Health Benefits of Elderberry Syrup

Elderberry syrup is made from berries of the Sambucus tree that’s native to Europe. The sour-tasting berries are commonly used to make jelly, pie, and wine, but they've also been a staple of folk medicine for hundreds if not thousands of years.

Elderberry syrup is known as a powerful cold preventative and remedy. Just one cup of berries contains about 40% of the recommended daily value of vitamin C. It’s also a great source of antioxidants — which may protect your cells from damage and help prevent heart disease and cancer. 

Health Benefits

Modern science has corroborated many of the claims made about elderberry syrup in traditional medicine. The fruit is low in calories and full of dietary fiber, which helps digestion, and it’s also a great source of important nutrients for the immune system.

In addition, elderberry syrup can benefit your health in a number of other ways, such as: 

Constipation

Elderberry was one of the main ingredients used in a clinical trial of possible treatments for constipation. The treatment that included elderberry proved to be an effective laxative, but more research is needed to see whether elderberry would have the same effect when taken in isolation. 

Cold Treatment

Elderberry is much touted in traditional medicine as an effective cold remedy. Various studies have been done on this and have corroborated many of these claims. For example, in a major study of air travelers who experienced cold symptoms during or after their trips, people who used elderberry had marked reductions in both the length and severity of their illnesses.

Anti-Inflammatory Effects

Elderberry contains anthocyanin — which, in addition to giving elderberry its characteristic dark purple color, acts as a powerful, anti-inflammatory antioxidant. Anthocyanin reduces the damage that oxidative stress can cause when free radicals are metabolized in the body.

Health Risks

Raw elderberry — and also the seeds, leaves, and stem of the tree itself — can be toxic. The berries should be cooked thoroughly before eating or being turned into syrup, and no other part of the tree should be eaten.

Some people experience a range of side effects from consuming raw or cooked elderberry syrup, including: 

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Diarrhea

Elderberry needs to be properly prepared before you consume it. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that in 1983, several people were inadvertently sickened after eating raw elderberry juice at a gathering in California. Though they all recovered quickly, at least one person was hospitalized and many others experienced diarrhea, nausea, and other digestive trouble. 

Kidney Health

Elderberry is known to act as a diuretic and may interfere with medications that are used to increase urination. Someone who is already using medication for this reason, or is already taking a diuretic, should consult with a doctor before taking elderberry syrup. 

Diabetes

A person who is living with diabetes should also consult with a doctor before using elderberry syrup. If you take antidiabetic drugs, the use of elderberry products could potentially cause interactions with the medications.

Amounts and Dosage

There’s no universally acknowledged recommendation of elderberry syrup that you should consume in a day. Individual elderberry products have their own manufacturer-recommended dosages that should be adhered to. Nevertheless, research has shown that 15 milliliters of elderberry syrup, taken three to five times per day, is sufficient for resolving cold symptoms if taken early enough.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on November 07, 2020

Sources

SOURCES: 

Annual Review of Food Science and Technology: “Anthocyanins: natural colorants with health-promoting properties.”

BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine : “Randomized clinical trial of a phytotherapic compound containing Pimpinella anisum, Foeniculum vulgare, Sambucus nigra, and Cassia augustifolia for chronic constipation.”

Centers for Disease Control: “Poisoning from Elderberry Juice -- California.”

Herbal Remedies Advice: “Elderberry Benefits.”

Hillview Urban Agriculture Center: “Elderberries: Nutrition Benefits.”

Industrial Crops and Products: “Elderberry (Sambucus nigra L.) by-products a source of anthocyanins and antioxidant polyphenols.”

Journal of Functional Foods: “Advanced research on the antioxidant and health benefit of elderberry (Sambucus nigra) in food – a review.”

Mayo Clinic: “Antioxidants.”

Medscape: “Elderberry (Herb/Suppl).”

Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center: “Elderberry.”

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

NutritionValue.Org: “Elderberries, raw.”

Permaculture Research Institute: “Exceptional Elderberries.”

University of Rochester Medical Center: “Elderberry.”

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