Sambucus nigra, commonly known as elderberry, is a naturally occurring fruit that has been used for thousands of years to treat a wide range of medical conditions including influenza and the common cold. Research has now shown that it’s an effective treatment for the common cold and that it can also speed recovery in people with influenza.
The berry has a number of benefits in addition to its cold-fighting properties. Studies have shown that elderberry boosts antioxidant activity throughout the body, leading to less oxidative stress. It may also help fight tumor formation by stimulating the body’s immune system.
Additionally, elderberry can be good for the heart. It may be able to lower high blood pressure and can help reduce bad cholesterol.
When taken in the proper dose, elderberry is safe, with few side effects. However, it can be toxic when consumed raw in large volumes, or when the berries aren’t ripe.
1Elderberry can bolster the immune system. Vitamin C is crucial in proper immune function, helping the body fight infections and heal. It’s also a potent antioxidant and may have a role in preventing cancer, cataracts, and cardiovascular disease (1).
Elderberry is high in vitamin C, with up to 60% of daily recommended intake per serving. This is part of the reason elderberry is so effective for boosting the immune system and treating colds.
2Elderberry can help with digestion. Elderberry also has high amounts of fiber, a type of carbohydrate that is important in converting food to energy. Without fiber in the diet, nutrients are processed as efficiently, and you may also experience digestive discomfort.
Fiber is one of the most important nutrients for regulating digestion. Low levels of fiber can also lead to blood sugar spikes and energy crashes. When the body gets enough fiber, food is processed more evenly, leading to smoother, more consistent energy levels (2).
3Elderberry may have anti-tumor properties. The immune boosting effects of elderberry may also help patients with cancer by suppressing the formation of tumors and preventing the spread of cancer around the body. Patients who were given an elderberry extract had increased levels of cytokines. These cells are crucial in fighting tumors and help prevent the spread of different types of cancers (3).
Many of these studies were conducted in test tubes or in mice, so more research is needed to see how the findings apply to humans, and it what types of cancers treatment with elderberry is appropriate.
Elderberry should also not be used as a first-line treatment for cancer. However, it may be effective in stimulating the immune system when combined with other cancer treatments.
4Elderberry boosts the immune system in patients with AIDS. AIDS compromises the immune system, leaving the body vulnerable to infections. Elderberry stimulates the body’s immune and inflammatory response. That means that the body is able to target foreign bacteria and infected cells, removing them from the body (4).
A 2001 study showed that it does this by increasing the production of cytokines, cells that attack infected tissue (4).
Elderberry should not be used as a primary treatment for AIDS or for any infections. However, it may be useful when used in combination with other drugs.
5Elderberry can reduce the length of your cold. Elderberry is known for its immune boosting properties, with molecules such as polyphenols acting to stimulate the body’s immune response. A 2016 study showed that it’s effective to treat common colds, and research has begun to confirm its effectiveness for this purpose (5).
Research has shown that elderberry can speed recovery time in people with the common cold. Another 2016 double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial demonstrated that air travelers who developed a cold and were given elderberry extract showed a significantly faster recovery time than people who were not treated with elderberry (6).
6Elderberry can help lower blood pressure. High blood pressure affects millions of people and increases the risk of heart disease and stroke, two leading causes of death worldwide.
A 2012 study showed that elderberry extract could act to lower high blood pressure in rats. Oxidative stress may increase blood pressure and affect cardiovascular health. The antioxidant compounds in elderberry, such as polyphenols, may help lower blood pressure levels by reducing oxidative stress (7).
Elderberries may also lower levels of uric acid in the bloodstream. Uric acid has been associated with higher blood pressure, as well as a number of other heart conditions (8).
7Elderberry can boost overall antioxidant activity throughout the body. Elderberry has been shown to be one of the most antioxidant dense foods, and it contains a wide range of molecules that help fight free radicals, including polyphenols and vitamin C. Free radicals play a role in a number of medical conditions, including heart disease, cancer, and dementia. Antioxidants help protect cells from free radicals, extending their lifespan (9).
A study showed that elderberry had significantly more antioxidants than most other varieties of berries (10).
This makes it more cost-effective than other berries such as blueberries if you need food to fight free radicals. Consumption of elderly berry juice led to a large increase in antioxidant activity and a reduction in oxidative stress. These effects were seen just 1 hour after subjects were given elderberry (11).
8Elderberry can help reduce the risk of heart disease. Heart disease is one of the leading causes of death worldwide. It leads to narrowed arteries, causing heart attacks and strokes. Elderberry may be able to reduce the risk of heart disease and improve heart health.
A 2014 study published in the British Journal of Nutrition showed that elderberry produces a type of molecule called anthocyanidins, which have been shown to have a positive effect on heart health and reduce the risk of heart disease (12).
9Elderberry can help with arthritis symptoms. The antioxidant properties of elderberry may make it an effective natural treatment for arthritis. Antioxidants can help reduce inflammation, and may also help reduce pain (13).
Research has shown that elderberry may be effective at reducing inflammation. However, more studies are needed to see if the berry can reduce inflammation in arthritic joints.
