The International Society for Horticultural Science named the elderberry its 2013 Herb of the Year for good reason. In June, scientists gathered in Columbia, Missouri, to share research on the potential of elderberries and elder flowers for preventing and treating illnesses at the first International Elderberry Symposium.
For example, Dennis Lubahn, director of the University of Missouri’s Center for Botanical Interaction Studies, and his team are researching the molecular mechanisms behind elderberry’s folk medicine legacy; specifically, how the berries might help prevent strokes, prostate cancer and inflammation while boosting an individual’s resistance to infectious diseases. Preliminary results show that just two tablespoons of elderberry juice per day appear to offer protection against prostate cancer.
Madeleine Mumcuoglu, Ph.D., from the Hebrew University Hadassah Medical Center, in Jerusalem, explained how the yet unnamed active principle in elderberry blocks viruses from entering human cells. She believes that elderberry extract holds significant potential for preventing and reducing symptoms of the flu, including avian flu and swine flu, plus HIV and the herpes simplex virus. The effective dose may be just one tablespoon a day.
While Mumcuoglu believes elderberry extract is safe, she does not recommend it for pregnant women or those with autoimmune diseases, because it is a known immune system stimulant. “It may be completely risk-free,” she says. “We simply don’t yet have adequate data for proof.”