Immune support is complicated, and there is such a thing as too much immune boosting. With increasing attention on supplements for immunity, concerns have been raised about the potential for activating the immune response in an abnormally aggressive, and potentially harmful, manner. If you’re concerned, you’ll be happy to know: a number of studies point to elderberry fruit juice concentrate as both a safe and effective way to support balanced immune response.*
Elderberries, the dark purple berries from the European elder, have a centuries-old history of use. The berries are naturally rich in polyphenols—potent compounds responsible for their deep purple hue, as well as significant health benefits like antioxidant activity, cardiovascular support and normal blood sugar balance. Elderberries have been shown to offer safe, balanced immune support without over-activating the immune system.
Here’s how it works: the immune system is like an army, designed to protect the body against threats and mobilizing its troops—immune cells—when tissue has been injured or a foreign invader is detected. When immune cells identify a problem, they send out signals to step up activity—a stage called “recruitment.” Like recruiting soldiers to battle, the immune system deploys additional troops (immune cells) to the area, where they destroy the threat and clean up damaged tissue. Once the problem has been contained, immune cells send signals that all is well and the immune system can stand down to a watchful waiting phase.
But in unusual circumstances, the immune system’s feedback mechanism can falter. For example, if infection coupled with tissue destruction is significant, immune cells step up their recruitment signals to increase repair mechanisms, leading to an avalanche of messenger molecules known as cytokines and chemokines. This allows the immune system’s white blood cells to move around more easily, hone in on problematic locations, and impact things like swelling and temperature regulation. But an overproduction and excess release of cytokines—called a “cytokine storm”—can result in uncontrolled swelling, high fever and organ damage, and may be fatal.
So, rather than just stimulate immune activity, it’s also important to modulate—a process that involves bringing immune cells back into balance. The complex process of immune modulation requires a number of different compounds that allow immune cells to be recruited, respond properly, and reduce cytokine and chemokine signaling to return to a balanced state.