Elderberry (Sambucus nigra) is the dark purple berry from the European elder tree. It has a long history of use for cold and flu.

Elderberry is a popular ingredient in supplements. It might affect the immune system, and also seems to have activity against viruses, including the flu.

Elderberry is commonly used for the common cold, flu, high cholesterol, and many other conditions, but there is no good scientific evidence to support most of these uses. There is also no good evidence to support using elderberry for COVID-19.

Don't confuse elderberry with American Elder, Elderflower, or Dwarf Elder. These aren't the same and have different effects.

Uses & Effectiveness ?

Possibly Effective for

  • Flu (influenza). Taking a specific elderberry extract syrup (Sambucol, Nature's Way) seems to reduce flu symptoms when taken within 48 hours of the first symptoms. But it might not be helpful in some people, including those with lung conditions or children under 12 years of age.
There is interest in using elderberry for a number of other purposes, but there isn't enough reliable information to say whether it might be helpful.

Side Effects

When taken by mouth: Elderberry is commonly consumed in foods. Elderberry extract is possibly safe when taken for up to 12 weeks. There isn't enough reliable information to know if it is safe to use for longer than 12 weeks.

It is possibly unsafe to consume elder leaves or stems, or unripe or uncooked elderberries. Cooked elderberry seems to be safe, but raw and unripe fruit might cause nausea, vomiting, or severe diarrhea.

Special Precautions and Warnings

Children: Elderberry extract is possibly safe in children 5 years of age or older when taken by mouth for up to 3 days. There isn't enough reliable information to know if it is safe for children younger than 5 years of age to take elderberry. Unripe or uncooked elderberries are possibly unsafe. Don't give them to children.

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: There isn't enough reliable information to know if elderberry extract is safe to use when pregnant or breast-feeding. Stay on the safe side and stick to food amounts.

"Autoimmune diseases" such as multiple sclerosis (MS), lupus (systemic lupus erythematosus, SLE), rheumatoid arthritis (RA), or other conditions: Elderberry might cause the immune system to become more active. This could increase the symptoms of autoimmune diseases. If you have one of these conditions, it's best to avoid using elderberry.

Interactions ?

    Moderate Interaction

    Be cautious with this combination

  • Medications that decrease the immune system (Immunosuppressants) interacts with ELDERBERRY

    Elderberry can increase the activity of the immune system. Some medications, such as those used after a transplant, decrease the activity of the immune system. Taking elderberry along with these medications might decrease the effects of these medications.


Elderberry fruit extracts have most often been used by adults in doses up to 1200 mg by mouth daily for 2 weeks. Elderberry is available in many different types of products, including syrups and mouth rinses. Speak with a healthcare provider to find out what type of product and dose might be best for a specific condition.

Don't consume green, unripe, uncooked elderberries. They contain toxins and can be poisonous.
View References

CONDITIONS OF USE AND IMPORTANT INFORMATION: This information is meant to supplement, not replace advice from your doctor or healthcare provider and is not meant to cover all possible uses, precautions, interactions or adverse effects. This information may not fit your specific health circumstances. Never delay or disregard seeking professional medical advice from your doctor or other qualified health care provider because of something you have read on WebMD. You should always speak with your doctor or health care professional before you start, stop, or change any prescribed part of your health care plan or treatment and to determine what course of therapy is right for you.

This copyrighted material is provided by Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database Consumer Version. Information from this source is evidence-based and objective, and without commercial influence. For professional medical information on natural medicines, see Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database Professional Version. © Therapeutic Research Faculty 2018.