Written by Divinity Nutra, Updated on February 12, 2023
Thanks in large part to our disturbingly unhealthy lifestyles, the diabetes epidemic is at its highest ever. Genetics can indeed play a part in its development. But, the insidious attacker most often creeps into our homes over time through excess consumption of junk food, procrastination on exercise, and poor sleeping habits.
Sadly, diabetes often arrives with many uninvited guests such as obesity, skin damage, and cardiovascular diseases, to name a few. While many lifestyle changes can help bring diabetes under control, making appropriate dietary changes and adopting nutritious supplements is perhaps the most common.
Many supplements claim to help diabetics control their blood sugar. But, is elderberry good for diabetes? Let’s find out.
Elderberry and Diabetes
Elderberries are dark, purple berries widespread across many different continents. Their diversity of origin reflects in the traditions and folklore associated with them.
This takes us back to 400 BC to the start of medicine when Hippocrates infamously relied upon elderberry’s breadth of applications for many cures. It is also believed that the berry represented a spiritual symbol to the European pagans, while the Greeks thought of it as an elixir.
Today, science provides an abundance of information and research to support many of the rumored health benefits of elderberry. Black elderberry (Sambucus nigra) is best known for its ability to boost immune system function, treat cold and flu symptoms, and even provide benefits during a COVID-19 infection.
Before we analyze elderberry and diabetes, let’s try and understand the disease in a bit more detail.
What is Diabetes?
Our body utilizes insulin (a hormone produced by the pancreas) to break down the glucose from our food into the bloodstream. Blood glucose is the body’s primary source of energy.
Diabetes occurs when the human body fails to produce or use insulin effectively. It does not allow blood sugar to be processed and causes it to accumulate in the blood. This, in turn, causes high blood sugar, which may lead to more dangerous health problems.
Keep the following types of diabetes in mind as we move forward in the article.
- Type 1 Diabetes: An autoimmune disease where the immune system mistakenly destroys insulin-producing cells in the body.
- Type 2 Diabetes: The body becomes resistant to the supplied insulin and fails to utilize it effectively.
- Gestational Diabetes: This kind of diabetes is diagnosed in women during pregnancy. Mostly, it disappears after childbirth but leaves the woman at risk of type 2 diabetes.
Why choose an elderberry supplement over more popular fruits like strawberries or blueberries? Elderberry has the highest antioxidant value among all its competitors and is a significant source of anthocyanins and flavonoids, two major drivers of its benefits.
Therefore, this superfruit has greater positioning against most bodily diseases and can effectively treat many of them. These health benefits may include but are not limited to the following:
- Reducing the impact of allergies and asthma
- May help prevent cancer
- Benefits skin health
- Improves gut health and digestion
- Eases constipation and IBS
Now, let’s take a look at the studies to see the relationship between elderberry and diabetes.
Is Elderberry Good for Diabetes and Blood Sugar?
Diabetic treatments heavily revolve around the dietary intake of polyphenol-rich food, such as natural fruits and berries.
An animal study presented by the International Journal of Molecular Sciences is our first in vivo evidence. Diabetic rats consumed different dosages of elderberry extract to evaluate elderberry’s efficiency in diabetes management.
Results showed a significant reduction in fasting blood glucose and insulin resistance. Overall, it concluded that elderberry may help alleviate metabolic disorders in type 2 diabetics.
A 2019 study specifically took up the case of insulin resistance and evaluated its response after elderberry supplementation. It concluded that elderberry extract had the therapeutic potential to reduce insulin resistance and symptoms of other metabolic disorders.
The study also mentioned the relationship between insulin resistance and oxidative stress. That brings us to another important aspect of this discussion—the correlation between diabetes, oxidative stress, and anthocyanins.
Evidence suggests that elevated levels of oxidative stress can hamper the body’s antioxidant defense mechanisms and put you at risk of developing insulin resistance.
Elderberry boasts a high antioxidant capacity, which may be useful to fulfill the depletion of antioxidants due to oxidative stress. Furthermore, supplementation is also proven to directly eliminate oxidative stress.
Studies have also analyzed dietary flavonoids as a whole and regarded them as essential tools for increasing insulin sensitivity and lowering blood sugar levels. As we know, elderberries are a significant source of flavonoids.
Lastly, there also seems to be a clear link between the development of diabetes and chronic inflammation, which elderberry has been shown to help. This is why elderberry may work well when combined with turmeric benefits, another potent natural anti-inflammatory.
Can Elderberry Raise Blood Sugar?
A 2020 study from London is another great piece of evidence that studies elderberries for blood sugar and insulin response. The trial demonstrated that elderberry extract reduces postprandial insulin and exhibits no gastrointestinal problems for diabetic patients.
Postprandial insulin refers to the uncontrolled rise of blood sugar after a meal. Therefore, elderberries do not trigger high blood sugar levels. Instead, they help regulate the optimum amount in the body.
How to Take Elderberry for Diabetes
There are three ways you can take elderberries for diabetes.
Healthy supplementation is at the core of diabetes management. Thus, your choice of supplement should incorporate additional nutrients, such as zinc and vitamin C which can help control oxidative stress. The benefits of elderberry gummies provide an extra boost of immunity along with the antioxidant capacity of elderberry extract.
The best elderberry gummies contain all three ingredients and can help manage blood sugar with daily use. They are easier to manage than pills or capsules and safe for adults and children.
Elderberry syrup is a close second in terms of productivity but they often lack the extra immunity that comes along with the added vitamin C or zinc. They are typically a bit more expensive than gummies for what you get, but they can be a good option for diabetics.
It can be very tempting to skip the hassle of buying supplements and settle for homemade elderberry tea. Similar to syrups, the tea usually lacks the power-packed composition of a supplement. Still, during cold and flu season, the extra warmth can be beneficial.
How much elderberry should I take for diabetes? About 150-300 mg of elderberry extract daily is the optimum dosage for blood sugar management. Diabetes is vulnerable to any changes in diet, so we suggest you do not go any higher than that.
Potential Side Effects
What are the side effects of elderberry? We saw in several studies that elderberry lowers blood sugar levels. Thus, diabetic patients should be cautious of their elderberry consumption. It can lead to hypoglycemia if taken excessively.
For example, if you’re currently prescribed diabetes medication like Metformin, it’s best to speak with a doctor or certified medical professional before adding a supplement.
Apart from that, eating raw elder fruit or parts of the elder tree can trigger gastrointestinal problems. Besides these few items, elderberry side effects are generally rare and mild.
Who should not take elderberry? Given that elderberry research is still underway, there are no reports regarding whether it is safe during pregnancy. While the supplement is safe for kids, we advise pregnant women to avoid it.
Final Thoughts on Elderberry for Diabetes
Does elderberry lower blood sugar? The answer seems to be, yes. Several studies have displayed the potential of elderberry as a therapeutic medium and noted its ability to improve insulin sensitivity.
However, remember that controlling diabetes depends on a lot of factors. Even if you are using elderberry for blood sugar, you must have a healthy diet and an active lifestyle to truly combat the disease.
There is currently no cure for diabetes, and elderberry should not be viewed as a replacement for traditionally prescribed medications.
- Our Picks: Best Sambucus Elderberry Gummies