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Health benefits of Canadian elderberries

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Q: What are the health benefits of Canadian elderberries?

A: For many centuries, elderberries have been used for their health benefits as a food and as medicine. The elderberry has been used historically for pain, swelling, infections, coughs, and skin conditions. The elderberry bush was often referred to as the “medicine chest,” a name given by Hippocrates in 400 BCE, since every part of the plant could be used in naturopathy.

Elderberries are very rich in vitamins A and C; they have almost as much vitamin C as an orange. Elderberries contain two to three times more antioxidants than blueberries and cranberries. The high levels of antioxidants in elderberries come in part from a flavonoid called anthocyanin. Anthocyanins give elderberries their rich purple colour.

Elderberries have been used for centuries against viruses that can cause the common cold or the flu. It is an old tradition, but modern research is starting to reveal its secrets.

Elderberries have demonstrated a few antiviral mechanisms, which include blocking the virus before it can infect host cells and inhibiting neuraminidase activity (an enzyme found on the surface of the virus).This makes elderberries a great ally in maintaining our health during the cold Canadian winter months.

While elderberries are antiviral, elderflowers are known for their diaphoretic and expectorant properties and have been commonly used to help relieve congestion and fever.

A species of elderberry ironically called the American elderberry, though its taxonomical name is Sambucus canadensis, is now being cultivated organically in Canada to produce natural remedies. A recent study demonstrated that these Canadian cultivated elderberries were more light and heat stable than their counterpart, the European elderberry (Sambucus nigra).

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