Everyone into herbs knows that Elderberry is one of our best medicinal plants for acute treatment of coughs, colds and flues… but what else is this plant up to? Anytime a plant is pigeonholed into a singular category we oftentimes start overlooking other ways that it can be used.
Like all brightly colored berries, Elderberry is extremely rich is bioflavonoids- a specific category of constituents that have a distinct cooling antioxidant effect upon the tissues, protecting the entire body from the detrimental effects of inflammation. This lends it a much wider range of applications- from the treatment of gut inflammation, protecting the heart and cardiovascular system, ocular health, and also as a deep, restorative tonic for the immune system.
It’s interesting to note that most of our immune tonics used in herbalism come to us from either Chinese medicine or Ayurveda. Is it possible that the far east was the only place in the world to be blessed with plants that restore a weak and deficient immune system? I don’t think so… rather I think that the concept of immune tonification has been overlooked in our western system of herbal medicine.
To clarify, by immune tonic, I do not mean an acute stimulation of the immune system like we see with Echinacea… I mean deep restoration, nourishment, and strengthening of the core immunity. We tend to use remedies like this not when you are acutely sick, but when you are not sick to keep you that way. This is one of the biggest mistakes people make with the most famous immune tonic Astragalus. One of the classic contraindications for that remedy in Chinese medicine is an acute cough, cold or flu. I consider Elderberry to be particularly unique in that it is equally stimulating and tonifying to the immune system.