Elderberry (Sambucus nigra L.) is rich in many bioactive compounds and exhibits diverse health functions, of which an understanding can be helpful for its better utilization in the food industry. This review mainly summarizes recent studies about the bioactive compounds and health functions of elderberry, highlighting the potential mechanism of action. In addition, the applications of elderberry in foods are also discussed. Elderberry contains diversely bioactive ingredients, such as (poly)phenolic compounds and terpenoid compounds. Recent studies report that some food processing methods can affect the content of bioactive compounds in elderberry. Additionally, elderberry exhibits various health functions in vitro and in vivo, including antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anticancer, anti-influenza, antimicrobial, antidiabetic, cardiovascular protective, and neuroprotective activities, and their potential molecular mechanisms are associated with regulating some key signaling pathways and molecular targets. Up to now, there have been limited clinical trials supporting the health benefits of elderberry. Overall, elderberry is a promising dietary source of bioactive ingredients and has the potential to be developed into functional foods or nutraceuticals for preventing and treating certain chronic diseases.
Keywords: (poly)phenolics; applications; elderberry; health benefits; mechanism of action.