicals from damaging cells by donating electrons to the free radicals, thereby stabilizing them. When an antioxidant loses an electron, it remains stable and thus does not itself become a free radical. Therefore, a diet rich in antioxidants could be beneficial to health. A study by Abjua et al (1998) conducted in vitro demonstrated antioxidant activity of elderberry juice.
Studies throughout the last 30 years reveal that many of the so-called degenerative diseases such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s and arthritis arise because of a deficiency in antioxidants.
Sources of Antioxidants and ORAC
Sources of Antioxidants
By increasing the daily intake of antioxidants through diet and supplements, free radical activity within the body could be reduced. Our bodies contain natural antioxidants in the form of vitamins, minerals and hormones, but due to the incredible amount of stress modern society puts on us it can be good to take in more in our diet.
Sources of antioxidants include vitamin E, vitamin C and beta-carotene. These can all be found in many fruits – such as elderberries and vegetables.Antioxidative Capability of Elderberries compared to other fruit
In 2007, The United States Department of Agriculture looked at the oxygen radical absorbance capacity (ORAC) or overall antioxidant capability of various berries. They studied the antioxidant capacity of certain berries in terms of how effective they were at attacking these damaging free radicals. The higher the figure obtained the more antioxidant capacity the berries had. Of the berries studied, the elderberry had one of the highest total antioxidant capacities.
Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC) of Selected Fruits
ORAC mmol TE/100g
Blackberry 5245 103 5347 660
Blueberry 6520 36 6552 531
Cherry (sweet) 3348 17 3365 339
Chokeberry 15820 242 16062 2010
Cranberry 9382 202 9584 718
Elderberry 14500 197 14697 1950
Grape, red 1260 NM 1260 177
Orange 1785 34 1819 337
Plum 6241 17 6259 367
Raspberry 4745 138 4882 502
Strawberry 3541 36 3577 368
Tomato, plum 546 NM 546 36
of Selected Foods – 2007Notes:
The above data represents average values and the actual content in any individual sample of fruit may show significant variation from the above quoted values. The USDA database provides details of the estimated accuracy of the above values. However, despite this variation, the above values can be taken as a reliable indicator of the those fruits which are likely to have the highest ORAC potential.
Flavonoids are powerful, natural antioxidants that work to protect the body’s cells from the potential damage thought to be caused by free radicals.
Flavonoids can be found in certain every day foods such as fruit and vegetables.
Of special interest are a particular group of flavonoids called anthocyanins. These can be found in the pigments of purple, dark blue and red fruits such as the black elderberry (Mateus et al 2004). It is the activity of the anthocyanin pigments that give the black elderberry powerful antioxidant action.
Elderberries may contain more than 1% of anthocyanins and other polyphenols. The colour of the berries is mainly due to the presence of the anthocyanin cyanidin-3-glucoside which has 3.5 times the antioxidative activity than that of a vitamin E analogue.
The anthocyanins that occur naturally in the black elderberry are some of the most potent in the plant world. Therefore they can be extremely effective at preventing free radicals from causing any damage and have a remarkable ability which may help to stimulate the body’s immune system. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, the highestconcentration of anthocyanins are found in black elderberries – this is nearly double the amount found in any other fruit and almost 5 times higher than blueberries.