Updated: Aug 18, 2021
The elderberry market is still exploding, and it isn't just a "fad" as we originally thought it might be. As we researched the health benefits we knew this was something we wanted to grow on our farm. And living in southeast Missouri makes it easy, as elderberries grow well here. In fact, you can find them along streams and on the sides of country roads if you look closely.
This month is prime elderberry harvesting week (Early August) and I am taking walks through our elderberry patches every 2 days and collecting several gallons of these immune system building power berries.
The photo above is of our bushes that were planted about 3 years ago. In that time they have multiplied their production. We have approximately 1 acre of elderberry plants so far. When you consider that 1 acre of elderberries, planted and harvested by hand, are the approximate equivalent in man-hours to 20 acres of corn or soybeans, you get a feel for what sort of workload we have each year when harvesting! This also gives you a clue as to why elderberries or elderberry products in the stores are so expensive. It is labor intensive to get them off the stems. But well worth the effort.
We use our elderberries primarily to make elderberry syrup which we use year-round to fight off viruses and the common cold, or help us to recover quickly if we do get sick. See below for the top reasons we consider elderberries to be one of the most important crops on our farm and homestead.
TOP BENEFITS OF ELDERBERRIES
1. Elderberries are nutritious.
A cup of elderberries, or the equivalent, contains 106 calories. It also contains the following nutrients:
26.7 grams of carbohydrates
870 milligrams (mg) of Vitamin A
9 mg of Vitamin B9 (folate)
52.2 mg of Vitamin C
55 mg of calcium
2.32 mg of iron
406 mg of potassium
2. Elderberries contain antioxidants and help reduce inflammation, which is shown to be a common root cause of many of today's disease.
But what makes elderberries so effective? One of the reasons is their high content of flavonoids.
What are flavonoids?
Flavonoids are phytonutrients — chemicals found in plants — that create the beautiful rainbow of colors that fruits, vegetables, and flowers sport. Flavonoids are the largest class of plant chemicals. They can be broken down further into other groups and subgroups.
Elderberries are a deep reddish-purple color, almost appearing black. Anthocyanins are flavonoids that contribute to their color. Present in other dark berries, such as blueberries, cranberries, bilberries, and raspberries, anthocyanins are typically found in the outer cell layers of these berries.
Another flavonoid found in elderberries is quercetin, which also has beneficial antioxidant properties. Quercetin is a yellow color and found in foods such as leafy green vegetables, onions, broccoli, apples, cherries, and other dark berries.
Rutin is available on its own as a dietary supplement for people who cannot tolerate rose hips or ascorbic acid. Rutin is a yellow-green pigment found in many plant parts, including the skin, leaves, roots, and flowers. In citrus fruits, rutin is usually found in the rind. Other foods with high concentrations of rutin include grapes, buckwheat, asparagus, apples, figs, and berries, like elderberry.
3. Taking elderberry syrup can help relieve flu symptoms and strep throat.
In 2004, the “Journal of International Medical Research” described a study conducted during Norway’s 1999-2000 flu season. Researchers worked with 60 patients between 18 and 54 years old who had flu symptoms. They gave some patients a placebo and others a syrup made from elderberries. Both sets of patients were given syrup four times a day over a five-day period. The patients who got the elderberry syrup experienced relief of their symptoms by an average of four days earlier than the patients who were given the placebo. They also needed to take less medication than the patients who were given the placebo.
Extracts from elderberries can inhibit the Streptococcus bacteria that cause strep throat. They can also fight influenza B and A viruses.
Elderberries can also reduce the chances of contracting flu and colds. In 2016, the science journal “Nutrients” described a study involving volunteers who traveled by plane, which often puts stress on the respiratory system. The researchers worked with 312 volunteers who were taking a plane to Australia.
They gave a placebo to some of the volunteers and an extract made from elderberries to the others. The travelers had to take the capsules ten days before and five days after their flight. Both groups had to fill out surveys describing any upper respiratory systems before and after the trip.
Seventeen of the travelers who got the placebo got sick compared to twelve of the travelers who were given the extract. The travelers, given the placebo, also stayed sick for a longer time.
In fact, the travelers who were given capsules made from elderberries recovered from their infections two days earlier than the people given the placebos. They also experienced milder symptoms.
4. ELDERBERRIES HELP THE HEART
Elderberries have a lot of potassium and thus help control blood pressure. A diet that is high in potassium benefits the heart and reduces the risk of fatal ischemic heart disease. Elderberries also contain anthocyanins, which are compounds that protect the inner wall of the blood vessels. That protection reduces the risk of heart disease by improving circulation, so the blood flows more easily.
In 2013, the “British Journal of Nutrition” described a study conducted by German researchers who worked with 42 obese and overweight women who had not yet passed through menopause. During an eight-week period, the scientists gave some of the women capsules containing powdered elderberries and gave the others capsules containing a placebo. They also had the women exercise on treadmills. By the end of the eight weeks, the women who had been given powdered elderberries showed greater improvements in their circulation than the women who had gotten the placebo. They also showed a greater reduction in their ox-LDL (oxidized low-density lipoproteins) levels, which meant their atherosclerosis had declined.
These are just a few of the reasons we grow elderberries for our family. And we are happy to share them with you as well! We offer a shelf stable do-it-yourself elderberry kit which can be ordered via our online store. And for local customers, we also offer pre-made shelf stable syrup in half-pint or pint sized jars. Stock up for the winter months and enjoy!