Elderberry should not be used as a first-line treatment for arthritis, as evidence of its efficacy is still lacking. However, it’s safe when used in combination with other anti-inflammatory drugs.
10Elderberry can boost mood. In addition to its antioxidant effects, elderberry may also be able to fight depression and improve mood in certain cases. A 2014 study conducted in mice found that elderberry showed antidepressant activity and increased activity levels (14).
Although more research needs to be conducted in humans, early results show that elderberry could be an effective natural antidepressant.
11Elderberry is a natural remedy for influenza. Elderberry acts to boost the immune system, helping it clear the body of infections and heal more quickly. This makes it an effective natural treatment for influenza, as well as other similar infections. People who received 4 tablespoons per day of elderberry syrup recovered from influenza faster than those who did not receive the treatment (15).
Symptoms of the flu, such as headache, fever, and fatigue, also improved quickly. Another study showed that people who received elderberry recovered twice as fast as those who did not receive treatment with elderberry. (16).
These patients were given 15 ml of elderberry syrup over the course of 5 days.
12Elderberry can help lower blood sugar levels. Elderberry contains a number of compounds that stimulate insulin release and the uptake of sugar into the muscles, helping lower blood sugar levels (19).
This makes elderberry a potential alternative treatment for patients with diabetes, as well as for anyone who needs to regulate blood sugar levels. More research is needed to see if elderberry is effective enough to be a primary treatment for diabetes. However, it may potentially be a useful treatment when combined with other diabetes medications.
13Elderberry can help relieve a sore throat. Elderberry has long been used for its cold-fighting properties and to treat influenza. It may also be able to relieve sore throats, reducing pain, and making eating easier. Its high levels of antioxidants, including vitamin C, help boost the immune system and heal tissue damaged by the infection.
The berry has antiviral properties, helping the immune system identify and remove cells that are infected by viruses. This may speed the healing process and improve symptoms in people with sore throats (20).
Elderberry is normally taken as a lozenge for sore throats, although it can also be consumed as a syrup (21).
Both preparations are effective in treating sore throats.
14Elderberry may help fight cancer. A 2017 review found that elderberry may have some cancer-inhibiting properties in test-tube studies (22).
15Elderberry could protect against UV radiation. A 2010 study showed that elderberry extract was found to have a sun protection factor (SPF) of around 10, which helps mildly protect against UV damage (23).
Elderberry is generally safe when taken as an extract. However, there may be some side effects, especially when elderberry is consumed raw.
1Unripe elderberries contain lectins, a type of molecule that can cause stomach discomfort (24). Eating raw berries may also lead to vomiting, diarrhea, and nausea. Many of these side effects can be avoided by cooking the berries, or by taking an extract form.
2If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, it is not recommended that you take elderberry. There is little research on the effects of the berry in these groups, so there could be an increased risk of side effects. If you still choose to consume elderberry while pregnant or breastfeeding, speak to your doctor beforehand.
3Elderberry may interact with some medication. However, it can interfere with certain drugs that are meant to reduce the activity of the immune system (25).
4Certain medical conditions, such as autoimmune disorders, are often treated with these drugs, as they prevent the immune system from attacking healthy tissue.
5Elderberry boosts the activity of the immune system, thus it can affect the activity of drugs that reduce the activity of the immune system. This can be quite dangerous if you have a serious autoimmune disorder.
6The elderberry plant contains substances called cyanogenic glycosides. This can release cyanide ( a deadly toxin) in some circumstances.
7Elderberry can cause IBS like symptoms. Symptoms of eating uncooked berries, leaves, bark, or roots of the elderberry include nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea (26).
Elderberry is used for a wide range of different medical conditions, with varying doses depending on the specifics of the condition.
When consumed as juice, one study gave participants 400 ml of elderberry to test its antioxidant properties (27).
A study that looked at the role of elderberry in treating influenza gave patients 15 ml of elderberry syrup (28). Another study gave travelers who had the common cold 900 mg of elderberry extract per day, divided into 3 doses.
Elderberry is consumed in many different forms, including cooked berries, juice, syrup, extract, and lozenges, all of varying concentration. If you are taking elderberry, check the concentration before taking the supplement, and consult the dosage instructions provided by the supplier.
Elderberry may cause stomach discomfort for some people. If you have a sensitive stomach, start with a lower dose, and see how your body responds. If you don’t notice any side effects, slowly increase the amount until you reach the target dose.
Is elderberry toxic? Raw elderberries contain a type of molecule called cyanogenic glycosides. This molecule is a precursor to cyanide, a potent toxin that can be lethal in small doses.
However, raw elderlies have a very low concentration of cyanide. You would have to eat over 6 pounds of raw berries to get a lethal dose of cyanide.
Although not lethal, you should still cook elderberry before consuming, or take the berry in an extract form.
Are whole berries better than extracts or juices? Although there is some benefit to consuming whole foods as opposed to extracts, there is little research that shows fresh elderberries are more effective than extracts or juices.
