Written by Divinity Nutra, Updated on July 20, 2022

Elderberry for Flu

We have all been there. Stuck in bed with irritating nasal congestion, a fever that won’t go away, and the body wearied with fatigue. Sadly, these symptoms are the uninvited guests that come along with the influenza virus.

The good news is that over-the-counter medications can help reduce them. But what about something more natural? Who doesn’t like a better-tasting, readily available, and fast-acting home remedy to assist the process? Elderberry is one such elixir, hailed as the king of cold, flu, and sinuses in Ayurveda.

Research is rapidly underway to verify the use of elderberries as a supplement. Of its many health benefits, elderberry for flu and cold symptoms has produced the most satisfactory results.

Elderberry for Colds and Flu

The mildly sweet black elderberry (Sambucus nigra) is associated with diverse origins. While the black elders are mainly European, different species can be located across America, Asia, and North Africa.

Such diversity grants elderberry a secure spot in a range of folk medicine theories. The ancient Greeks regarded it as an elixir capable of healing all forms of diseases. The European pagans, on the other hand, thought of the elder tree as a nymph with healing properties.

Generation after generation heard these stories and experimented with this superfruit. Today, elderberry is part of a range of home remedies and is a trusted companion in the battle against the influenza virus.

What Is the Common Cold?

If you’ve ever had a scratchy throat that gradually transformed into a stuffy nose and persistent sneezing, you’ve likely experienced the common cold.

The average adult falls victim to the common cold at least 2-3 times a year. It is a viral infection that attacks your upper respiratory tract. Hence, the nose, throat, sinuses, and trachea are the most damaged organs in a common cold.

Common colds are highly transmissible and are spread through breathing in the air containing the virus. They cannot be treated with an antibiotic and OTC medicines only alleviate symptoms while the virus runs its course. (1)

What Is the Flu? (Influenza)

Flu is another infection of the respiratory system but it is relatively more dangerous than the common cold. Symptoms of flu can extend from a runny nose to fever, body aches, and extreme fatigue.

Influenza is a contagious disease. Luckily, most people can resolve the flu with appropriate care at home. Flu is caused by the Influenza virus A and B. Both virus types are repeatedly tested with several natural products to find the best supplements to treat them with. As we’ll discover shortly, elderberry is the most effective in this case.

Remember, the common cold and flu are two different infections that vary in their intensities. If you have severe symptoms, you should seek medical attention. (2)

Why Elderberry?

Elderberries are home to a host of nutrients, flavonoids, and other antioxidants, granting them an upper hand over many bodily diseases. Its anthocyanin-rich composition has the highest ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) among the most edible berries. Hence, it provides many health benefits that others cannot.

Elderberry can help manage diabetes, lower cholesterol and provide immense immune support. It is also known to exhibit anti-cancer properties and improve digestion, a critical component of immunity.

Does Elderberry Help with Colds and Flu?

Promising evidence exists to support the combination of elderberry for cold and flu. Several studies believe it can alleviate symptoms, reduce durations and eliminate nasal congestion. Let’s analyze recent research studies to find out what all the buzz is about.

First, we have numerous in-vitro studies that analyze its microbe-resistance properties. A 2012 study examined the anti-influenza activity of elderberry closely. While it did not prevent the flu, it portrayed much-efficacy and therapeutic action post-infection. This means that if you are already sick, elderberry can still be helpful. (3)

Another 2011 laboratory study concluded elderberry is an effective method to combat influenza viruses A and B. This paper studied the berry’s liquid extract, commonly found in elderberry gummies today. (4)

A 2016 clinical trial measured the duration of cold symptoms in air travelers. Not only did the travelers experience a shorter duration of cold, but also a reduction in the severity of symptoms. The results provided the foundation of elderberry’s effectiveness for cold relief. (5)

Positive research conclusions go as far back as 2004 when sixty influenza patients participated in a randomized trial. On consumption of oral elderberry syrup, most participants reported alleviation in their symptoms. (6)

Does Elderberry Help With Sinus Infection?

When researching elderberry’s potential for curing a cold and flu, respiratory problems such as sinusitis inevitably make an appearance. Thankfully, elderberry for sinus infections is as much of a rockstar as it is for influenza.

A 2018 study targeted black elderberry supplementation for upper respiratory problems. The conclusions were positive and even went as far as to regard elderberry as a safer option than most over-the-counter drugs. This study also hints at a potential use case for allergies and asthma. (7)

With the uncertainty surrounding COVID-19, studies began deeply researching elderberry’s effect on the immune response and inflammatory markers. This is because some research suggests that elderberry is an immune system activator that may, temporarily, increase inflammation (i.e. healthy immune response).

However, there is more research to suggest that elderberry’s anthocyanin content is a powerful anti-inflammatory. This means supplementation can help target the nasal congestion and facial pain one may experience from a sinus infection. This effect may be even more potent when paired with turmeric, an incredibly well-studied natural anti-inflammatory. (8, 9)

How to Take Elderberry for Colds and Flu

There are three primary ways to consume elderberry, with the best method listed first.

Elderberry Gummies

Research on elderberry extract has shown that it reaches its full potential when combined with other valuable nutrients. Vitamin C and zinc are the most noteworthy immune boosters in this regard.

High-quality elderberry gummies from a trusted manufacturer often contain these ingredients. Gummies also present a feasible way to make elderberries part of your diet. They are great for kids afraid of swallowing whole pills or adults looking for a palatable intake method.

Elderberry Syrup

As an alternative, you can easily find elderberry syrup in one of your local health stores.

With an elderberry syrup, you are benefiting from the elderberry extract but very few additional nutrients. Therefore, they may not provide the same immunity as an elderberry gummy containing vitamin C and zinc.

Elderberry Tea

You can make a warm cup of tea using elderberry extract and other natural herbs. Keep the consistency thick and serve it warm. The temperature of the elderberry tea can be beneficial for mild flu symptoms and may even help break up mucus.

Dosage Recommendations

How much elderberry should I take for cold and flu? Around 150-300 mg of elderberry extract is safe for daily consumption. If you’d like to go higher when cold and flu symptoms are at their worst, you can extend it to 1200 mg per day. However, this elderberry dosage is not recommended for long-term use.

Potential Side Effects

What are the negative effects of elderberry? Due to limited research, we rely more on individual accounts to know if elderberry poses any significant threat. Elderberry is mostly safe when used responsibly and poses very little risk of side effects.

Remember, eating raw elderberry and parts of the elder tree is known to be toxic and can trigger gastrointestinal problems. Overdosing supplements can lower blood sugar levels, so diabetics should use extra caution.

Who should not take elderberry? Most importantly, we advise pregnant or nursing women to avoid the supplement until we have more research. If you’re already on heavy medications, consult a doctor before consuming any dietary supplement.

Final thoughts on Elderberry for Flu Symptoms

Does elderberry help with colds and flu? The answer is a definitive, yes. Unlike many home remedies that fail to stand the test of science, elderberry does it fairly well. Even if research is limited, trials consistently support the use of elderberry for colds due to its antiviral, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory activity.

Therefore, elderberry supplements may prevent symptoms of upper respiratory infections and provide immune system support with regular use.