Elderberries are native plants in many areas and ripen in the summer. They are widely enjoyed for their flavor and they may even support your immune system. If they are abundant in your area, you may be able to harvest them all summer long and turn them into beverages, jams, and syrups. If you do forage, do avoid private property and highly-trafficked areas where the berries may have been contaminated.
Raw foodists may be tempted to create raw concoctions out of their local elderberries. If you are so tempted, make sure your local variety can be eaten raw. Some varieties will make you sick if they are raw. Rest assured that if you want to cook them, their benefits will be preserved. Their flu-fighting benefits, for instance, have been studied using an extract from the cooked berry.
One of the most intriguing properties of elderberry may be its ability to fight the flu. A 1995 study examined the effect of elderberry extract on a flu outbreak. In a double-blind study, researchers found that those treated with elderberry extract recovered in 2-3 days, compared to six days untreated. (Read more about that study on our site.) With few options to treat the flu, the researchers recommended the medical community look at this option.Many consumers take elderberry extract to prevent the flu as well as it stimulates the immune system.
If you are developing a flu-fighting regimen for your household, you will certainly be asking how much elderberry to integrate into your diet. In many households through the winter, families will add elderberry recipes (such as those below) to their weekly menus or may add a drop or two of elderberry syrup to their beverages every day. This is a fine approach but it does not address how much you should take if flu hits your household.A problem with a “dosage” of elderberry is that there is no agreed-upon standardized measure (e.g., “consume the equivalent of five berries a day”).
Your best bet is to keep a supplement in your cabinet for these occasions where there is a research basis so that you know you are not over-“dosing” your family. In that event, there is one stand-out supplement that should be a standard. You can find the supplement on Amazon, even with free shipping in some cases. This company is a stand-out because it is this formulation of elderberry that has been used in clinical trials. The dosage on the package is actually based in research that can help your family recover from the flu. Buy it and keep it in your cabinet.
Alternatively, you may want to buy elderberries to integrate into your weekly cooking menus using dried elderberries. This is a great option in a prevention-oriented household. You may be able to find dried elderberries locally if you have a health food store with a large selection of bulk bin items. However, most consumers will not have access to dried elderberries locally. In that case, we recommend that you buy elderberries from this vendor. You will want to buy a number of other items to save on shipping.
For references on making treats out of your elderberries, check out this elderberry jam recipe at Simply Recipes, and this elderberry syrup recipe by David Lebovitz. If you plan to go sugar-free on these recipes, you may not be satisfied with the taste, but more power to you.Read our article on homemade elderberry syrup or watch the video at right — John Gallagher describes the very simple process.
Part of the current fascination over elderberries stems from their high antioxidant levels. The USDA has compiled a database on the antioxidants in food and lists elderberries as a standout. Foods are measured by their “ORAC values,” or their Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity. Blueberries, a known and popular antioxidant fruit, have a total ORAC value of about 4,700. The total ORAC value of elderberries is 14,700 — the second-highest antioxidant fruit in our database (see elderberries here). Those seeking a high anti-oxidant food should beat the birds to all of the wild elderberries in their area.
Elderberries are a great source of vitamins. In the graphs and tables below we provide the vitamin content of elderberries, but to put the numbers in perspective, consider that these calculations are based on 100 grams of elderberries. Grams is a measure of weight. Here is an alternative measure for this food: 1 cup of elderberries equals 145 grams. If you are eating elderberries, you are likely eating 50 grams (or less). Fifty grams would have half of the value you see in these graphs and tables.The vitamin C and B vitamin content of elderberries is impressive.
While elderberries are not loaded with minerals, they can be an important part of an iron-rich foods diet. Fruit as a class is not high in iron and yet 100 grams of elderberry does contribute 9% to the daily value of iron — that is a strong contribution for a fruit. In addition, elderberry has an important iron enhancer: vitamin C. The high vitamin C content of elderberries will help you absorb more iron from your other foods. For this reason, we enjoy homemade elderberry beverages (like this water kefir recipe) with our meals to help improve our overall digestion of iron and other nutrients.Elderberries also contain a good portion of potassium, calcium, and even copper as you may note in the table below.
For those counting calories, fats, or carbs, check out this list for macro nutrients in elderberries.
|Component||Amount||% Daily Value*|
|Vitamin||Amount||% Daily Value*|
|Vitamin C||36 mg||60%|
|Thiamin – B1||.07 mg||5%|
|Riboflavin – B2||.06 mg||4%|
|Niacin – B3||.5 mg||3%|
|Pantothenic Acid – B5||.14 mg||1%|
|Vitamin B6||.23 mg||12%|
|Food Folate||6 mcg||2%|
|Vitamin B12||0 mcg||0%|
|Vitamin A – IU||600 IU||12%|
|Vitamin A – RAE||30 RAE|
|Mineral||Amount||% Daily Value*|