Written by Divinity Nutra, Updated on July 6, 2022
If you have ever encountered digestive problems, you know how uncomfortable it can be. Digestive issues can lead to more severe gastrointestinal problems if left untreated.
While it may be normal to suffer from poor digestive health, it’s something you should be able to get under control with a little work. You can easily mitigate these issues by regulating a healthy lifestyle and making relevant dietary changes.
Various supplements are available on the market that can also contribute to improved gut health. But, does elderberry help with digestion? Let’s find out.
Elderberry for Digestion
Very few elements of folk medicine have managed to survive the hard blow of scientific investigation. Interestingly, elderberry not only succeeds in that field, but its popularity also seems to only rise with each new piece of literature examining its health benefits.
These dark, purplish berries of European descent have been around since 400 BC when Hippocrates was discovering the basis of clinical medicine. Allegedly, he referred to elderberries as his “medicine chest.” The following generations also took up the practice, and black elderberry (Sambucus nigra) emerged as a powerful cure-all supplement.
Before we look into the research on elderberry and gut health, let’s review how digestion works in more detail.
How Does Digestion Work?
The human body requires food to fuel it for growth and repair. The digestive system is responsible for breaking down this food to absorb the nutrients into the bloodstream.
The organs of the digestive system collaborate to perform digestion. It starts in the mouth when the food is ground by the teeth and swallowed down the esophagus. The ball of food passes down the muscular contractions of the esophagus and reaches the stomach.
The food is then passed from the stomach to the small intestine, pancreas, and finally, the liver. At each stage, the food combines with several digestive enzymes to break it down further. Once the food is exhausted of nutrients, the waste material passes through the large intestine, completing its journey through the GI tract.
Why is Gut Health Important?
The human body must carry out healthy digestion to ensure the timely breakdown of food and absorption of nutrients. That is only possible with a healthy gut.
Gut health describes the functional and bacterial balance throughout the GI tract. A healthy gut means that your “good bacteria” (helpful for digestion) is balanced as compared to the “bad bacteria” (potentially harmful). More than 80% of the immune system’s function relates to the gut, so a healthy gut means healthy immunity and optimal hormone production. (1)
As it turns out, you can improve your gut health with nutrient-rich diets and supplements such as elderberry.
Whether it’s the high antioxidant capacity or the many nutrients packed in it (particularly anthocyanins and flavonoids), elderberry’s composition stands out from the crowd. It is referred to as a superfruit for a reason, and our history, tradition, and science all back up its versatile healing tendencies.
These benefits include, but are not limited to, the following:
- May help alleviate certain autoimmune diseases
- May help prevent cancer
- Reduces allergy and asthma symptoms
- Boosts immune system function
- Helps relieve constipation and IBS
Now, let’s see what the research says about elderberry for digestion and gut health.
Does Elderberry Help With Digestion and Gut Health?
As part of a 2016 trial, researchers created an in vitro gastrointestinal digestion model to monitor the role of elderberry extract as an antioxidant. It found that after GI digestion, more than 75% of elderberry’s phenolic content absorbed and stimulated the growth of “good bacteria.” (2)
The study serves as sound evidence that absorption of elderberry extract in the bloodstream can improve digestive health by supporting the gut microbiome.
Another in vitro model used the same approach to understand the inflammatory response in the gastrointestinal tract after elderberry consumption. The obtained results showed that elderberry enters the small intestine and attenuates the inflammatory response. Reduced bodily inflammation promotes improved gut health. (3)
It’s worth noting that pairing elderberry with other powerful anti-inflammatories, like turmeric, may enhance these results further.
Elderberry’s antioxidant capacity is also making rounds in the food industry. Probiotic yogurts, specifically, utilize elderberry extract to make a nutrient-rich base that can help fight different ailments and scavenge free radicals. (4)
Apart from its composition, the antibacterial property of elderberry is also beneficial for overall gut health. (5)
A 2012 study evaluated the effect of elderberry extract on probiotic Lactobacillus acidophilus, a bacteria found in the digestive tract that works to promote gut health.
The results showed that elderberry fruit extract manages to enhance the functioning of the bacteria. It also showed immune-enhancing effects that proved valuable in treating viral and digestive infections. (6)
A research trial examining oxidative stress focused on elderberry extract’s influence on digestive enzymes. It found that it may inhibit the effect of digestive enzymes responsible for absorbing dietary carbohydrates and lipids. (7)
This inhibition is an effective preventive strategy for obesity and other metabolic disorders while supporting smoother digestion. (8)
While none of these studies manage to address the direct impact of elderberry extract on human subjects, the results still seem to suggest a benefit for overall gut health.
How to Take Elderberry for Digestion
In order of effectiveness, here are the three suggested ways to consume elderberry.
Trials examining elderberry for digestion focused on combining its extract with other beneficial nutrients. The same approach is taken up by elderberry gummies. The best brands will not only contain elderberry extract, but they’ll also come with vitamin C and zinc.
Vitamin C is essential for iron absorption, while zinc helps produce digestive enzymes. Thus, both the nutrients have a key role in gut health, as well as immune support, making elderberry gummies the best form to take for digestion.
Elderberry syrup is available in most health stores but is generally a bit pricier than gummies. They also usually lack the additional digestive support from vitamin C and zinc. But, it’s a solid option if gummies are unavailable.
A warm, healthy cup of elderberry tea can help treat gastrointestinal diseases such as constipation and indigestion. However, much like elderberry syrup, tea often lacks the additional nutrients to support gut health and assist digestion.
How much elderberry should I take for digestion? We suggest taking between 150-300 mg of elderberry per day in extract form. Make sure you check your supplement’s elderberry content to match this quantity. Exceeding this amount may be counterproductive to digestion and gut health.
Potential Side Effects
Does elderberry have any side effects? As long as you take it in supplement form, side effects are incredibly rare and very mild. We suggest diabetic patients remain cautious of the quantity they consume as elderberry can lower blood sugar levels.
You should also avoid consuming raw elderberry fruit or parts of the elder tree as they are toxic and can trigger gastrointestinal disorders.
Who should not take elderberry? Women should avoid taking elderberries during pregnancy as there is no relevant research on the matter. Otherwise, elderberry is safe for most adults and children. For infants and toddlers, speak to a medical professional first.
Final Thoughts on Elderberry for Gut Health
Is elderberry good for digestion and gut health? The answer appears to be, yes. Despite the lack of human studies, the research that exists hints at the potential for elderberry to improve digestive health.
More research needs to be done to confirm the exact relationship between elderberry and digestion. The plant-derivative is one of the most versatile dietary products and should be part of your supplement routine.