Written by Divinity Nutra, Updated on February 7, 2023
When looking up home remedies for cold and flu symptoms, it’s almost a guarantee that you’ll stumble across elderberry at some point. Elderberry has been used for centuries as a natural treatment for many conditions. As research continues to evolve, we’re finally able to confirm many of the health benefits our ancestors had relied upon anecdotally.
But what is elderberry, and what makes it so medicinally effective?
What is Elderberry?
Elderberry is a type of fruit that goes by the name Sambucus in the science world but its subspecies may vary with an additional name, depending on the place it grows. Elderberries of European descent are known as black elderberry (Sambucus nigra), which happen to be the most beneficial form of the fruit.
Elderberry benefits have been known throughout history thanks in large part to its abundant anthocyanin and flavonoid content. Its medicinal capabilities made it quite popular in folk medicine, and that popularity remains, even today. These small yet powerful berries contain several antioxidants and vitamins that can help treat a variety of bodily ailments.
In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about elderberry, including its side effects, dosage recommendations, and the best method of intake. But first, what is elderberry good for? The health benefits of elderberry include:
1. Boosts Immune System
Elderberry’s unique antioxidant-rich composition provides it with superior immune-boosting capabilities. When required, elderberry supplements can activate a healthy immune system response (inflammatory cytokine production) when foreign invaders have been identified. Once the threat has been eliminated, elderberry returns the body to an anti-inflammatory state.
- Read the studies on elderberry immune support.
Colds and Flu
The anthocyanins in elderberries are responsible for the inhibition of flu virus reproduction. Consequently, both the duration and intensity of cold and flu symptoms are lessened. Elderberry has been found effective against several influenza strains. Other respiratory tract infections can be treated, as well.
- Read the studies on elderberry cold and flu.
Some evidence has been found identifying elderberry as a possible natural treatment option for mild COVID symptoms. It appears that SARS-CoV-2 (a virus that causes COVID-19) stimulates a cytokine storm in the body which can be countered by elderberry’s anti-cytokine effect. This is likely to help prevent the symptomatology from worsening.
- Read the studies on elderberry and COVID.
2. Reduces Bodily Inflammation
Aggregation of free radicals in the body can lead to increased oxidative stress. Over time, this damages the body’s antioxidant balance and causes premature cell death. Elderberry’s antioxidants reduce excess cytokine production, helping discard the harmful molecules from the body. The anthocyanins and flavonoids are primarily responsible for the anti-inflammatory effects.
- Read the studies on elderberry and inflammation.
Allergies & Asthma
The elderberry benefits also extend to allergies. With reduced inflammation comes lessened severity of allergic reactions. Considering elderberry’s deep association with respiratory tract illnesses and the improvement of lung function, it can also be useful in treating asthma.
- Read the studies on elderberry for allergies.
3. Supports Digestion
Anthocyanins help modify the gut microbiome to maintain a healthy bacteria balance. Healthy gut bacteria then modifies the anthocyanins which decrease the rate at which bad bacteria can grow. Not only is a healthy gut bacteria balance vital for digestion, but it’s also important for maintaining the optimal function of your immune system.
- Read the studies on elderberry for digestion.
Constipation & IBS
Elderberry’s antioxidants and fiber content may improve the regularity of bowel movements in those suffering from constipation. If you have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), you may also see some relief in symptoms through regular elderberry supplementation.
- Read the studies on elderberry for constipation.
4. Improves Heart Health
The benefits of elderberry also present numerous therapeutic uses for cardiovascular conditions.
Elderberries are especially advantageous in people with hypertension as it lowers uric acid levels in the blood, a risk factor for high blood pressure. Elderberry may also relax the endothelial lining in blood vessels, which helps modulate blood pressure. Lastly, polyphenols (a component of elderberry) have been shown to reduce blood pressure in several studies.
- Read the studies on elderberry and blood pressure.
