Plants are an orchestra.
Unlike pharmaceuticals which (usually) only have one instrument, plants come with numerous. In honour of the coming cold season, let’s rap about some of the components of elderflowers and elderberries (spoiler alert: they’re for more than just colds and flus)..
The gaggle of instruments in elder include anthocyanins, phytosterols, flavonoids, phenols, iridoid glycosides, cardiac glycosides, derivatives of caffeic acid, chlorogenic acid, ursolic acid, and lectins (PMID: 28397551). These components dance with your body in different ways. .
Unlike most pharmaceuticals which mask the symptoms of colds, elder disrupts viral activity. The flavonoids in elder are anti-adherents; they cripple the ability of bacteria and viruses to attach to tissues. Coupled with the aforementioned constituents, elder is shown to clinically reduce acquisition of colds and flus as well as shorten the duration of colds and flus (PMID: 15080016, PMID: 27023596 with acknowledgement both of these studies are small-N (aka small sample size)). .
Beyond sniffles and sneezes, elderberries are a medicinal food in that they are high in antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. They are being studied in people with obesity and diabetes due to one antioxidant in particular, anthocyanin. Elderberries are shown to reduce inflammation (part of the pathogenesis of obesity) (PMID: 28974032), reduce triglycerides, total cholesterol, and LDL-C (PMID: 24625072), and potentially regulate blood sugars (noting only cell-line and animal studies have been published on this matter, PMID: 28303711, PMID: 28025494).
For the foodies out there looking to munch up these berries, the berries contain sambunigrin, a vomit-tastic cyanogenic glycosides, and so MUST be cooked before consuming.
Dr. Krista Kostroman is a Naturopathic Doctor practicing at Insight Naturopathic Clinic. To learn more about her check out her bio or head over to her website.