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Among the black berry fruit of the moderate climate, elderberry (Sambucus nigra L.) is widespread that grows on sun exposed locations in Europe. It is known to contain a range of anthocyanins, flavonoids, and other polyphenolics that contribute to the high antioxidant capacity of its berries. In contrast to better-characterized European S. nigra, the American elderberry, such as the S. Canadensis, has not been cultivated, bred, and promoted as a medicinal plant. Due to large amounts of phytochemicals, particularly high contents of secondary metabolites, the ripe berries are rich source of dietary anthocyanins and other phenolics, thus, have many nutritional benefits. Antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and immune stimulating potential of its fruit have been confirmed by different model systems (Youdim et al., 2000; Thole et al., 2006) and several clinical studies (Wu et al., 2002; Zakay-Rones et al., 2004; Jing et al., 2008).

Elderberry has been used in folk medicine for centuries to treat colds and sinusitis. It has been reported to have antiviral activity against influenza and herpes simplex viruses. Many foods and food components boost the immune system, but little data are available regarding the mechanisms by which they do. Bacterial strains have disparate effects in stimulating the immune system (Gonzalez-Molina et al., 2012). In dendritic cells, the gram-negative bacteria Escherichia coli upregulates proinflammatory cytokines, whereas gram-positive Lactobacillus acidophilus induces a robust interferon (IFN)-beta response (Frokiaer et al., 2012). During influenza season, in a set of clinical trials, symptoms were relieved on average 4 days earlier and use of rescue medication was significantly less in those receiving elderberry extract compared with placebo (Krawitz et al., 2011). Elderberry extract seems to offer an efficient, safe and cost-effective treatment for influenza (Kinoshita et al., 2012). However, these findings need to be confirmed in a larger study in the near future.

The chemoprotective properties of anthocyanin-rich extracts (AREs) with variable anthocyanin profiles to understand the relationship between anthocyanin chemical structure and chemoprotective activity, measured as inhibition of colon cancer cell proliferation. Additionally, the chemoprotective interaction of anthocyanins and other phenolics was investigated. AREs with different anthocyanin profiles from purple corn, chokeberry, bilberry, purple carrot, grape, radish, and elderberry were tested for growth inhibition (GI50) using a human colorectal adenocarcinoma (HT29) cell line. Anthocyanins are potent antioxidants and may be chemoprotective. However, the structure-function relationships are not well understood. The chemical complexity of botanical extracts from elderbery has made mass spectrometric characterization of whole extracts difficult due to the lack of reliable extraction methodology that yield dose-to-dose chemical reproducibility of composition (Roschek et al., 2009). Anthocyanins are a class of flavonoid compounds responsible for the bright attractive red, orange, purple, and blue colors of most fruits and vegetables. Interest in anthocyanins as natural colorants and value-added ingredients has increased due to their color characteristics and potential health benefits. Anthocyanins are the most abundant dietary flavonoids. Anthocyanin consumption has been estimated to be as high as ~200 mg/day/ person (Kuhnau, 1976), although a more recent study (Wu et al., 2006) reported anthocyanin consumption at about 12.5 mg/day/person in the United States, compared to the average daily intake of other flavonoids (23 mg/person) (Hertog et al., 1993). Many fruits and vegetables are rich in anthocyanins, including berries, purple carrot, purple corn, red radish, red cabbage, and others. Their anthocyanin profiles may vary greatly according to the commodity, with differences in the type of aglycone, type and number of glycosylations, and presence of acylating groups. Structures of anthocyanidins (anthocyanin aglycones) commonly found in fruits and vegetables are shown in Figure 1.


Frokiaer H, Henningsen L, Metzdorff SB, Weiss G, Roller M, Flanagan J, Fromentin E, Ibarra A (2012) Astragalus root and elderberry fruit extracts enhance the IFN-beta stimulatory effects of Lactobacillus acidophilus in murine-derived dendritic cells. PLoS One 7:e47878.

Gonzalez-Molina E, Girones-Vilaplana A, Mena P, Moreno DA, Garcia-Viguera C (2012) New beverages of lemon juice with elderberry and grape concentrates as a source of bioactive compounds. J Food Sci 77:C727-733.

Hertog MG, Hollman PC, Katan MB, Kromhout D (1993) Intake of potentially anticarcinogenic flavonoids and their determinants in adults in The Netherlands. Nutr Cancer 20:21-29.

Jing P, Bomser JA, Schwartz SJ, He J, Magnuson BA, Giusti MM (2008) Structure-function relationships of anthocyanins from various anthocyanin-rich extracts on the inhibition of colon cancer cell growth. J Agric Food Chem 56:9391-9398.

Kinoshita E, Hayashi K, Katayama H, Hayashi T, Obata A (2012) Anti-influenza virus effects of elderberry juice and its fractions. Biosci Biotechnol Biochem 76:1633-1638.

Krawitz C, Mraheil MA, Stein M, Imirzalioglu C, Domann E, Pleschka S, Hain T (2011) Inhibitory activity of a standardized elderberry liquid extract against clinically-relevant human respiratory bacterial pathogens and influenza A and B viruses. BMC Complement Altern Med 11:16.

Kuhnau J (1976) The flavonoids. A class of semi-essential food components: their role in human nutrition. World Rev Nutr Diet 24:117-191.

Roschek B, Jr., Fink RC, McMichael MD, Li D, Alberte RS (2009) Elderberry flavonoids bind to and prevent H1N1 infection in vitro. Phytochemistry 70:1255-1261.

Thole JM, Kraft TF, Sueiro LA, Kang YH, Gills JJ, Cuendet M, Pezzuto JM, Seigler DS, Lila MA (2006) A comparative evaluation of the anticancer properties of European and American elderberry fruits. J Med Food 9:498-504.

Wu X, Cao G, Prior RL (2002) Absorption and metabolism of anthocyanins in elderly women after consumption of elderberry or blueberry. J Nutr 132:1865-1871.

Wu X, Beecher GR, Holden JM, Haytowitz DB, Gebhardt SE, Prior RL (2006) Concentrations of anthocyanins in common foods in the United States and estimation of normal consumption. J Agric Food Chem 54:4069-4075.

Youdim KA, Martin A, Joseph JA (2000) Incorporation of the elderberry anthocyanins by endothelial cells increases protection against oxidative stress. Free Radic Biol Med 29:51-60.

Zakay-Rones Z, Thom E, Wollan T, Wadstein J (2004) Randomized study of the efficacy and safety of oral elderberry extract in the treatment of influenza A and B virus infections. J Int Med Res 32:132-140.