It is November here is sunny South Carolina, and across the US the seasons are changing. It is getting dark earlier and there is a chill in the air as the temperatures start to to cool for the fall season. There is a hint of the leaves here starting to turn from green to vibrant shades of red, yellow and orange. And colds, flu and other viruses are on the rise.
Just last night we set our clocks back as daylight saving time came to an end. Now we will be faced with the darkness of night falling an hour earlier each day. This change in time also seems to ramp up cold and flu season…for a reason. As it gets dark earlier, we are not exposed to as much vitamin D from the sun. During the fall and winter, we are also farther away from the sun and so in North America, we don’t get the same amount of vitamin D that we would during spring and summer months.
Lower vitamin D levels also lower immune system function and leave people more susceptible to catching the cold and flu.
One thing to have on hand during this time of year, or if you feel a cold or flu coming on is black elderberry (Sambucus). Elderberry comes from a small flowering plant and different varieties are found around the world. It is thought that elderberry was used as an herbal remedy back in ancient Greece. But it is possible that it was used as a remedy even before that time period. Even ancient people recognized the amazing healing power of elderberry.
So how can this tiny, dark berry benefit your health?
Cold and flu relief
For thousands of years, elderberry has been used to treat cold, flu and other viruses. They are known for being powerful immune system boosters. A 2016 study published in Nutrients showed that elderberry not only shortened the number of days that a person was sick, but also decreased the severity of symptoms.
Can lower blood sugar levels
A study by the University of Oslo has shown that two antioxidants found in elderberry help to stimulate the pancreas which in turn regulates blood glucose levels and the release of insulin. This can help lower and regulate blood sugar levels for those who have type 2 diabetes.
Is a natural laxative
Elderberry was shown to help with constipation. It is widely used in Europe as a laxative. If you are not looking for laxative effects, then avoid using larger amounts of this herb!
Can improve the skin
Elderberries are full of powerful antioxidant flavonoids such as quercetin and anthocyanins. Anthocyanins are what give dark purple berries their color. But they are also powerful antioxidants that can help fight free radicals. There is five times more anthocyanins in elderberry than in blueberries. These powerful bioflavonoids, along with elderberry’s ability to increase collagen production can help to not only prevent, but improve wrinkles.
Helps to prevent cancer
Anthocyanins may also help to prevent cancer. The antioxidant power that they hold not only fights free radicals that can lead to cancer, but it can prevent other cells from mutating and becoming cancerous.
Reduces allergy symptoms
The flowers that are part of the Elder plant have been used for centuries to relieve allergies and the symptoms of hay fever. Taking a teaspoon full of elderberry syrup, or drinking some elderberry tea can help you get rid of the sneezing, itchy and watery eyes and runny nose of allergies.
Is a natural diuretic
Elderberry is known to be a mild diuretic. Because of this you do need to make sure you are getting plenty of fluids so that dehydration doesn’t set in!
Can help treat urinary tract infections
UTIs are common and uncomfortable! They are known for their antibacterial properties which will help to kill any bacterial associated with urinary tract infections. Because they are a natural diuretic they help to flush out bacteria and toxins and can help you to get over an infection more quickly and reduce the symptoms.
Can boost cardiovascular health
Elderberries are high in potassium in elderberry helps to protect the heart by helping to release tension in the arteries. The high fiber content helps to promote good cholesterol levels, which can prevent plaque from building up on artery walls.
Can help with a sinus infection
The antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of elderberry are perfect for helping with a sinus infection. It can help to reduce the inflammation associated with a stuffy nose and can help to kill the germs that are contributing to the infection.
Elderberry is a great herb to have on hand. Making some elderberry tea is simple! Take 1-2 teaspoons of dried elderberry and steep them in hot water for 5-10 minutes. Sip on the tasty tea regularly and help yourself be healthier…anytime!