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Elderberry: Health Benefits and Side Effects


Elderberry is one of the most commonly used medicinal plants on the planet.

Traditionally, Native Americans used it to treat infections, while the early Egyptians used it to improve their complexions and heal burns.

It’s still accumulated and used in folk medicine throughout many parts of Europe.

Today, elderberry is most frequently taken as a supplement to treat flu and cold symptoms.

But, the uncooked berries, bark, and leaves of this plant are known to be toxic and cause stomach problems.

This article takes a closer look at elderberry, the evidence supporting its health claims, and the dangers associated with ingesting it.

What Is Elderberry?

Elderberry refers to several unique varieties of the Sambucus tree, and it is a flowering plant belonging to the Adoxaceae family.

The most common form is Sambucus nigra, also called the European elderberry or black elder. This tree is native to Europe, even though it’s widely grown in many other areas of the planet as well.

The berries are observed in small black or blue-black bunches.

The berries are rather tart and need to be cooked to be eaten. The flowers have a delicate muscat aroma and can be eaten cooked or raw.

Various parts of the elderberry tree are used throughout history for culinary and medicinal purposes.

Historically, the leaves and blossoms are used for pain relief, swelling, inflammation, to stimulate the creation of urine, and to induce perspiration.

The bark was used as a diuretic, laxative and to cause vomiting.

In folk medicine, the dried berries or juice are used to treat flu, infections, sciatica, headaches, dental pain, heart pain, and nerve pain, as well as a laxative and diuretic.

In addition, the berries may be cooked and used to make juice, jams, chutneys, pies, and elderberry wine.

The flowers are often boiled with sugar to create a sweet syrup or infused into the tea. They can also be eaten fresh in salads.


Elderberry describes several varieties of this Sambucus tree, which has clusters of white flowers and black or blue-black berries.

The most common variety is Sambucus nigra, also known as European elderberry or black elderberry.

Health Benefits of Elderberry:

You can find numerous reported benefits of elderberries.

Not only are they healthy, but they might also fight cold and flu symptoms, support heart health and fight infections and inflammation, among other advantages.

Elderberries are a low-carb food packed with antioxidants and high in nutrients.

100 grams of fresh berries comprise 73 calories, 18.4 g of carbohydrates, and less than one g each of fat and protein.

Plus, they have many nutritional advantages.

Elderberries are:

High in vitamin C:

You will find 6–35 milligrams of vitamin C per 100 g of fruit, which accounts for as many as 60 percent of the suggested daily intake.

High in dietary fiber:

Elderberries contain 7 grams of fiber per 100 grams of fresh berries, which can be more than one-quarter of the recommended daily intake.

A Fantastic source of polyunsaturated fats:

These compounds are powerful antioxidants that could help reduce damage from oxidative stress in the body.

A good source of flavonols:

Elderberry contains the antioxidant flavonols quercetin, kaempferol and isorhamnetin. The flowers contain up to ten times longer flavonols than the berries.

Rich in anthocyanins:

These chemicals give the fruit its feature dark black-purple color and are a strong antioxidant with anti-inflammatory effects.

The exact nutritional composition of elderberries depends on the wide range of plant life, ripeness of the berries, and environmental and climatic conditions.

Therefore, servings may vary in their nourishment.


Elderberries are a low-calorie food packed with vitamin C, dietary fiber, and antioxidants in the form of ellagic acids, flavonols, and anthocyanins. The flowers are particularly full of flavonols.

Help Improve Cold and Flu:

Commercial preparations of elderberry for treating colds are available in a variety of forms, including liquids, capsules, lozenges, and gummies.

One study of 60 individuals with influenza found that people who took 15 ml of elderberry syrup four times per day showed symptom improvement in two to four days, whereas the control group took seven to eight days to improve.

Another analysis of 64 people found that carrying 175-mg elderberry extract lozenges for two days led to significant improvement in flu symptoms, including fever, headache, muscle aches, and sinus congestion, after only 24 hours.

Note that the majority of research has just been completed on commercial products, and there is little information about the security or effectiveness of homemade treatments.


Elderberry extract was proven to decrease the length and severity of symptoms caused by the influenza virus. While these results are promising, additional large-scale human research is required.

High in Antioxidants:

Black Elderberries
Black Elderberries are rich in anthocyanins which are a type of flavonoid – anthocyanins are antioxidants that may support your body’s immune system

During normal metabolism, reactive molecules might be released that can accumulate in the body.

This can cause oxidative stress and cause the evolution of diseases like type 2 diabetes and cancer.

Antioxidants are natural components of foods, such as a few vitamins, phenolic acids, and flavonoids, that can remove these reactive molecules.

Research indicates that diets high in antioxidants may help prevent chronic illness.

The blossoms, leaves, and fruits of the elderberry plant are all excellent sources of antioxidants.

For instance, anthocyanins found in the berries have 3.5 times the antioxidant power of vitamin E.

One analysis comparing 15 different types of berries and another study comparing types of wine discovered that elderberry is among the most effective antioxidants.

Additionally, 1 study found that antioxidant status enhanced in people one hour after ingesting 400 ml of elderberry juice.

While elderberry has demonstrated promising results in the lab, a study in animals and humans remains restricted.

Generally, consuming it into the diet has only a small influence on antioxidant status.

In addition, the processing of elderberries, such as extraction, heating, or juicing, can reduce their antioxidant activity.

