Elderberry Supports Prebiotic, Probiotic Formulations, Studies Suggest


Results from two studies suggest that elderberry, with its constituent antioxidant flavonoids, may help strengthen prebiotic and probiotic formulations. 

Photo © iStockphoto.com/RedHelga

In the midst of one of the deadliest flu seasons in years, interest in supplements that support the immune system runs high. With evidence mounting that the microbiome nourishes the gut’s immune cells, attention is also turning to probiotic/prebiotic formulations that can strengthen immunity-and to the ingredients that can help them do so. It’s with this in mind that Artemis International (Ft. Wayne, IN), a supplier of dark-berry extracts and flavonoid ingredients, points to two studies suggesting that elderberry (Sambucus nigra), with its constituent antioxidant flavonoids, may be one such ingredient.

The more recent study1 used a model of influenza-infected mice to determine that desaminotyrosine (DAT), a gut metabolite associated with the microbial digestion of the flavonoids found in elderberry, helps protect the murine hosts by priming the amplification loop of type I interferon signaling-which itself bolsters phagocytic immune cells’ antiviral response.

In another study,2 researchers looked at the functional outcomes of supplementation with a prebiotic/probiotic/antioxidant complex on endotoxin levels and gut permeability in recreational athletes both before and after endurance exercise. Twenty-five male and five female subjects supplemented with either the complex or a placebo for 12 weeks preceding a long-distance triathlon. At baseline, before the race and six days following, researchers measured subjects’ plasma endotoxin units and gastrointestinal permeability and found that compared to the placebo, the supplement may reduce endotoxin levels, with the product “potentially conferring an additive effect via combined GI modulation and antioxidant protection,” the study’s authors wrote.

Melanie Bush, chief science officer, Artemis International, noted: “There is exciting and significant research being done on the microbiome and exactly how a healthy gut supports the immune system and overall human health. Elderberry is already an established name in the world of immune support and the concept of its flavonoids contributing to added benefits by way of the gut and working in conjunction with probiotics (which are top of mind among consumers), gives formulators looking to leverage benefits of various ingredients in functional foods and dietary supplements even more to work with.”

The Haschberg variety of black elderberry that Artemis International uses in its BerryCeuticals line, in particular, is among the richest sources of flavonoids, especially anthocyanins, like cyanidin-3-gluoside, that have been studied for their health benefits and connection to gastrointestinal health.


1. Steed AL et al., “The microbial metabolite desaminotyrosine protects from influenza through type I interferon,” Science, vol. 357, no, 6350 (August 4, 2017): 498-502
2. Roberts JD et al., “An exploratory investigation of endotoxin levels in novice long distance triathletes, and the effects of a multi-strain probiotic/prebiotic, antioxidant intervention,” Nutrients, vol. 8, no. 11 (November 17, 2016): 733

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