Humans have always turned to nature in search of healing remedies. Indeed, some of the most powerful medicines are from the Earth. People suffering from certain health conditions can benefit from using both pharmaceutical drugs and natural medicines. Elderberry is one such natural medicine that is used to treat a variety of health concerns and is commonly in over-the-counter cold and flu medications.
Elderberry is an indigenous tree to Europe and is in seasonal climates all over the world. This tree has beautiful white flowers and produces an abundance of dark ornamental berries. Black elderberry, or Sambucus nigra (S. nigra), is the most commonly used variant of this species for medicinal purposes. Historically, people have used the bark, leaves, flowers, and berries of this plant to treat a variety of health ailments, as well as to add flavor and nutrients to meals. The berries must cook before eating, as raw consumption may cause stomach upset.
Different parts of the elderberry tree have served to treat ailing humans throughout time. Historical accounts of medicinal elderberry use indicate that people have used the plant in many ways:
Today, elderberries may treat many similar ailments to those experienced by our predecessors. Clinical trials have even supported many of the uses for elderberry in treating health conditions. Studies have confirmed the following about elderberry use in humans:
Studies have confirmed that the liquid extract of elderberry helps fight off the influenza virus.
Elderberry extract is commonly found in cold and flu medications because it is a supportive agent to the immune system in fighting these kinds of illnesses. One study found that people taking an elderberry syrup when they have the flu had a quicker recovery than those who received a placebo syrup.
Elderberries contain high levels of health-promoting nutrients, including vitamins (especially vitamin C), dietary fiber, protein, minerals, flavonols, and antioxidants.
There are also reports that elderberry may also serve other benefits to humans; however, the evidence and support from the scientific community are limited. Elderberry may:
The main side effects of taking elderberry come from its potential to cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, especially when it prepared improperly. Berries that are ripe and cooked are usually safe to eat when eaten in moderation. Certain parts of the elderberry tree are considered poisonous. The leaves, roots, bark, and stems of these trees should not be consumed in any form as they contain cyanogenic glycoside (which can form cyanide). People who experience poisoning from elderberries can experience nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal cramping, difficulty breathing, dizziness, and numbness.
People who have autoimmune conditions such as multiple sclerosis (MS), rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, psoriasis, and inflammatory bowel disease should not use elderberry. Elderberry may boost the immune system, which can worsen autoimmune diseases. Many autoimmune disorders require immunosuppressant drugs. When taken alongside an immunosuppressant (including steroids), elderberry can reduce the effectiveness of the immunosuppressant. Consequently, more harm than benefit can come from using elderberry in most autoimmune conditions, especially those treated with immunosuppressants.
Elderberry has not been widely studied and, like most herbal supplements, is not FDA-approved. Because data is lacking on its safety and efficacy of use, people with health conditions or women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should check with their doctor before using elderberry.
This question is common for people suffering from thyroid disorders, and there is no medically-proven answer to date. Because elderberry supports or even boosts the immune system, it may be detrimental for people with autoimmune disorders. Indeed, elderberry may cause more damage and inflammation to the thyroid gland by supporting the immune cells that specifically attack your thyroid gland. However, elderberry may help to treat inflammation, curb pain, and ward off depression, which are symptoms that people with Hashimoto’s experience. Thus, some people with Hashimoto’s may be interested in using elderberry to manage their symptoms.
There is no scientific evidence stating that elderberry use is or is not recommended for people with Hashimoto’s. Most studies on using elderberry for medicinal purposes have been on mice in the laboratory setting. So, the jury is still out on whether or not elderberry is recommended for any health condition. Therefore, if you are interested in trying elderberry to alleviate some of your symptoms caused by Hashimoto’s, meet with a trustworthy doctor to determine if elderberry is a safe, natural remedy for you.
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