"Berry, berry, berrygood!"

New Orleans -- Red berry fruits -- such as the elderberry, chokeberry and bilberry -- have been used in folk medicine in Europe and North America for centuries. Hippocrates referred to the elderberry tree as his medicine chest while less famous healers have used the fruit as anti-inflammatory, anti-rheumatic, diuretic and laxative agents, as well as for the treatment of dysentery, stomach ailments, scurvy and urinary tract problems.

The berries contain a unique and complex chemical composition and are all rich in flavonoids, polyphenols and anthocynanins. The anthocyanins are responsible for the red, purple and blue pigments of the berries and hold the most promising properties for human health. Since anthocyanins have been shown to be powerful anti-oxidants, scientific reports about their anti-inflammatory, anti-ulcerative, anti-viral, and anti-cancer properties is not surprising, albeit more work needs to be done.

In recent years, the simple chemical nitric oxide (NO) has been shown to play an enormous role in the function of all arteries in health and disease. NO is produced by endothelial cells, which line the inner surface of all blood vessels. NO is a potent relaxing agent of arterial smooth muscle. It plays a major role in keeping the blood pressure of an individual from becoming dangerously high and in preventing blood vessels from spasming. In addition, NO inhibits the development of blood clots and the early processes of atherosclerosis.

Superoxide belongs to a family of reactive chemicals known as oxygen radicals, reactive oxygen species (ROS) or oxidants, as they are commonly referred to in lay literature. These radicals generally promote spasm, blood clot formation and atherosclerosis in arteries. Oxygen radical generation has been shown to be increased in a variety of cardiovascular diseases and also appears to play a detrimental role in cancers, diabetes and inflammatory conditions. Vitamins C and E are known to scavenge or s

Contact: Donna Krupa
American Physiological Society

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