Echinacea vs Elderberry

Exploring Nature's Immunity Champions: Echinacea vs Elderberry

Nature consistently offers a variety of plants that have been widely used in traditional medicine for centuries. Two such plants, elderberry and echinacea, are popular today for their potential health benefits. Both receive acclaim as immunity boosters, but how do they compare? Let's delve deep and discover their mysteries.

Elderberries

Elderberry: The Tiny Fruit with a Mighty Punch

What is Elderberry?

Elderberry, also known as the American black elderberry or common elderberry, is the fruit of the Sambucus tree. You can predominantly find it in Europe and North America. The tree is notorious for its toxic parts except for its white flowers and dark purple berries.

People conventionally utilize these berries in beverages, pastries, preserves, and sweet sauces. They offer a pungent and sour flavor that invigorates, albeit with a mildly acrid undertone.

Antioxidant Powerhouse: Thanks to its active ingredient, anthocyanin, elderberries are rich in antioxidants. They contain anthocyanins that have 3.5 times the antioxidant strength of vitamin E.

Cold and Flu Relief: Elderberries have been known to reduce the severity of cold and flu symptoms. Anecdotal evidence suggests that their benefits are most pronounced when taken within 48 hours of symptom onset. One study revealed that regular consumption of elderberry extract could lead to less severe respiratory symptoms upon infection(1).

Constipation Relief: The anthraquinone compound in elderberries can act as a natural laxative, similar to substances like senna. However, experts advise against using it continuously for more than five days.

Pain and Inflammation Helper: The anthocyanin content in elderberries also offers anti-inflammatory properties. It inhibits nitric oxide production, a molecule involved in inflammation, thereby helping alleviate pain and other inflammatory symptoms.

Besides their traditional use in drinks, pies, jams, and syrups, people also popularly consume elderberries in tea form. The benefits of elderberry tea include its potent antioxidant properties and its ability to offer cold and flu relief. These attributes make it a comforting beverage during illness(2).

Echinacea

Echinacea: The Pink Power Flower

What is Echinacea?

Echinacea, often termed the purple or pale coneflower, is a flowering plant predominantly grown in the U.S. and Canada. Manufacturers employ everything from the leaves to the stems, flowers, and roots to make supplements, extracts, and teas. These products aim to harness echinacea's reputed healing abilities, especially against common ailments like cold and flu.

Immune System Boost: People believe that Echinacea enhances the phagocytic ability of white blood cells. Phagocytosis is the body’s process of destroying bacteria and viruses. It can also stimulate the production of more macrophages, which play an important part in immune and inflammatory responses in the body(4).

Regulation of Inflammation: Echinacea's potent anti-inflammatory properties may even help manage inflammatory conditions like arthritis.

Flu Prevention:

Some studies suggest that echinacea can reduce flu risk by up to 58% and decrease flu symptom duration.

Echinacea elderberry tea is another popular blend, bringing together the anti-inflammatory properties of echinacea with the antioxidant-rich elderberry. This tea is a favorite for those seeking a natural boost to their immune system(3).

Taste Profile of Echinacea

Echinacea has a distinctive taste profile. It often presents a strong, earthy flavor, slightly bitter yet with a hint of floral sweetness. This unique taste makes echinacea a distinct ingredient in teas and supplements.

Echinacea and Elderberry benefits

Bacterial vs. Viral Infections: While elderberry is more effective against viral infections, echinacea works against both bacterial and viral pathogens. This makes echinacea a preferred choice for undiagnosed respiratory symptoms.

Taste and Child-Friendliness:  Elderberry, with its common pleasant-tasting syrups and gummies, is more child-friendly compared to echinacea.

Side Effects:  Elderberry, if over-consumed, might lead to abdominal discomfort because of its laxative effects. Echinacea might cause allergies, nausea, diarrhea, or headaches in some.

Can They Be Taken Together?

Yes, you can consume elderberry and echinacea concurrently. Anecdotal evidence suggests it's safe, with no known interactions between the two. Both herbs have beneficial antioxidant and immune-boosting effects. People often favor elderberry for its higher antioxidant activity.

Elderberry and echinacea tea blend the forces of both, offering a flavorful way to enjoy their combined benefits. This tea combines the immune-boosting properties of both herbs, making it a popular choice for health enthusiasts.

Elderberry and Echinacea tea

Elderberry Tea and Pregnancy

While discussing elderberry's benefits, it's important to note the context of elderberry tea during pregnancy. Pregnant women should consult healthcare professionals before consuming elderberry tea. Researchers have not extensively studied its safety for use during pregnancy(5).

Conclusion

Both elderberry and echinacea are potent plants, each boasting its unique set of benefits. Whether you're looking for prevention or symptom relief, considering these natural alternatives can be a wise move. However, always consult with a healthcare professional before adding new supplements to your routine.

Sources:

1. Sharifi-Rad M, Mnayer D, Morais-Braga MFB, Carneiro JNP, Bezerra CF, Coutinho HDM, Salehi B, Martorell M, Del Mar Contreras M, Soltani-Nejad A, Uribe YAH, Yousaf Z, Iriti M, Sharifi-Rad J. Echinacea plants as antioxidant and antibacterial agents: From traditional medicine to biotechnological applications. Phytother Res. 2018 Sep;32(9):1653-1663. doi: 10.1002/ptr.6101. Epub 2018 May 10. PMID: 29749084.

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29749084/

2. Ross SM. Echinacea purpurea: A Proprietary Extract of Echinacea purpurea Is Shown to be Safe and Effective in the Prevention of the Common Cold. Holist Nurs Pract. 2016 Jan-Feb;30(1):54-7. doi: 10.1097/HNP.0000000000000130. PMID: 26633727.

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26633727/

3. Liu D, He XQ, Wu DT, Li HB, Feng YB, Zou L, Gan RY. Elderberry (Sambucus nigra L.): Bioactive Compounds, Health Functions, and Applications. J Agric Food Chem. 2022 Apr 13;70(14):4202-4220. doi: 10.1021/acs.jafc.2c00010. Epub 2022 Mar 29. PMID: 35348337.

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/35348337/

4. Wieland LS, Piechotta V, Feinberg T, Ludeman E, Hutton B, Kanji S, Seely D, Garritty C. Elderberry for prevention and treatment of viral respiratory illnesses: a systematic review. BMC Complement Med Ther. 2021 Apr 7;21(1):112. doi: 10.1186/s12906-021-03283-5. PMID: 33827515; PMCID: PMC8026097.

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33827515/

5. Holst L, Havnen GC, Nordeng H. Echinacea and elderberry-should they be used against upper respiratory tract infections during pregnancy? Front Pharmacol. 2014 Mar 4;5:31. doi: 10.3389/fphar.2014.00031. PMID: 24624087; PMCID: PMC3941201.

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24624087/