Black Elderberry may be one of the most commonly used herbs for immune health, and — lucky for us — it’s also quite delicious. In the United Kingdom, it’s not uncommon to find Elderberry jam in corner stores as well as cordials and sodas made from Elderflower (another part of the same plant). Black Elderberries are high in flavonoids called anthocyanins, which give the berries their bluish purple color, as well as another group called anthocyanidins. These flavonoids have antioxidant properties, and they also have been recorded to have a high oxygen radical absorption capacity (ORAC), which is the scale by which antioxidant activity is measured.* They assist with the body’s natural defenses and cell communication.*
Black Elderberry is a long-established tonic for immune support, and it is known for providing antioxidant support and acute response at onset of immune issues. (1,2)
Get to know this diminutive purple berry and how you can integrate it into your daily habits to give your immune system tasty TLC all year round.*
Scientific Name: Sambucus nigra
Parts Used: Flowers and berries
Harvest Info : Flowers harvested in early summer; berries in fall.
Widespread in Europe, western Asia, North America, and North Africa; elder bushes are commonly found growing in woodlands and hedgerow. The bushes have fluffy white flowers in summer, and, later, their branches are full of plump blue-black berry clusters.
Gaia Herbs Sourcing Story
The Black Elderberries for our syrups and products come from a European growing cooperative based in Austria. This cooperative has more than 500 growers and was founded in 1978. One of our growers — the largest producer of organic Elderberries in Europe — has been cultivating these beautiful berries for more than 40 years! Growing herbs for supplements is a long-standing tradition in Europe, so we are honored to be able to work with a family that has preserved this tradition.
Historical and Cultural Uses
The Elder shrub was so revered that its very name reflects the respect that it was given.
The plant has been used since the fifth century AD, and it was valued by both Native American and European herbalists throughout history. Native Americans used the branches of Black Elderberry to make flutes, so it is sometimes called “the tree of music.” Black Elderberry pies were seasonal treats for early American settlers, and it was often made into wine, too (and still is).
While today it is more common to see the berries used in herbal preparations, the flowers and leaves of the Elder plant have also historically been used. Various parts of the plant were used to encourage healthy perspiration, healthy fluid levels, healthy bowel movements during bouts of occasional diarrhea and healthy blood sugar levels.* Later the berries became known as a tonic for immune support.*
Modern Uses and Research
Black Elderberry traditionally has been used for immune support, both as a daily tonic and for immediate response at the start of an immune challenge.* Because of its immune-modulating and antioxidant properties, Black Elderberry is able to work at the cellular level and provide deep support for overall immune health.*(3) By normalizing and promoting the production of cytokines (an action that is essential for overall wellness), the immune system is able to maintain balance during those winter months when our bodies need all the plant power they can get.*(4)(5)
The constituents contained in the berry specifically promote the health of the upper respiratory system, by supporting a healthy inflammatory response and maintaining the integrity of the mucous membranes, too.* Quercetin, a flavonoid, is responsible for these aspects. It also supports a healthy response to occasional pain in the joints and muscles.* Rutin, another flavonoid, supports the integrity of blood vessels, keeping them strong.*
Berries: Vitamins A and C; flavonoids such as quercetin and rutin, and anthocyanins *
Flowers: High in phenolic acids, sterols, flavonoids, mucilage, tannins, volatile oil containing triterpenes*
Tips for Daily Use
When my own kids were little, we had Black Elderberry juice or syrup mixed with Spearmint tea in the fridge all winter long, so it became part of their daily diet. The syrup can be given straight off a spoon, mixed in juice or made into a fun gummy.
Black Elderberry Syrup is so delicious that it usually isn’t a challenge to get even finicky eaters to comply with taking it. However, if you want some fun, delicious ideas beyond the ones I’ve shared, read: 15 Simple Ways to Incorporate Black Elderberry Syrup.
Black Elderberries are highly astringent, and they should always be cooked before consumption. Only ripe, cooked berries are edible — and delicious.
Black Elderberry Syrup is so versatile. Try it in these recipes any time of year!
- Black Elderberry Punch: A fizzy treat the whole family will love
- Cran-Elderberry Relish: Perfect for Thanksgiving or any meal
- Easy Elderberry Applesauce: Only three ingredients
- Elderberry Freezer Pops: Cool and soothing
- Elderberry Vinaigrette: Tangy and sophisticated yet easy to make
- Raw Vegan Elderberry Cheesecake Bites: Decadent, dairy-free bites
- Very Berry Smoothie: Two of our favorite herbs in one smoothie
- Very Elderberry Fruit Strips: Easy fruity snacks for kids and adults
- Yummy Elderberry (Vegan) Gummies: Daily immune support a fun, chewable bite
Where to Buy Black Elderberry Syrup
To find a store nearby that carries Gaia Herbs products, enter your zip code on our Where to Buy page.