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Elderberry is one of the most common plants used for medicinal purposes on the planet. It is a good source of protein, fiber fractions, unsaturated fatty acids, minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants.
It has been used as a medicinal herb for centuries; the ancient Egyptians used it to treat burns and improve complexions, while the native Americans used it for treating infections.
Today, it is oftentimes used as a supplement to relieve symptoms of cold and flu. Several studies also found that elderberry provides various other health benefits, including promoting heart health.
But does elderberry make you poop more too?
Here’s what you need to know about elderberry and its effect on your poop and digestive health.
Does elderberry make you poop?
Elderberry may help relieve constipation and make you poop more. Research by Picon et. al. showed that products containing elderberry speed up the colonic transit time and make patients with chronic constipation excrete more frequently every day. Elderberry is also rich in fiber, which improves digestion.
The randomized clinical trial by Picon et. al was published in the BMC Complementary Medicine and Therapies.
In this study, individuals between the age of 18 and 50 with chronic constipation, according to the criteria of the American Gastroenterology Association, were recruited.
Remarkably, the study found that a combination product containing elderberry (Sambucus nigra) may ease chronic constipation in as little as 2 days. Significant findings were also reported in the patients’ colonic transit time and daily bowel evacuations.
Nevertheless, this study is not conclusive and further well-designed clinical trials are still needed.
According to Very Well Health, the natural laxative effect of elderberry is due to a substance found in it called anthraquinone.
Anthraquinone, which is also found in common botanical laxatives like senna and rhubarb, prevents water absorption in the gut. This inhibition increases intestinal pressure, which in turn stimulates peristalsis (muscle contractions that push food along the digestive tract) to promote bowel clearance.
While little medical literature about elderberry’s laxative effects can be found, it is considered safe to use for up to 5 days.
One cup of raw elderberries provides about 10.2 grams of dietary fiber, which gives you around 41% of the fiber you need every day (based on a 2,000 calorie reference diet).
Fiber not only helps enhance your digestion but also relieved digestive issues, including gas, bloating, stomach upset, and constipation.
That’s not all.
Recent studies have also support elderberry as a significant player in gastrointestinal health.
A study published in the Journal of Science evaluated the interaction between the microbiome and high-antioxidant flavonoids like those found in elderberries.
The idea of elderberries flavonoids providing added benefits through the gut and working together with probiotics gives the industry more to work with.
Nice to know: There are around 30 kinds of elder trees and plants worldwide. Sambucus nigra, which is the European version of elderberry is one of the most commonly linked with health and healing. The father of Medicine, Hippocrates, even goes as far as calling the elder tree his medicine chest.
Can elderberries give you diarrhea?
Ripe or cooked elderberry is generally safe when consumed in small quantities. But eating too many uncooked or unripe elderberries or other plant parts may cause digestive distress, including diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, abdominal cramping, and stomach ache. Larger amounts may even result in severe poisoning.
According to European Medicines Agency, the reason why several parts of unripe elderberry, including fruits, bark and seeds, can cause gastrointestinal issues when consumed in a large amount is due to the presence of lectins, a type of protein that binds to carbohydrates and can be found in almost all foods.
However, like some animals, humans have a hard time digesting lectins since these compounds are highly resistant to the digestive enzymes in the body and can easily pass through the gut unchanged.
Although lectins found in edible plant foods generally do not cause any health issues, some plant lectins, especially those in improperly cooked plant foods, are toxic and can even be lethal.
Nevertheless, properly cooked foods are considered safe to eat since cooking degrades most lectins in them.
That’s why only dried or ripe elderberries are used for medicinal purposes, according to Very Well Health.
Aside from lectins, elderberry contains a compound known as cyanogenic glycosides that may also cause diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting. This toxin can also be found naturally in almonds and apricot seeds.
The CDC’s Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry reported that high levels of cyanide exposure within a short time can damage your heart and brain and may even lead to coma and death.
Healthline noted that 100-g of fresh berries contains around 3 mg of cyanide, whereas 100-g of fresh leaves contains about 3 to 17 mg of cyanide. This quantity is only 3% of the estimated fatal cyanide dose for a 60-kg individual.
