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Health Benefits of Elderberry Juice
Elderberry juice supplies vitamin C to assist in the prevention and treatment of colds. Elderberry juice also acts as a demulcent to soothe the chest. It also acts to induce sweating (a property described as sudorific) which has been commonly held to be beneficial in the early stages of a feverish cold. Elderberry juice also has mild laxative and diuretic (the promotion of water loss) properties. For variety, try mixing elderberry juice with apple juice, blackberry juice or rhubarb juice.
The elderberry tree grows wild throughout Europe and has a long history of medicinal applications. In addition to the berries, the bark leaves and root of the tree have all been shown to have active properties. The berries themselves must be allowed to ripen fully before picking as the unripe fruit contains poisonous alkaloids and cyanogenic glycosides. The alkaloids are characterized by their bitterness and are chemically related to quinine, caffeine, nicotine and strychnine.
The cyanogenic glycosides release poisonous hydrocyanic acid. This compound can be lethal to small animals, but in the doses present in the unripe elderberry, tends only to bring tears to the eyes of adults. While it is important to choose only ripe elderberries, the presence of poisons in the unripe fruit should not put you off this useful berry. Think of the well-loved potato. A green or sprouting potato contains the poison solanine (another alkaloid) which should be avoided, but this hasn't stopped millions of people from enjoying the standard untainted version.
In bygone days elderberries were illicitly added to red wine and port to enhance their color. Leading doctors carried out repeated studies to discover that it was only port that had been diluted with elderberry juice that had this anti-neuralgic property. The genuine article had no such value. As a result of their investigation, the physicians of Prague recommended a combination of 30g of elderberry juice and 10g of port wine in the treatment of sciatica and neuralgia.
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