Health Benefits of Black Elderberry

Medically Reviewed by Kathleen M. Zelman, RD, LD, MPH on March 23, 2023
3 min read

Black elderberries are shiny, round, dark purple berries that have been used in Europe and northern Africa for a long time. 

They’re the fruit of a shrub called the black elder, which goes by the scientific name Sambucus nigra. Native to Europe, the black elder isn’t the same as the American elder, a different species despite many similarities to the black elder.

Black elderberries were once thought to ward off evil spirits and prevent or cure certain health problems such as colds and flu, respiratory illnesses, burns, wrinkles, and acne. Today, you can easily find black elderberry pies, jellies, jams, wine, and medicinal products in Europe.

In the U.S., black elderberries are gaining popularity as a “superfruit” and are increasingly being recognized for their health benefits.

Black elderberries are commonly sold in juice, syrup, gummy, lozenge, pill, powder, and tea form to help treat a variety of health problems. Here are some of the many ways this berry may benefit your health:

Flu treatment

Black elderberries have been studied most widely as a treatment for the viral flu. Scientists believe that the berry stimulates the immune system’s chemical responses, bringing relief from flu symptoms and possibly shortening its duration.

Fighting Colds

Elderberries might also help reduce symptoms of the common cold. A study conducted with air travelers suggested that taking black elderberry extract lessened the length and severity of a cold.

Lowering Cholesterol

Black elderberries contain sterols. These substances are found in plants, and they help stop your body from absorbing cholesterol. Studies show that adding just 2 grams of sterol to your daily food intake can reduce your LDL cholesterol (or “bad” cholesterol) by 5% to 15%.

Reducing Risk of Cancer

Numerous studies have suggested that antioxidants protect your body’s cells from damage by free radicals. Free radicals are unstable particles in the body that can damage cells and eventually lead to cancer. Black elderberries have about 10 times the amount of antioxidants as most other berries, and eating them may lower your cancer risk.

Lower Risk of Heart Disease

Black elderberries contain a type of antioxidant called flavonoids. If you eat black elderberries regularly, these flavonoids might lessen your risk for developing heart disease.

Diabetes Management

Polyphenols are another type of antioxidants present in black elderberries. These compounds have been found to help control the blood’s glucose level. The polyphenols in black elderberries may also help lower the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Black elderberries earned their place as a superfood for being packed with antioxidants. They are also rich in dietary fiber and potassium, and provide lots of necessary vitamins and minerals.

Elderberries are also a good source of:

Nutrients per Serving

A half-cup serving of black elderberries contains:

Things to Watch Out For

Always cook elderberries before eating them. Raw elderberries contain a toxin similar to cyanide and can cause stomach upset if eaten.

The sweet yet tart taste of black elderberries adds an interesting flavor to a variety of dishes. Here are some ways to add the fruit into your diet:

  • Make elderberry syrup with black elderberries, water, and raw honey, then drizzle over pancakes.
  • Combine elderberry syrup with Dijon mustard, apple cider vinegar, oil, fresh thyme, and salt to make a black elderberry vinaigrette for salad.
  • Bake a black elderberry pie. Try mixing in peach or apple for a unique treat.
  • Boil down fresh black elderberries and mix with pectin, sugar, and lemon juice to create a delicious jelly.
  • Mix dried black elderberries with dark chocolate for a delectable elderberry chocolate torte.
  • Use elderberry syrup and gelatin powder to make black elderberry gummies. Start popping them when you feel a cold coming on!

Black elderberry pairs well with venison. For a special meal, try topping venison steaks with an elderberry pan sauce.