Written by Divinity Nutra, Updated on October 29, 2022

Elderberry and Inflammation

If we had to pick one aspect that defines adulthood, it would be the inevitable development of aches and pains. While it can be normal to feel fatigued after a stressful day, prolonged and severe symptoms of pain and inflammation may hint at an underlying problem.

Bodily aches and pains can be a symptom of chronic inflammation or arthritis experienced by 1 in 4 adults. Most patients are unaware of how to treat it. Elderberry, the famous superfruit, is known for its numerous health benefits. But, does elderberry help with inflammation?

Elderberry for Inflammation

Elderberries are plant-derived antioxidants originating from the European elder tree. They are regarded as the flag bearers of immune support, cold and flu treatment, and a never-ending list of elderberry benefits. They were even viewed as potential treatment aid during the recent COVID pandemic.

The popularity surrounding black elderberry (Sambucus nigra) owes to centuries of usage and references in folk medicine. Generations have heard the claims of elderberry’s healing tendencies, and today’s research continuously backs it.

Before we get into the studies, it’s important to understand arthritis and inflammation in more detail.

What is Inflammation?

Inflammation is the immune system’s natural response to damage to living tissues caused by injuries, infection, or outside invaders. The purpose is to highlight the area of damage and stimulate effective action to eliminate it.

This warning is issued in the form of pain, swelling, rashes, or itching around the damaged area. This damage may also include internal organs.

Let’s distinguish between the two types of inflammation to understand this further.

  • Acute inflammation is a response to external body damage, such as cutting or scraping.
  • Chronic inflammation refers to a long-term response to tissue damage, continued even after the threat is gone.

You may only need ongoing medicinal treatment for severe chronic inflammation. Acute inflammation generally dissipates when the wounded area has healed.

What is Arthritis?

If you have experienced joint pain that gradually became severe and triggered swelling, you might have experienced arthritis. Arthritis is an umbrella term that describes all forms of joint inflammation and degradation.

A joint is an area where two bones connect. Under arthritis, the area around the joint experiences pain and becomes stiff, then gradually swells up to make it difficult to move. Arthritis describes more than 100 kinds of joint pain. Each kind has its triggers, but some common causes of the conditions are:

  • Hereditary factors, such as a family history of arthritis or joint infections.
  • Age can cause joints to wear and lose their protective covering. This increases the risk of developing the disease.
  • Excessive weight can put too much strain on the joints, causing them to wear down quicker.
  • Physical trauma to the area around the joints can damage or break the joint, causing pain and inflammation.

Why Elderberry?

If you need one reason to use elderberry for pain and inflammation, let it be that it surpasses the antioxidant value of all its competitors. Even popular fruits like strawberries or blueberries have less antioxidant potential than elderberry. Having high antioxidant capacity means having the upper hand over bodily diseases and the ability to treat them.

Elderberry is also home to a host of nutrients, such as dietary fiber to help treat constipation and improve digestion, flavonoids and anthocyanins for reducing oxidative stress and lessening the impact of allergies and asthma, and vitamins to fight viral infections.

Now, let’s see what science says about elderberry and inflammation as it relates to arthritis pain.

Does Elderberry Help With Inflammation?

Several studies have focused on the bioactive properties of antioxidants in reducing inflammation. As a result, natural antioxidants are held in high regard in medicinal anti-inflammatory therapy and elderberry is among the best. (1)

A very recent animal study evaluated elderberry extract as a medical supplement to treat acute inflammation in mice. The study aimed to clarify the anti-inflammatory effect of elderberry and successfully demonstrated a statistically significant result. (2)

A 2019 study evaluated the same idea concerning the human body. It regarded elderberry extract as a valuable nutraceutical agent. It portrayed much therapeutic potential, not only against inflammation but also obesity and oxidative stress. (3)

Does Elderberry Cause Inflammation?

Elderberry hails as the king of immune support by increasing antioxidant capacity. Another potential mechanism of action is a short-term boost in immune system activation through increased cytokine production.

So elderberry reduces inflammation and increases inflammation? How can both of these be true at the same time? Well, it’s a little complicated. Evaluating this property has given some contradictory results.