Thus, products like syrups, juices, juices, and jams could have reduced benefits compared to some results found in laboratory studies.


Elderberry fruits, leaves, and flowers are strong antioxidants. But, their protective effects in humans appear to be feeble.

Additionally, the processing of the berries and blossoms can reduce their antioxidant action.

Good for Heart Health:

Elderberry may have positive results on some markers of heart and blood vessel health.

Studies have shown elderberry juice may lower the degree of fat in the bloodstream and decrease cholesterol.

Additionally, a diet high in flavonoids like anthocyanins has been found to decrease the chance of cardiovascular disease.

However, 1 study in 34 individuals given 400 mg of elderberry extract (equivalent to 4 ml of juice) three times a day for 2 months found no substantial decrease in cholesterol levels.

Yet, another study in mice using elevated cholesterol found that a diet containing black elderberry decreased the quantity of cholesterol in the liver and aorta but not the blood.

Further studies found that rats fed with foods containing polyphenols extracted from elderberry had reductions in blood pressure and so are significantly less susceptible to organ damage brought on by elevated blood pressure.

Additionally, elderberries may reduce levels of uric acid from the blood. Elevated uric acid is linked to raised blood pressure and unwanted effects on cardiovascular health.

What is more, elderberry can increase insulin secretion and enhance blood sugar levels.

Given that type 2 diabetes is a major risk factor for heart and vascular disease, blood glucose control is important in preventing such conditions.

The research found that elderberry flowers inhibit the enzyme α-glucosidase, which can help lower blood glucose levels.

Also, research on diabetic rats awarded elderberry showed increased blood sugar control.

Despite these promising results, a direct decrease in heart attacks or other indicators of heart disease hasn’t yet been shown, and further studies in people are needed.


Elderberry has several advantages for cardiovascular health, like lowering cholesterol, uric acid, and glucose levels.

However, further research is needed to show if these consequences are significant in humans.

Other Health Benefits:

There Are a Number of Other reported benefits of elderberry, although most of them have limited scientific evidence:

Helps fight cancer:

Both American and European elders have been found to possess some cancer-inhibiting properties in test-tube studies.

Fights harmful bacteria:

Elderberry has been found to inhibit the growth of germs like Helicobacter pylori and can improve symptoms of pneumonia and hepatitis.

May encourage the immune system:

In rats, elderberry polyphenols have been discovered to support immune defense by increasing the number of white blood cells.

Could protect against UV radiation:

Skin products with elderberry extracts have a sun protection factor as well.

Increase urination:

Elderberry flowers were found to increase the frequency of urination and volume of salt excretion in rats.

Have some antidepressant properties:

One study found mice fed 544 milligrams of elderberry extract per pound (1,200 mg per kg) had enhanced mood and performance markers.

While these results are intriguing, additional study is needed in humans to determine if the consequences are really significant.

Moreover, it is essential to note that there is no standardized way of measuring the number of bioactive elements like anthocyanins in these business products.

One study demonstrated that depending on the procedure used to quantify anthocyanins, a supplement could claim to comprise 762 mg/L but really only contain 4 mg/L.


Elderberry is connected with a number of additional health benefits, like fighting cancer and germs, immune support, UV protection, and diuretic effects.

However, these claims have limited evidence, and additional research is necessary.

Risk Factors and Side Effects:

Whilst elderberry has some promising potential benefits, in addition, there are some risks associated with its consumption.

The bark, unripe seeds, and berries contain small quantities of substances called lectins, which can cause stomach problems if too much is consumed.

In addition, the elderberry plant contains compounds called cyanogenic glycosides, which may release cyanide in some conditions. This is a toxin also found in apricot seeds and almonds.

There is 3 mg of cyanide every 100 grams of tomatoes and 3–17 mg per 100 g of fresh leaves.

This is merely 3 percent of the estimated fatal dose for a 130-pound (60-kg) person.

However, commercial preparations and cooked berries do not contain cyanide, therefore there are no reports of deaths from ingesting them.

Indicators of eating raw berries, leaves, bark, or roots of the elderberry include vomiting and nausea.

There is 1 record of eight individuals falling sick after drinking the juice from freshly picked berries, such as the leaves and branches, from the S. Mexicana elder assortment.

They experienced nausea, vomiting, weakness, dizziness, numbness, and stupor.

If you’re collecting the blossoms or berries yourself, ensure that you have properly identified the plant as American or European elderberry, as other types of elderberry may be more hazardous.

Also, be sure to remove any leaves or bark before use.

Elderberry is not suggested for children and adolescents below 18 years of age or pregnant or lactating women.

While no adverse events are reported in these groups, there isn’t enough data to confirm that it is safe.


The uncooked berries, leaves, bark, and roots of the elderberry plant include the chemicals leptin and cyanide, which may lead to vomiting and nausea.

Cooking the seeds and berries will get rid of cyanide.

The Bottom Line:

Whilst elderberry has been connected to a number of promising health benefits, the majority of the research has just been conducted in a laboratory setting and not tested widely in people.

Thus, elderberry cannot be advocated for any specific health benefit.

Reasonable evidence supports its use to reduce the duration and severity of influenza symptoms.

In addition, it may support heart health, improve antioxidant status, and have an assortment of anti-cancer, anti-diabetes, and anti-inflammatory consequences.

Additionally, elderberry is a tasty addition to a healthy diet and a decent source of vitamin C, fiber, and antioxidants.

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