Black Elderberry: Traditional Healing Gets a Modern Boost in Potency

    As scientific data increasingly highlights the health benefits of Black Elderberry, this ancient plant is winning new hearts and minds. Packed with antiviral and antibacterial power, elderberry is on the vanguard of a global trend towards more functional foods and healthy living. And, a growing consumer demand is driving the food supplement industry to further innovations and even more powerful forms of the fruit.

    Given that fresh elderberries are only available in season, there’s always been a tradition of preserving them as wines, jams and syrups. But, modern science has developed further ways to distill the harvest into standardized powders, concentrated juices and extracts. Easy to transport, store, and use in countless recipes, these versatile forms of elderberry enable us to take advantage of the fruit’s health-giving benefits in any season — including winter, when the berry’s flu-fighting powers are invaluable. 

    Along with these effective modern forms of elderberry, there’s a new wave with even more potency. It’s the result of new discoveries in how elderberry’s health-giving power works. We’ve long known that the same active compounds that give elderberries their dark color also provide its health benefits. Known as anthocyanins, these are part of a group of micronutrient polyphenols present in plants. Many elderberry powders and extracts on the market focus on these single substances. The process by which they’re created uses heat and chemicals, such as ethanol, to distill and concentrate the compound. 

    But new research shows that elderberry’s remarkable potency is based on a mix of compounds, not just one substance: its power comes from the synergy of its components, working together. And the common heat- or chemical-based methods of extraction tend to eliminate other vital compounds from the mix, preventing that synergy, and possibly lessening elderberry’s effectiveness. 

    A new method of science-based processing reflects this discovery, however, retaining as much of the original fruit matrix as possible, and enabling the health-giving synergy of all of elderberry’s vital ingredients. This unique, innovative membrane enrichment technology, or Ultra filtration, is a proprietary method developed by the Italian fruit processing company, Iprona AG. It relies on mechanics rather than heat or chemicals, utilizing a series of semi-permeable membranes to separate molecules by their size. 

    In essence, since the method not only separates the desirable nutrients but can increase their concentration, it also enriches the mix, creating a vast and power-packed blend of the same phytonutrients present in fresh fruit, and taking advantage of their synergy as well. 

    The following infographic shows some of the differences between this membrane enrichment technology and traditional extraction methods.

    The power of this new technology has been shown in research documented by the American Heart Association. In a test of membrane-enriched elderberry powder against ethanol black currant extract to compare the effectiveness of each on human brain arteries, the membrane enriched powder had a more than 48 percent better dilation of the arteries than the ethanol extract. In fact, in some cases, the ethanol extract even led to a contraction of the brain blood vessels, a reaction that might be attributed to the nature of the extraction process itself.   

    Further study also finds that a membrane-enriched elderberry formula from Iprona called Rubini is a potent inhibitor against the spread of viruses and bacteria, including human pathogenic bacteria and influenza viruses. The research suggests that in this form, elderberry may be a powerful additional and alternative approach to combat infections.

     In its highly standardized, enriched form, elderberry is indeed a modern innovation. Adding elderberry powder into a shake or smoothie transforms a tasty beverage into an elixir. And in the form of lozenges or capsules, it provides a healthy, safe way to manage a flu infection. Honoring a long tradition of natural healing, this is an exciting new tool for food makers and producers — a great instance of new science enhancing old wisdom. 

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    Akam Anyangwe is the Science Advisor for BerryPharma®, and the health writer for The Berry Room blog.