Cholesterol & Triglycerides
Elderberry supplements may help lower triglyceride and cholesterol levels with consistent use. Black elderberries contain sterols which can limit the absorption of cholesterol in the body. Therefore, it may decrease LDL (bad cholesterol) and increase HDL (good cholesterol) to provide a healthier LDL to HDL ratio.
- Read the studies on elderberry for cholesterol.
Diabetes & Blood Sugar
Polyphenols in elderberries help sustain normal blood glucose levels. Their antioxidative function is also capable of preventing the development of type 2 diabetes. Insulin resistance can develop in the body if oxidative stress persists. Elderberry can not only reduce systemic inflammation, but it can also help restore insulin sensitivity.
- Read the studies on elderberry and diabetes.
5. Fights Chronic Diseases
Most western health problems seem to be led by chronic oxidative stress due to an imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants in the body. As a result, prolonged cellular damage often elicits ramifications such as abnormal cell proliferation or tumor formation. Elderberry may help prevent cancer because its antioxidant capacity appears to be chemopreventive to some degree.
- Read the studies on elderberry for cancer.
6. Enhances Skin Health
Elderberry also has several use cases for maintaining skin health. It may reduce the appearance of dark spots, acne, and wrinkles. Antioxidants can provide a clearer complexion when taken orally, and more voluminous hair when applied topically. Internally, it is also a potential ally in the battle against inflammatory skin conditions.
- Read the studies on elderberry benefits for skin.
Side Effects and Dosage
What are the side effects of elderberry? In supplement form, elderberry side effects are extremely rare and generally mild. While consuming the fruit, here are a few things you should consider:
- Raw and unripe berries (or parts of the elder tree) are toxic and may result in stomach aches, abdominal cramps, nausea, and vomiting.
- Elderberry is also high in fiber. Consuming too much elderberry may cause diarrhea.
- Diabetics should be careful how much they consume since elderberry is also known to lower blood sugar.
How much elderberry should you take per day? For safety and maximum efficacy, it’s crucial to know how much elderberry per day is required. For adults, a dosage of 150-300 mg of elderberry extract is recommended daily (about 2-4 gummies or 3-4 tablespoons of elderberry syrup).
For a short duration of two weeks or less, dosages can be increased to a maximum of 1,200 mg while dealing with cold or flu symptoms. However, this is not recommended for long-term use.
Who should not take elderberry? Elderberry for kids is generally safe. For infants or toddlers, we do not have enough evidence to guarantee safety. For children under the age of five, please consult with a pediatrician first before administering elderberry. For the same reason, we also advise against taking elderberry while pregnant or while dealing with an autoimmune disease like Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.
Best Way to Take Elderberry
There are several ways elderberries can be consumed according to an individual’s preferences.
The benefits of elderberry gummies are numerous. Elderberry with vitamin C and zinc, the primary ingredients in most gummy formulas, is vital for supporting immune system function. They also taste great, and they’re easier to consume than elderberry pills.
Elderberry syrup is enjoyed by adults and children due to its sweet taste and ease of consumption. However, it typically lacks the enhanced immunity that gummies provide due to the absence of additional zinc and vitamin C content. It also tends to be more expensive.
Elderberry tea is generally used to help stay warm during cold winters. It offers an enjoyable taste and curbs cold and flu symptoms. Like syrup before it, elderberry tea trails slightly behind gummies in terms of boosting immune power due to less vitamin C and zinc.
Final Thoughts on Health Benefits of Elderberry
Elderberry benefits continue to enjoy the limelight for their mention in nearly every major health concern. As time goes on, more research becomes available that confirms these benefits that our ancestors have long suspected to be true.
In summary, the health benefits of elderberry include fortifying the immune system, fighting against chronic diseases, reducing inflammation, guarding skin health, protecting cardiac health, and enhancing digestion. We have elderberry’s rich composition of antioxidants and vitamins to thank for these wonderful benefits.
- Our Picks: Best Elderberry Gummies