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Skin care and elderberry:

Known for their healthy nutrients, berries have fascinated mankind for thousands of years
By Expert Tips
Date: September 26 2015
Editor Rating:
Elderberries jpg
Aging skin – ancient answers
A popular natural remedy for colds and influenza might also be able to help you slow the rate at which your skin ages.
Elderberry, which has been used as a medicine and as a food for thousands of years1, is one of the richest sources of plant pigments called anthocyanins, which have been found to improve microcirculation to the skin2.
This was confirmed by research published in the British Journal of Nutrition2, which investigated how anthocyanins might benefit obese women by decreasing oxidation and inflammation and improving microcirculation. The study found that there was a significant improvement of microcirculation of blood to the skin as a result of anthocyanin-consumption. The improvement was greatest when the consumption of anthocyanins was combined with exercise.
This improvement in circulation combined with the potent anti-oxidant action of elderberry anthocyanins may slow the rate at which our skin ages3, 4, 5.
Elderberry is most often consumed for its anti-bacterial and anti-viral action, in particular against colds, influenza and upper respiratory infections caused by bacteria6, 7, 8.
While anthocyanins are commonly found in fruits such as berries, research published in the Journal of Functional Foods9 and the journal Mechanisms of Ageing and Development10 shows that the European black elderberry (Sambucus nigra) is one of the richest sources of anthocyanins, as well as vitamins, which have also been shown to slow the ageing process by reducing the level of oxygen free radicals in the body10.
Research has however also shown that after being absorbed into the human body, the anthocyanins found in elderberries are excreted from the body within four hours10. Manufacturers of concentrated elderberry extracts like Italian company Iprona AG, Italy, recommend that people should take a dose of elderberry every four hours for optimal benefit against colds or influenza.
As we age, the flow of blood to the skin is reduced 6, 8, 11. By age 70, the microcirculation to our skin is just 40 per cent of what it was when we 2012, 13.
This reduced blood supply has an effect on the underlying structure of the skin, which is part of the process that causes the skin to lose its elasticity and its youthful fullness and leads to the appearance of lines and wrinkles6, 8, 11, 12, 13. The reduced blood supply also causes wounds to the skin to take longer to heal11.
Blood supply to the skin is also reduced as a result of an increase in total blood cholesterol and systolic blood pressure, but the greatest cause of the decline in blood circulation is the change in hormone levels that comes with age13.
Lifestyle factors such as exercise, diet, smoking and obesity also have an influence on circulation to the skin and, consequently, the rate at which the skin ages8.
A study that was published in the journal Nutrition, Metabolism, and Cardiovascular Diseases reported that even moderate aerobic training improved the microcirculation of sedentary obese subjects. Exercise also resulted in reduced blood pressure and an improvement in the level of adiponectin in plasma, which increased the body's sensitivity to insulin14.
After considering the evidence that supports the use of elderberry to slow the signs of skin ageing by improving microcirculation, the next question to resolve is whether to eat elderberries in their natural state, or to use a commercial concentrate. The experts say that a commercial concentrate is a better choice.
An article that was published in the Journal of Complementary Medicine15 quoted Dr Hans Wohlmuth, a pharmacologist and the curator of the Medical Plant Herbarium at Southern Cross University (Australia) and Dr Kerry Bone, Associate Professor in the School of Health at the University of New England (Australia), who said that standardized commercial extracts offered greater potency and overcame the problem of variations in the therapeutic value of the berries in their natural state.
"A standardized extract is manufactured to contain a consistent level of one or more phytochemical constituents that are derived from the original starting material. In the properly standardized extract, the entire chemical profile of the extract displays a very high degree of consistency from batch to batch," Dr Bone was reported to have said.
The black elderberry is a wonder of nature and should take a permanent place in our diet, not just to fight infections, but also to reduce oxidative stress and improve skin health.
