For thousands of years, people have considered the elder tree to be a healing plant, according to a 2011 paper in the journal BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Hippocrates, the so-called “father of medicine,” used to say the tree that grows elderberry was his “medicine chest.” Since then, the plant has evolved varieties in Europe and America, and people have used elderberry for a variety of health remedies.
Elderberries are dark purple berries that grow off the elderberry tree. They are naturally quite tart and are usually sweetened. The health resource website Healthline says the berries aren’t safe to eat unless they’re cooked, while the elderberry flower can be enjoyed raw or cooked. You probably have heard of elderberry used in a juice, jam, chutney, pie, or wine.
What makes elderberry so popular in medical folklore? Here are some health benefits.
Common cold and flu symptom relief
The website Verywell Health says people have been using elderberry for the flu for centuries. According to the 2011 study, researchers found that people infected with the flu who used elderberry syrup four times a day for five days saw their symptoms resolve four days earlier than those given a placebo.
Additionally, a 2016 from Australia found airline passengers on an intercontinental flight who used elderberry extract 10 days before and five days after their flight had 50 percent fewer sick days from the cold than those who didn’t.
However, there doesn’t seem to be any evidence that it can prevent infection from the influenza virus, so you’ll still need to wash your hands frequently.
Other health benefits
According to Healthline, drinking tea with elderberry and other ingredients may help increase the number of stools passed in people who are constipated.
Elderberry also has a number of beneficial nutrients, like vitamin C, fiber, and antioxidants.