Medically Reviewed by Neha Pathak, MD on September 21, 2022
3 min read

Although there’s 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 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 back as far as 400 BC, and Hippocrates, the “Father of Medicine,” called the elder tree his “medicine chest.”

In folk medicine today, the elderberry is 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 could 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 definite.

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

Still, 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.

Elderberries are high in vitamin C (52.2 milligrams per cup) and dietary fiber (10.2 grams per cup). One cup of elderberries also has:

  • 26.7 grams of carbs
  • 0.7 grams of fat
  • 1 gram of protein

Elderberry is an antioxidant, and researchers think the compound that makes it blue lowers inflammation.

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.

Opinions vary on whether elderberry is helpful, but 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:

  • 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 have a type of cyanogen 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 also using medicines that make you pee more.

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