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Keeping Healthy: Antioxidants, Free Radicals, Oxidative Stress, & Elderberry Syrup

We constantly see the term "antioxidant" advertised and discussed in relation to health, immunity, and fabulous skin. We've probably seen and heard about it so much that we could recognize the word anywhere...but do we even known what it means or more importantly, what it does?

To understand antioxidants, we must understand oxidation. Oxidation is a chemical reaction in which electrons are transferred from one molecule to another. This very common chemical reaction can produce free radicals. If you've looked around our online shop, maybe you've noticed these phrases listed under some of our ingredients: "protects from free radicals" or "helps resist free radical damage." What does this have to do with antioxidants? Free radicals are unstable molecules (with one or more unpaired electrons) that the body produces as a reaction to lifestyle, stress, environmental, and other pressures. Free radials aren't always bad. The immune system actually uses free radicals to fight infections! This being said, our bodies need to maintain a balance of free radicals and antioxidants. An overabundance of free radicals leads to chain reactions that damage cells and overwhelm the body's defenses. This is called oxidative stress. If the body can not process and remove all the free radicals efficiently, critical cells and bodily functions are harmed; this can damage DNA and sometimes even lead to cell death.

Prolonged oxidative stress is linked to:

  • wrinkles, graying hair, loss of hair and skin elasticity, and other changes in appearance due to age,

  • cataracts and age-related vision deterioration,

  • central nervous system diseases (ex. Alzheimer's and other dementias),

  • cardiovascular disease (due to clogged arteries),

  • autoimmune and inflammatory disorders (ex. cancer and rheumatoid arthritis),

  • genetic degenerative diseases (ex. Parkinson's and Huntington's),

  • and diabetes.

Production of free radicals can be increased by a number of factors, including:

  • inflammation,

  • stress,

  • poor diet,

  • air pollution,

  • toxins,

  • UV exposure,

  • smoking,

  • alcohol,

  • high blood sugar,

  • high intake of polyunsaturated fats,

  • bacterial, fungal, and viral infections,

  • excessive intake of vitamins C and E, iron, magnesium, copper, and zinc,

  • intense and prolonged exercise,

  • and, of course, antioxidant deficiency.