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.


Starting to get the picture? If so, now we can get into antioxidants. Antioxidants are molecular compounds that inhibit oxidation; they fight free radicals and prevent or slow damage to cells. Our bodies naturally produce them, as do plants and animals. For this reason, we also consume antioxidants from what we eat. Plant-rich diets are known to provide numerous health benefits because of the varieties of antioxidants. Animals and fish also contain levels, but not nearly as much as fruits and vegetables.


Essential dietary antioxidants include:

  • vitamin C,

  • vitamin E,

  • and flavonoids.


Intaking too many antioxidants is not advised and can throw off your body's balance. Let's admit it: we're not all doctors; being unsure of how to manage store-bought, high-dose antioxidant supplements can cause more harm than good. With that being said, it's still deeply important to be sure you're consuming enough to compete with your free radical count. The best way to manage this balance is the natural way: listen to your body and enrich your diet with healthy plant foods. The western diet isn't known for its wide inclusion of fruits and veggies, so get comfortable with some new recipes and start adding them into everyday life! Fruits, vegetables, nuts, and whole grains all naturally provide our antioxidant supplemental needs! We are what we eat, so the first step to good health is accepting the idea that food is medicine.


If I miss a day of generous plant portions, I immediately notice the difference from within. By nighttime or the next morning, I'm showing signs of mild antioxidant deficiency: fatigue, weak memory, breakouts, and changes in skin quality. As mentioned earlier, oxidative stress weakens our bodies' defenses, making us more susceptible to getting sick. This is why antioxidants play an important role in immune support. Once the free radical damage takes over, cells break down and the capabilities of our immune system decline. Learning about all of this led us to begin creating our Elderberry Syrup. Life gets busy, and more often than not, we're throwing together a quick, cheap meal that lacks our plant needs. When we learned about elderberry, we realized how simple it could be to ensure we were meeting our necessary, daily antioxidant doses.


Our Elderberry Syrup is packed full of our plant (and honey) antioxidant needs. Elderberry has been used for its health benefits for hundreds of years. It's known for its antioxidant, antiviral, antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, and antidepressant properties. All of these "anti-'s" prove that elderberry is a warrior ingredient. It provides an excellent source of fiber, vitamin C, phenolic acids, flavonols, and anthocyanins, which all aid in boosting the immune system. This further helps relieve colds and fight flu, cancer, and harmful bacteria. Elderberry's antioxidant properties also treat acne and benefit heart health.


Ginger root is another incredible antioxidant plant that gives our syrup its medicinal powers. Its use can be traced back to ancient times and has been cultivated for centuries as a spice and folk medicine. Ginger is known to be medicinal, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, and anti-diabetic. It fights flu, common colds, infections, morning sickness, menstrual pains, and chronic indigestion. Ginger's anti-inflammatory properties help osteoarthritis and reduce muscle pain and soreness. Taken in consistently healthy doses, ginger can also help lower cholesterol, improve brain function, and prevent cancer and Alzheimer's disease.


Our syrup also includes clove, a truly underrated spice. It is native to Indonesia and full of antioxidant, antimicrobial, and anti-cancer powers. Clove provides a great source of fiber, vitamins C and K, and manganese. These nutrients help kill off bacteria, reduce stomach ulcers, and improve and promote oral, bone, and liver health. Consistently healthy doses of clove can also help regulate blood sugar and protect against cancer.


We couldn't make our Elderberry Syrup impactful without the help of superfood cinnamon. Cinnamon was first imported into Egypt as early as 2000 BC and was used in ancient times for aromatic burning and to embalm mummies and flavor wine. It was so highly prized that it was respected as a gift fit for monarchs and deities. Medieval physicians began using cinnamon medicinally to treat coughing, hoarseness, and sore throats. It also became valued as a natural food preservative, due to its phenols which prevent the bacteria responsible for spoilage. Today, we know that cinnamon is antibacterial, antifungal, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, anti-diabetic, and has powerful effects on health and metabolism. This spice is proven to fight infections, repair tissue damage, and reduce the risk of heart disease. We also know now that it improves sensitivity to insulin, a hormone that regulates metabolism and energy use, thus lowering blood sugar levels. Cinnamon provides beneficial effects on neurodegenerative diseases, protects against cancer, and helps fight HIV. Along with its delectable scent, how could you not love this plant?!


Last, but surely not least, our syrup includes honey. As much as we try to make completely vegan products, we couldn't pass up honey's incredible health benefits and ability to combat elderberry's bitterness as a natural sweetener. Honey is pretty much as old as history has been written. This bee product dates back to 2100 BC and was valued highly enough to be used as a form of currency, tribute, or offering. Throughout history, honey was used not only in food and beverages, but also in furniture polishes and varnishes, to make cement, and for medicinal purposes. Today, honey is known to be antioxidant, antibacterial, antifungal, antiseptic, and a phytonutrient powerhouse. Phytonutrients are substances found in certain plants that are believed to be exceptionally beneficial to human health and preventing numerous diseases. Known commonly as a natural cough suppressant and sore throat soother, honey also kills unwanted bacteria and fungus (helping heal wounds and prevent infections), lowers blood pressure, improves cholesterol, lowers triglycerides, and protects the body from cell damage caused by free radicals.


Here are some other notable sources of antioxidants:

  • allium sulphur compounds (leeks, onions, and garlic)

  • anthocyanins (eggplant, grapes, and berries)

  • beta-carotene (pumpkin, mangoes, apricots, carrots, spinach, and parsley)

  • catechins (red wine and tea)

  • copper (seafood, lean meat, milk, and nuts)

  • cryptoxanthins (red capsicum, pumpkin, and mangoes)

  • flavonoids (tea, green tea, citrus fruits, red wine, onion, and apples)

  • indoles (cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower)

  • isoflavonoids (soybeans, tofu, lentils, peas, and milk)

  • lignans (sesame seeds, bran, whole grains, and vegetables)

  • lutein (green, leafy vegetables like spinach and corn)

  • lycopene (tomatoes, pink grapefruit, and watermelon)

  • manganese (seafood, lean meat, milk, and nuts)

  • polyphenols (thyme and oregano)

  • selenium (seafood, offal, lean meat, and whole grains)

  • vitamin A (liver, sweet potatoes, carrots, milk, and egg yolks)

  • vitamin C (oranges, blackcurrants, kiwifruit, mangoes, broccoli, spinach, capsicum, and strawberries)

  • vitamin E (vegetable oils [such as wheatgerm oil], avocados, nuts, seeds, and whole grains)

  • zinc (seafood, lean meat, milk, and nuts)

  • zoochemicals (red meat, offal, and fish - also derived from the plants that animals eat)


If you notice, most of the foods grouped together resemble similar colors. Different antioxidants and nutrients appear as different colors in plants. With this being said, it's important to keep your diet colorful. Different colors means different forms of nutrients. The wider variety of color you include, the more well-rounded your diet and overall health will be. We hope this information helps improve and maintain your health all year-round! Keep those antioxidant levels robust and contact us if you have any questions whatsoever. We think herbal education is so important, and we're here to help!


xoxo,

Nora


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