American Elderberry (Sambucus Nigra Canadensis)
Also frequently called Blue Elderberry. This variety is found wild in abundance in many areas, including N Central Idaho where we are located. It is by far the most Wild Harvested Elderberry in the region. It is very popular used in Syrups and other preserves. It is sometimes dried for teas also
Black Elderberry (Sambucus Nigra)
This variety is also known as European Elderberry. Black Elderberries are extremely rare in the wild in this region. In fact, there are only two areas we have found that they grow in large quantities. No, I won't tell you where;). Black Elderberries are the most common used in "Nutraceuticals" (I love that word). Why? Read on for more information.
There are other varieties of Elderberry as well, but I'm going to limit my writing to these. REMEMBER, NO ELDERBERRIES SHOULD EVER BE EATEN RAW AND KNOW WHAT YOU ARE PICKING!!!!!
AMERICAN ELDERBERRY (Sambucus Nigra Canadensis)
As you can clearly see, this variety is plentiful in the wild. The berry clusters can appear MASSIVE. However, once cleaned that giant bunch o' berries you see the berrymeister (me) holding probably ultimately yielded about a pound of berries after cleaning. That's enough Elderberries to make roughly a pint of high quality and content Elderberry Syrup. This cluster of berries is far from the norm, hence the photo. It was however, so impressive that I hacked my way through about 20' of Blackberry brambles to get to it. Ironically, these were the only berries growing on a very small, spindly tree.
Since the American Elderberry is the most common found in the wild around here, it stands to reason that this subspecies is the one most commonly used in locally sold Elderberry products. Believe me, there are plenty to be found. I see them on FB marketplace, farmers markets, small stores, they're everywhere this time of year. I will write more on the proliferation of this stuff later in this blog under "Are All Elderberry Products Created Equally".
Most varieties of Elderberry contain similar compounds that make them "Superfoods" to some degree. However, different subspecies contain different levels of each compound. Also, most of the truly scientific studies done on Health benefits of Elderberries, are done outside of the USA, so in most of the studies you will see "Black Elderberries" specified.
For more on the FDA and the lack of support for this lowly berry with amazing potential, see my previous blogs.
In general, Elderberries contain very high levels of vitamins A,B, and C. They also are high in minerals like Potassium, Iron, Copper, and Phosphorous. But the big benefits in the realms of Antioxidants, Anti-inflammatory, and possible Anti-Viral properties (not approved by the FDA for this one) are to be found in the Phytochemical, Anthrocyandin, and Polyphenol content. Additionally, Elderberries are likely good for heart health, digestive health, respiratory health...the list goes on. Check this out https://www.naturalfoodseries.com/11-benefits-elderberries/.
While most studies have been done on Black Elderberry compounds, some of the information available indicates that American Elderberries may actually contain more of some of these elements. https://www.elderberryedgefarm.com/pages/different-kinds-of-elderberry. In my next paragraph, I will link to some studies on Black Elderberries. Either way, we are fortunate to be able to use a blend of Black Elderberries and American Elderberries, both Wild Harvested right here in our area.
BLACK ELDERBERRY (Sambucus Nigra)
While the American Elderberry is the variety most common in the wild in N Central Idaho, the Black Elderberry is also available if you know where to look and are highly adventurous. We find them in smaller numbers in very specific locations at a very specific time of year. Unlike their American Cousins which have a harvest window of around two months, these beauties require constant, monitoring only allowing a couple of weeks between ripeness and falling off the bush. This variety seems to be a smaller "bush" rather than a more typical tree. Also, notice the brightly colored red vine, which is a telltale sign of black vs blue berries. American Elderberries will look to be the same color before they are ripe, but will not have a red vine.