Most modern studies were done with elderberry use extracts or juice instead of raw berries. These are more affordable and easy to prepare. It’s also much easier to get a standardized dose, ensuring that patients receive the same amount of elderberry every time they take it.
Can children take elderberry supplements? There is little research showing that elderberry is dangerous for children. However, there is also little research showing that it is safe.
It is recommended that children stay away from elderberry, although there is little risk if it’s accidentally consumed at a low dose.
Will elderberry cure a cold? Elderberry has long been used as a treatment for colds. Indeed, there is research indicating that elderberry can improve recovery time in people with the common cold (29).
However, elderberry does not cure colds directly. Rather, it has a number of antioxidant molecules, including vitamin C and polyphenols, that help boost the activity of the immune system. This helps the body to fight the infection that is causing the cold.
Can you take elderberry indefinitely? There is little research on the use of elderberry over prolonged periods. Studies that have looked into its antioxidant and illness fighting properties have found few short term side effects, so elderberry is likely safe when taken indefinitely.
However, if you plan on taking elderberry for long periods, you should consult with your doctor and discuss any other medicine you are taking.
Will elderberry interact with medication? Elderberry is generally safe when taken with most medications. However, you should be careful when taking the supplement with any medicine that is designed to suppress the immune system. Elderberry tends to increase immune activity, so it can interfere with the action of this class of drugs. Elderberry may reduce levels of theophylline, a drug taken for asthma and other respiratory conditions.
Drugs that decrease the activity of the immune system include azathioprine, daclizumab, and cyclosporine. If you are taking any of these drugs, speak to your doctor before consuming elderberry (30).
Can elderberries be consumed as food? Yes. Elderberries have long been used for food consumption, and are often made into jams. They are safe, so long as the berries are ripe and cooked.
When picking berries, make sure that they are dark, as green berries can be toxic even after they have been cooked. They also have a bitter flavor when not ripe.
Can elderberries be taken alongside other flu medications? There are a number of commercial flu medicines that have elderberry added, although concentration varies widely. If you are taking an elderberry extract, you can take other flu medication. However, check that the medicine that contains elderberry doesn’t also contain drugs like acetaminophen (Tylenol). If it does, be careful when taking other flu medications, as these often also contain acetaminophen. Always check both labels to see if they have any of the same ingredients.
How long can you take elderberry? It is only recommended to use Elderberry for about 5 days because studies of long term use have not been done and it’s unknown if taking elderberry supplements are safe when used for long periods of time.
Is Elderberry toxic? The seeds, stems, leaves, and roots of the Black Elder are all poisonous to humans. They contain a cyanide-inducing glycoside. Eating a sufficient quantity of these cyanide-inducing glycosides can cause a toxic buildup of cyanide in the body and make you quite ill.
Does elderberry syrup help stomach virus? Elderberry juice syrup has been used for centuries as a home remedy to treat the cold and flu, both of which are caused by a virus. The syrup is believed to reduce the severity and duration of the infection if taken within 48 hours of the first symptoms.
Which elderberries are edible? The blue or purple berries are gathered and made into elderberry wine, jam, syrup, and pies. The entire flower cluster can be dipped in batter and fried while petals can be eaten raw or made into a fragrant and tasty tea.
Does Elderberry help with norovirus? According to some virologists, compounds in elderberry help to prevent virus overgrowth in the body.
Is Sambucus the same as elderberry? Elderberry refers to several varieties of the Sambucus tree, which has clusters of white flowers and black or blue-black berries. The most common variety is Sambucus nigra, also known as European elderberry or black elderberry.
Is elderberry safe to take daily? Elderberry supplements seem to have few risks when used daily for up to five days. The safety of its long-term use is unknown. Remember to never eat or drink any product made from raw elderberry fruit, flowers, or leaves.
Does elderberry kill good bacteria? No research has shown that elderberry kills bad bacteria.
Is Elderberry an antiviral? Yes, in addition to its antiviral properties, Sambucol Elderberry Extract and its formulations activate the healthy immune system by increasing inflammatory cytokine production.
Is elderberry syrup really effective? A rich source of antioxidants known as anthocyanins, elderberry is reputed by some to be effective in treating the common cold, flu, constipation, hay fever, and sinus infections.
Elderberries are a potent natural source of antioxidants, and play a role in treating a wide range of health conditions, from common colds to diabetes.
Elderberry has long been taken in traditional medicine to fight colds. Modern research has confirmed that the berry is effective in fighting off the common cold and speeding recovery time. It may also help prevent the formation of tumors by increasing the production of cytokines, cells that are crucial in the body’s immune response. This increase in cytokine production could help patients with AIDS as well.
The berry boosts antioxidant activity in the body, helping reduce oxidative stress. The polyphenols may also help treat arthritis by reducing inflammation in joints.
Furthermore, elderberry has been shown to protect the heart. It can help lower high blood pressure, as well as reduce cholesterol levels. It may also lower blood sugar levels in people with diabetes by stimulating the release of insulin.
Although raw elderberries can be toxic when consumed in large volumes, the berries are safe when cooked or taken as an extract or juice.