Hi, I’m Dr. Chad Larson. We’re going to interrupt our series talking about different nutrients to talk about a really important botanical. It’s one I’ve been using my entire career and it’s really fantastic. I’ve written about it and I’ve talked about it in other videos, but I just want to keep bringing this back around because it’s something everybody needs to know about. I think it’s really underappreciated in medicine in general. And it’s something that’s powerful.
Imagine that there’s a substance that did the following things:
- It is significantly and strongly antiviral
- It is anti-inflammatory
- It’s a powerful antioxidant, and
- Evidence suggests that it’s helpful for the cardiovascular system and for blood sugar regulation
All of these are things that elderberry does. The black American elder tree produces this amazing fruit called elderberry or sambucus nigra, and it’s a very powerful substance. This understanding goes way, way back. Elderberry has been used in human medicine for thousands of years. In fact, Hippocrates said that the elder tree was his medicine chest. And the reasons are all those attributes I just mentioned. It’s a multi-systemic botanical that has lots of interesting effects deriving from the truly amazing constituents within it.
I always wish there were more studies on botanicals, but elderberry has actually been studied relatively thoroughly. And in studies it has clearly demonstrated a strong antiviral effect. I’m thinking of one published study that separated influenza patients into two different groups. One group of subjects took elderberry extract and the other group, the control group, did not take anything. Those taking the elderberry extract recovered four days faster than the control group. Another similar study found that the group that received elderberry extract noticed significant improvement of their flu symptoms within 24 hours. There are multiple studies that demonstrate a similar finding.
There are multiple probable reasons why elderberry has this strong antiviral effect. One reason is that it’s full of antioxidants such as anthocyanins and polyphenols, which we’ve talked about before. These antioxidant constituents are really powerful, but they’re not discussed much because we don’t have a deficiency status for it. There’s not an associated condition as there is with other nutrients that we’ve talked about recently, like pellagra, scurvy, beriberi, and rickets. All these conditions are defined by the nutrient that they’re deficient in. If you’re deficient in a certain nutrient, then you may develop these named conditions. But there’s no named condition for a deficiency of proanthocyanidins or polyphenols or others of these amazing constituents that are found in certain foods. Everybody needs to get them but there’s no well defined quantity that we’re supposed to be getting. There’s no RDA for these. But I think that a lot of the chronic conditions that we suffer from today are basically signs that we’re deficient in these nutrients, but it just hasn’t been clearly studied and defined and identified.
So these antioxidants are part of the reason why elderberry has a great medicinal effect on the human body. But also it’s high in some key nutrients that we’re more aware of, like vitamin C and vitamin A. These also are antioxidants. In fact, the vitamin A level is extremely high for a single botanical, a single type of berry. For example, if you compare equal amounts of, let’s say, blueberries to elderberries, a study found that 100 grams of blueberries contain 60 international units (IU) of vitamin A. But 100 grams of elderberry had 600 IU of vitamin A. And blueberry was the closest thing to it. All the other berries tested, such as strawberry, didn’t even come close in terms of Vitamin A.
-Dr Chad Larson
I always talk about vitamin A as a very underappreciated nutrient for benefitting the mucosal immune system. The mucosal immune system lines your whole upper respiratory system and your gastrointestinal tract. It’s like your body’s first line of immune defense. And that’s another reason I think elderberry is so important.
But there are some other constituents in elderberry that do something truly unique. Sometimes when viruses are in the news, you may have heard of particular ones like H1N1 or H2N3. H1N1 was the 2008 swine flu. In viruses of this type, the H and the N represent components of the virus that scientists can use to identify what kind it is. The H stands for hemagglutinin and the N is a neuraminidase, an enzyme. So the H and the N describe certain characteristics about the virus. We have some understanding from at least one study about the way that elderberry affects the hemagglutinin and the neuraminidase. The H and the N, these are sort of the legs that latch onto your cells that allow the virus to inject itself into them where it can replicate. But elderberry, thanks to some of its constituents, is able to sort of knock those legs off. It helps to kind of block the H and the N from infiltrating your cell. So that’s a very direct antiviral effect that elderberry has.
So like I said, elderberry is something I’ve used my whole career. It has some really fascinating components to it. I mentioned before that it seems to have an effect on some cardiovascular risk factor markers, and it also seems to improve blood sugar balance. So that coupled with the antioxidant effect, the anti-inflammatory effect, and the direct antiviral effect makes it a unique botanical, and something we should all have in our medicine chest. And there are so many different ways you can take it. You just want to go with a really reliable source. Make sure that it’s from a good company that knows what they’re doing. And it comes in multiple different forms. There are syrups, tinctures, gummies, lozenges, multiple different ways you can take elderberry. But it’s something that you should look into and definitely have as part of your medicine chest because of this unique effect it has on the body, especially at this time of year.
So, enjoy your elderberry. I wish there were elderberries here. I’m in southern California and unfortunately the sambucus nigra isn’t native to this region. But there are lots of other parts of the United States where it’s found, so people can just walk out their door and go and harvest their own supply. But here in southern California, I just have to keep purchasing it, which I will definitely keep doing. So, I hope you learned something. I will keep reading the studies and bringing you the information. Until then, keep it real.