Carl Thompson is an Australian freelance health and medical journalist. He specialises in natural alternatives to the synthetic products of the pharmaceutical industry, and is a research writer for BerryPharma®, an (Australian) Italian company that produces standardised berry extracts for medicinal uses. His work has appeared widely in both consumer and professional health trade publications internationally. His most recent book is Inflammation: A Closer Look at What Drug Companies Do Not Want You to Know, about a drug-free approach to managing arthritis and other inflammatory disorders.​
1. American Botanical Council 2015. The ABC clinical guide to Elder Berry. Available from:
2. Lamprecht, M, Obermayer, G, Steinbauer, K, Cvim, G, Hofmann, L, Ledinski, G, Greilberger JF & Hallstroem, S 2013. Supplementation with a juice powder concentrate and exercise decrease oxidation and inflammation, and improve the microcirculation in obese women: randomised controlled trial data, British Journal of Nutrition, vol. 110, no. 9, pp. 1685-1695. doi: 10.1017/S0007114513001001 Available from:
3. Benov, I & Reed, MJ 2015. The effect of aging on the cutaneous microvasculature, Microvascular Research, vol. 100, pp. 25-31. Available from:
4. Pasqualini, L, Schillaci, G, Innocente, S, Pucci, G, Coscia, F, Siepi, D, Lupattelli, G,Ciuffetti, G & Mannarino, E 2010. Lifestyle intervention improves microvascular reactivity and increases serum adiponectin in overweight hypertensive patients, Nutrition, Metabolism, and Cardiovascular Diseases, vol. 20, no. 2, pp 87-92. Available from:
5. Tew, GA, Saxton, JM & Hodget, GJ 2012. Exercise training and the control of skin blood flow in older adults, The Journal of Nutrition, Health & Aging, vol. 16, no. 3, pp. 237-241. Available from:
6. Hearst, C, McCollum, G, Nelson, D, Ballard, LM, Millar, BC, Goldsmith CE, Rooney, PJ, Loughrey, A, Moore, JE, & Rao JR, 2010. Antibacterial activity of elder (Sambucus nigra L.) flower or berry against hospital pathogens, Journal of Medicinal Plants Research, vol. 4, no. 17, pp. 1805-1809. Available from:
7. Roschek, B Jr, Fink, RC, McMichael, MD, Li, D, Alberte, RS 2009. Elderberry flavonoids bind to and prevent H1N1 infection in vitro. Phytochemistry, vol. 70, no. 10, pp. 1255-1261. Available from:
8. Ulbricht, C, Basch, E, Cheung, L, Goldberg, H, Hammerness, P, Isaac, R, Khalsa, KPS, Romm, A, Rychlik, I, Marghese, M, Weissner, W, Windsor, RC & Wortley, J 2014. An evidence-based systematic review of elderberry and elderflower (Sambucus nigra) by the Natural Standard Research Collaboration, Journal of Dietary Supplements, vol. 11, no. 1, pp. 80-120. Available from:
9. Sidor, A & Gramza-Michalowska, A 2014. Advanced research on the antioxidant and health benefit of elderberry (Sambucus nigra) in food - a review. Journal of Functional Foods. Available from:
10. Milbury, PE, Cao, G, Prior, RL & Blumberg, J 2002. Bioavailability of elderberry anthocyanins. Mechanisms of Ageing and Development, vol. 123, pp. 997-1006. Available from:
11. Bentov, I, May, J & Reed, MD 2013. Anesthesia, microcirculation, and wound repair in aging, Anesthesiology, vol. 120, no. 3, pp. 760-772. Available from:
12. Tsuchida, Y 1993. The effect of aging and arteriosclerosis on human skin blood flow, Journal of Dermatological Science, vol. 5, no. 3, pp. 175-181. Available from:
13. Zouboulis CC & Makrantonaki E 2011. Clinical aspects and molecular diagnostics of skin aging, Clinics in Dermatology, vol. 29, no. 1, p. 3-14. Available from:
14. Gavrila, A, Chan, JL,Yiannakouris, N, Kontogianni, M, Miller, LC, Orlova, C & Mantzoros CS 2003. Serum andiponectin levels are inversely associated with overall and central fat distribution but are not directly regulated by acute fasting or leptin administration in humans: cross-sectional and interventional studies, Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, vol. 88, no. 10, pp. 4823-4831. Available from:
15. Boyd, M 2009. Raw materials and standardisation. Journal of Complementary Medicine, vol. 8, no. 2, pp. 45-48. Available from:;dn=672643983444051;res=IELHEA
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