Health Benefits of Elderberry

While there is no one-size-fits-all remedy for illness, supporters of elderberry say the fruit is one of nature’s most versatile solutions for what ails you.

There are about 30 types of elder plants and trees found around the world. The European version (also known as Sambucus nigra) is the one most closely tied to your health and healing. Its history dates as far back as 400 BC, and Hippocrates, the “Father of Medicine,” called the elder tree his “medicine chest.”

In folk medicine today, the elderberry is widely considered one of the world’s most healing plants.


The berries and flowers of elderberry are packed with antioxidants and vitamins that may boost your immune system. They can help tame inflammation, lessen stress, and help protect your heart, too.

Some experts recommend elderberry to help prevent and ease cold and flu symptoms.

It’s also been used as a treatment for:


Elderberry gets a lot of support as a healing agent through word of mouth and old wives’ tales, but its success in medical tests is less conclusive. More research is needed.

In other words, if you want to fight the flu, don’t forget your flu shot.

Still, if you want to add a little pep to your immune system, many doctors say it’s safe to take elderberry as part of a healthy diet plan that includes foods with vitamin B, vitamin B6, and vitamin E.

Forms and Function

Just as uses for elderberry are broad, the forms it comes in are many, including syrups, gummies, lozenges, pills, and teas. It’s also used in:

  • Food coloring
  • Body lotions
  • Jams
  • Wine

Processed versions of elderberry are more common in the American market than the fresh fruit itself.


While opinions vary on whether elderberry is helpful, most doctors believe it’s safe to have in small doses. But unripe or uncooked berries or flowers from the plant can cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Larger amounts can cause even more serious poisoning.

Other things to keep in mind include:

  • If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, you shouldn’t take it.
  • Other parts of the elder tree, including the branches, twigs, leaves, roots, and seeds, are toxic. They contain a type of cyanide called glycoside.
  • People with immune problems might have reactions to elderberry.
  • If you get a rash or have trouble breathing after you have some, you might be allergic to it.
  • Because it’s a diuretic, be careful when you take it if you’re on medicines that make you pee more.

Talk with your doctor if you’re thinking about taking elderberry.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on January 17, 2019


SOURCES: “Elder Tree.” “Elderberry: A Natural Way to Boost Immunity During Cold and Flu Season?” “Health Benefits Boost Elderberry.” “Elderberry.” “Elderberry as a Medicinal Plant”

National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health: “European Elder.”

Nutrients: “Elderberry Supplementation Reduces Cold Duration and Symptoms in Air-Travelers: A Randomized, Double-Blind Placebo-Controlled Clinical Trial.”

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