Elderberries (Sambucus) have been a folk remedy for centuries for many parts of the world including Europe, Western Asia, and North Africa and North America where it can grow wild. The medicinal benefits of elderberries are many. The elderberry is used for its antioxidant activity, to lower cholesterol, to improve vision, to boost the immune system, to improve heart health and are used to treat coughs, colds, flu, bacterial and viral infections.
Another interesting fact about elderberries is that elderberries have the highest antioxidant capacity of various small fruits as measured using the ORAC method. [ORAC] = Oxygen Radical absorbance Capacity. Elderberries had a value of 147 compared to 62 for blueberries, 95 for cranberries, 53 for mulberries, 40 for raspberries and 36 for strawberries. According to the study: “Elderberry as a Medicinal Plant” D. Charlebois.
When picking elderberries, make sure they are from the “black” variety (Sambucus nigra). The ripe fruit is either a purple or black color. Don’t pick the green or red berries as they are unripe and can make you sick.
In fact, most uncooked berries and other parts of plants from this genus (Sambucus) are poisonous. Sambucus nigra is the variety of Elderberry that is most often used for health benefits and it is the only variety considered to be non-toxic even when uncooked, but many people prefer to cook the berries at least a little or dehydrate to enhance their digestibility and taste.