Luckily, cooked and commercially-prepared berries are free of cyanide. So no fatality has been reported from consuming them.
Apart from these potentially harmful substances, you should also watch out for other things when planning to consume elderberries (more on this below).
Elderberry side effects you should watch out for
Apart from diarrhea, vomiting, and nausea, there are some other side effects or risks linked to elderberry consumption.
Here are some of the things you need to keep in mind when consuming elderberries:
- If you are breastfeeding or pregnant, avoid consuming elderberry as there is an insufficient study about its impact on fetal health and development.
- Children and adolescents under the age of 18 should avoid consuming elderberry.
- If you have immune problems or autoimmune disorders like rheumatoid arthritis, you might have some reactions to elderberry since it stimulates your immune system.
- If you get hives or have difficulty breathing after eating elderberry, you may be allergic to it.
- You may want to be careful when taking elderberry along with other medications that make you pee since it is a diuretic.
You should talk to your doctor before taking elderberries in any form to ensure they are truly safe for you.
Other elderberry benefits you probably didn’t know about
In addition to helping you go, elderberry provides various other promising health benefits. The following are some proven potential elderberry benefits:
- Rich in nutrients: Elderberry has low in calories and packed with various nutrients, including vitamin C, dietary fiber, phenolic acids, flavonols, and anthocyanins. However, elderberry’s precise nutritional profile depends on its variety, ripeness, and environmental condition. Thus, serving may vary in its nutrition.
- Rich in antioxidants: Elderberry fruits, flowers, and leaves are loaded with antioxidants. The anthocyanins found in them are 3.5 times more potent than vitamin E. Nevertheless, they can lose their antioxidant power during processing.
- May improve flu and cold symptoms: Research found that extracts of black elderberry and its flower infusion help lower the length and severity of influenza. Another study also reported that consuming elderberry extract lozenges for two days leads to significant flu symptoms improvement. Commercially-prepared elderberry for colds treatment comes in many forms, including elderberry gummies, capsules, liquids, and lozenges.
- May promote heart health: Elderberry promotes heart health by lowering cholesterol level, uric acid level, and blood sugar level.
- May boost the immune system: An animal study found that elderberry polyphenols help support immune function by increasing the white blood cell’s production.
- May help prevents cancer: Test tube studies found that both American and European elderberries have some anti-cancer properties.
- Prevents harmful bacteria: A review published in Phytotherapy Research reported that elderberry prevents the growth of bacteria, such as H. pylori, and may alleviate symptoms of bronchitis and sinusitis.
- May protect against UV radiation: A review published in the Archives of Dermatological Research found that a skin product containing that contains elderberry extract provides an SPF of 9.88.
- May have some antidepressant effects: A study conducted by Iranian researchers found that mice consuming 1200 mg of elderberry extract per kg showed remarkable improvement in mood and performance markers.
Is elderberry a diuretic?
Elderberry has diuretic effects that promote urine production. Because of its ability as a natural diuretic, it has been shown to stimulate urination and bowel movements to prevent fluid retention. Since it acts as a diuretic, people should be cautious when taking it along with other medicines that make them urinate.
Is elderberry good for weight loss?
Similar to most fruits, elderberries are loaded with fiber, which boosts satiety and can help you lose weight. A 2013 study released in the British Journal of Nutrition also found that antioxidant-rich elderberry aids in weight loss. It also boosts microcirculation to your skin, making your skin glow and look younger.
How do I know if I’m allergic to Elderberry?
Signs of an allergic reaction to Elderberry may include hives, difficulty breathing, and swelling of lips, tongue, face or throat. The National Institutes of Health stated that certain people might be allergic to black elderberry, particularly to fresh elder stems. Be sure to speak with your doctor if you experience any allergic reaction.
Does elderberry interact with any medications?
Elderberry can potentially interact with some medications, especially immunosuppressants since it boosts immune function and may reduce their potency. It may also interact with laxatives and medications for diuretics, diabetes, and chemotherapy. Talk to your doctor before taking any elderberry supplement or other elder products.