As stated earlier, most studies done on Elderberries and their health benefits are done using Black Elderberries, and outside the USA. Perhaps other countries care more about their citizens health and less about profits? I digress LOL. Once again, I wrote about the FDA in an earlier blog and this one is all about Berries. Here's an interesting article that appears to be scientific in nature that specifies Black Elderberries. It also specifies "Commercially Grown" which I have thoughts on. More on that in ARE ALL ELDERBERRY PRODUCTS CREATED EQUALLY. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/04/190423133644.htm
This particular study comes from the University of Sydney and quite specifically states that "It inhibits the early stages of an infection by blocking key viral proteins responsible for both the viral attachment and entry into the host cells". In short, I read this as saying it may not keep you from getting sick, but it may keep you from getting really sick. To phrase it another way it may "Reduce Viral Load". Sound familiar? This study was conducted before the current Covid outbreak, but seems to suggest that Elderberry Syrup, at least Black Elderberry Syrup as used in the study, may in fact work much the same as current Covid strategies including masks, and vaccinations. It also refers to Phytochemicals which give the Elderberry it's distinct color. In general the darker the color of the berry, the higher the concentration of Anthocyandin compounds. These Black Elderberry specific studies are the reason we go to the lengths we do to harvest the elusive Wild Black Elderberry and combine them with the American Elderberry. Clearly both have health benefits, but is one better than the other? Until we know more, we will continue to "hedge our bets" and use both.
ARE ALL ELDERBERRY PRODUCTS CREATED EQUALLY?
No, no way, not even close, nay I say. Pictured at the right is a 10 oz bottle of Bitterroot Botanicals of Idaho Wild Crafted Elderberry Syrup. Unfortunately at the time the photo was taken, only fresh American Elderberries were available. The Black Elderberries were long gone. If you take the time to go back to an earlier blog entitled "How to get more bang for your buck with Elderberry products" you will find some information on the actual Elderberry content of some popular products. Most of the products referenced in that post have undergone the same arduous testing, licensing, approval. bureaucratic BS that we have gone through. However, most of those products rely heavily on commercially grown Elderberries. We all know what effect commercial farming has on soils, and therefore nutritional content and value of the food products manufactured. I even found some sellers on Amazon touting "Wild Crafted" that specifically stated their berries were picked in Europe. And Organic? Please tell me you know that this term has been usurped by big agricultural companies that have zero interest in anything beyond profits. Many of these companies are HUGE corporations that recognize that the cost of sugars, corn syrup, and fillers are way less than the cost of Elderberries whether, conventional or Organic. LET THE BUYER BEWARE.
Since Elderberries are in season locally, everybody's cousin makes and sells Elderberry Gummies, Elderberry Syrup, Elderberry Tonic, Elderberry Moonshine (I made you read that one twice LOL). For crying out loud, even my cousins cousin makes Syrup. I know for a fact that most of these folks are making the products under "Cottage Industry Foods" regulations. This is basically no regulations unless you make someone sick. There are no standardized ingredients or processes required, no licensing, no commercial kitchen, no product testing. Pretty much you can make what you want out of whatever, call it what you want, and sell it within the state. Now, I'm all for small, independent business. I'm certainly not opposed to anyone trying to make a few bucks however you can. But...LET THE BUYER BEWARE. I've seen these products listed with Apple or Grape Juice as the primary ingredient. In the case of DIY Elderberry Syrup kits, I look at them and say "where's the berries?". The companies, such as Bitterroot Botanicals of Idaho are held to a much higher standard, and as such deliver a more consistent, safer product that is manufactured under rules and regulations designed for the safety of the consumer. There appears to be a fine line between a legitimate, family owned small business, and Cottage Industry Foods producers, but in reality, it's not that fine.
NOW, ON TO THE GOOD STUFF
Yup, I'm in bidness, and I want you to buy my Syrup LOL. How, you might ask, can I have the opportunity to give this gentleman and his family my financial support by purchasing his clearly vastly superior product? Well, I'm glad you asked;) If you know me personally, of course you can call me. Our Syrup products are available on our website. We also sell on Amazon https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B09GCQ6BWP?pf_rd_r=M62YJ698WVCBXFQ62AF5&pf_rd_p=8fe9b1d0-f378-4356-8bb8-cada7525eadd&pd_rd_r=7c482c54-986f-4722-ba04-8468a877a40d&pd_rd_w=ZPR6b&pd_rd_wg=QDukM&ref_=pd_gw_unk. Dang, I didn't realize it would be that long until I pasted it. You can just enter B09GCQ6BWP for the 20 oz bottle, B09GNP622K for the 30 oz bottle, B09HP5S25C for the 10 oz bottle. Enter these numbers in the Amazon search bar, and it will take you directly to our product. Since we are a new Amazon store, we have a sale on temporarily at that site only. We also occasionally advertise on some of the more local FB marketplace sites.
I would like to thank Lisa for inspiring me to once again, sit at my desk for hours doing research for useful links and writing this piece.