A 2001 trial reported the effects of black elderberry on cytokine production. It found that elderberry stimulated a healthy immune system response through an increase in pro-inflammatory cytokines. (4)

A 2019 study aimed to understand the immunomodulatory effect of elderberries on influenza. The key findings highlighted the stimulation of pro-inflammatory cytokines through elderberry extract at later stages of the virus cycle, while demonstrating an inhibitory effect in the early stages. (5)

In other words, if you’re not severely ill, elderberry will reduce inflammation. But when required, it may temporarily increase inflammation to combat foreign invaders.

The entirety of this argument on elderberry’s pro-inflammatory cytokine effect is based on it being an “immune stimulant.” However, research on elderberry’s immune response has only coined it as an immunomodulator. The term indicates that elderberry works to balance and moderate the immune system, not exacerbate it. (6)

A 2021 systematic review also takes up this claim. Eventually, it found no significant evidence for overstimulation of the immune system. It concludes that there is no reason for concern regarding a cytokine storm. (7)

Overall, it would be unjustified to generalize that elderberries cause inflammation. There is more evidence to support it as an anti-inflammatory agent, helpful for alleviating chronic inflammatory conditions than there is to suggest otherwise.

In the case of autoimmune diseases where immune system stimulation is counterproductive, you may also want to take advantage of turmeric benefits. Turmeric is an incredibly proven anti-inflammatory with no track record of pro-inflammatory cytokine activation. Paired with elderberry, the results could be significant.

Is Elderberry Good for Arthritis?

A 2017 study gives us a detailed analysis of another member of the Sambucus genus, the Dwarf Elder. It showed significant therapeutic implications for different types and severities of arthritis. (8)

A 2020 study addresses the similar anti-inflammatory effect concerning elderberry. It concluded much potential, both in vivo and in vitro, for elderberry supplementation against inflammatory diseases. (9)

Another 2020 systematic review validates the usage of elderberry for arthritis while discussing its antiviral properties. (10)

Research also backs the general role of antioxidants as a possible treatment for arthritis. A 2016 study displayed its effectiveness for knee osteoarthritis patients, while the International Journal of Preventive Medicine highlighted its use for rheumatoid arthritis. (11, 12)

How to Take Elderberry for Pain and Inflammation

There are three ways you can take elderberries to reduce inflammation and arthritis pain.

Elderberry Gummies

Elderberry gummies are your best bet against inflammation since they generally contain additional nutrients for immune support. Besides elderberry extract, vitamin C and zinc are the key ingredients you should be looking for in your choice of brand.

The mild sweetness of elderberry extract combined with other valuable substances makes elderberry gummies a very palatable option. They’re safe for adults and children, and easier to deal with than pills or capsules.

Elderberry Syrup

People often think elderberry syrup can be a viable substitute for gummies. While they are close in terms of productivity, there is a key difference to be aware of. The syrups often lack the additional vitamin C and zinc, which is critical for immune system support.

Elderberry Tea

Perhaps you would like to skip the hassle of buying supplements and treat yourself to a warm cup of elderberry tea at home. Like syrups, a homemade tea often lacks the extra vitamin C and zinc. But, it can be a great way to warm up when you’re dealing with cold and flu symptoms.

Dosage Recommendations

How much elderberry should I take for inflammation? As an extract, a dosage of 150-300 mg of elderberry per day would be ideal. Do not overdose unnecessarily, as it may cause unintended side effects.

If your symptoms are severe, heightened dosages up to 1200 mg per day for a short duration (2 weeks or less) have shown to be safe.

Potential Side Effects

What are the side effects of elderberry? If you take elderberries in supplement form, there are very few side effects. You may only experience discomfort if you exceed the optimum dosage. This can include changes in blood sugar levels, so people with diabetes should use extra caution.

Who should not take elderberry? Due to limited research, we advise pregnant women to avoid taking elderberry. Apart from that, supplements bought from a trusted brand are safe for adults and children.

Final Thoughts on Elderberry and Inflammation

Is elderberry good for inflammation and arthritis? Despite a few contradictions, we can see that elderberry’s benefits outweigh the rumored side effects. Using elderberry for inflammation can be a reliable treatment for alleviating arthritis pain.

Investing in an elderberry supplement goes a long way. From cardiovascular health to promoting healthy skin, to treating cold and flu symptoms, there is little that the plant derivative has failed to influence.