Elderberry has antioxidant properties that may be beneficial for balancing blood sugar in diabetes, but current evidence is limited. There may be a risk of hypoglycemia, and raw and unripe parts of the plant are toxic. People with diabetes must consult a doctor first.
Elderberry, or Sambucus nigra, is a plant with berries that have medicinal properties due to their high levels of antioxidants. Elderberry is a rich source of polyphenols, including anthocyanins, flavonols, and phenolic acids. Because of these properties, people have used the fruits, leaves, and bark of the tree in traditional medicine to treat various diseases and ailments for centuries.
Research from 2015 suggests that elderberry supports the immune system and protects against colds and respiratory conditions. Additionally, it may be beneficial for people with obesity or diabetes.
This article looks at how elderberry may be beneficial for managing diabetes and the risks of taking it. It outlines dosage recommendations and how to consume elderberry.
The compounds in elderberries, such as polyphenols, may be beneficial for managing diabetes and its complications. Researchers have done several studies to investigate the plant’s antidiabetic properties.
It may help balance blood sugar
Elderberry may be beneficial for people with diabetes due to its effects on glucose metabolism and blood sugar balance.
For example, a
A 2015 review suggested that elderberry may increase the uptake of glucose into muscle and insulin secretion.
Learn more about foods that help stabilize blood sugar and insulin levels.
It may help to avoid diabetes complications
In diabetes, glucose can attach to hemoglobin, the protein in red blood cells, to produce glycated (or glycosylated) hemoglobin. Doctors measure glycated hemoglobin with a test called HbA1C or A1C to show how much glucose has attached to hemoglobin over the previous 3 months.
It is essential to keep glycated hemoglobin in check to avoid diabetes complications such as:
- neuropathy (nerve damage)
- cardiovascular disease
- foot and eye problems
The American Diabetes Association recommends that someone with diabetes should keep A1C levels under 7%.
Research on animals suggests that elderberry may help keep glycated hemoglobin under control. For example, an older 2009 study on rats with diabetes revealed that elderberry extract reduced glycated hemoglobin, free radicals, and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol oxidation which can be risk factors of heart disease.
Additionally, another 2010 animal study showed elderberry to be cardioprotective in rats with high blood pressure. The authors suggested that elderberry, when used as a supplement, may protect blood vessels. However, it is important to note that animal studies may not have the same effects in humans, so further research would need to confirm this.
It may improve bone mineral density
A 2012 study simulated a 6–7-year human duration of diabetes in rats with the condition and found that elderberry extract improved their bone mineral density. The researchers noted that people with diabetes are prone to osteoporosis because of contributing factors such as:
- advanced glycation end products in collagen
- altered calcium metabolism
Although elderberry may not act the same way in humans as rats, the researchers suggested it may be a promising treatment for diabetic complications, such as osteoporosis.
For a person who has diabetes, there are risks involved in consuming elderberry or taking supplements.
Most of the available research that suggests elderberry may be beneficial for diabetes is conducted on animals or in laboratory studies. This does not necessarily translate to safe and effective treatments for humans.
Because elderberry affects blood glucose balance, people with diabetes should be careful when consuming the fruit, particularly if they are taking medication for their condition.
There is a risk that someone taking metformin or injecting insulin could become hypoglycemic if they consume elderberry. Therefore, people should not consume elderberry if they have diabetes unless their doctor has agreed to it.
Elderberries contain toxic compounds, including
People may also consume elderberry in recipes that contain sugar, such as syrups or desserts. A person should be mindful of this when purchasing elderberry products.
Learn about the worst fruits for a person with diabetes to eat here.
People can harvest ripe elderberries and elderflowers from trees and cook them to make:
Someone must not consume any part of the plant raw, as it can be poisonous, and people must make sure they boil ripe berries thoroughly before eating them.
However, people should take care not to mistake the elder plant for other plants such as hemlock and pokeweed, which are highly toxic. Anyone who has an interest in foraging should consult an expert guide.
People can also consume elderberry as a supplement in the form of a:
The appropriate dosage of elderberry will depend on the product someone is consuming. For example, one of the main marketers of elderberry extracts, Sambucol, advises adults to take 10 milliliters of their elderberry syrup daily, or up to four times per day.
A person should speak to a healthcare professional or pharmacist if they are unsure about elderberry dosages.
Elderberry may be beneficial for balancing blood sugar in diabetes and preventing complications such as osteoporosis and heart disease.
However, the benefits seen in studies are mainly on animals, and there is no conclusive evidence for elderberry’s safety or effectiveness in humans.
People must not consume raw or unripe elderberries or other parts of the plant because they are highly toxic. Someone can purchase elderberry as a supplement, syrup, or tincture but should consult their doctor first if they have diabetes.