Written by Divinity Nutra, Updated on July 20, 2022
With every drug or medicinal treatment that is intended to prevent, treat, or cure a disease, there are often side effects to consider. Similarly, along with its numerous health benefits, elderberry has a few potential adverse reactions that you should be aware of.
Elderberry benefits have intrigued researchers for decades, and with new evidence consistently emerging, this superfruit has taken the internet by storm in recent years.
In this article, we’ll discuss the origins of elderberry, its health benefits, dosage recommendations, as well as the side effects of elderberry supplements.
What is Elderberry?
Black elderberry (Sambucus nigra), mostly found in relatively warm parts of Europe, bears dark purple berries packed with antioxidants. They also grow in Northern Africa, Asia, and North America.
Elderberry goes way back into history for its use in folk medicine and continues to make its way through the present and likely far into the future. It is continuously garnering attention for its benefits which are linked to its abundant anthocyanin and flavonoid content.
Elderberry’s lengthy history of use, at the very least, demonstrates that it’s a well-tolerated and relatively safe mainstay in Ayurveda, the world’s oldest branch of natural medicine. But what are its benefits?
Elderberry Benefits and Uses
- Boosts Immune System: Elderberry is well-known for its antioxidant capacity and presence of several immune-boosting vitamins such as A, B, and C. Elderberry’s anthocyanin content can decrease the duration and intensity of cold and flu symptoms by halting the reproduction of the virus inside our bodies. Research suggests that its immune support capacity can also help reduce the severity of COVID.
- Reduces Bodily Inflammation: Elderberry can reduce the risk of cell damage by combating chronic inflammation. Elderberries have a unique immunomodulatory effect on the symptoms of allergies and the reduction of oxidative stress. The effect also extends to asthmatic patients, similar to other powerful anti-inflammatory herbs, like turmeric.
- Supports Digestion: Gut bacteria are balanced by the anthocyanins present in elderberries. This improves gut health by deterring bad bacterial growth and by accelerating the absorption of modified anthocyanins into the bloodstream. Elderberries also help ease bowel movements which can alleviate chronic constipation.
- Improves Heart Health: Elderberries can reduce the likelihood of cardiovascular problems by lowering blood pressure and decreasing cholesterol. Clinical trials have also shown the potential of elderberry against diabetes through its reduction in fasting glucose.
- Fights Chronic Diseases: Oxidative stress may also lead to cancer if left unchecked. The antioxidant nature of elderberries can help reduce this risk. The anthocyanins and antioxidants present have shown, in trials, modest anti-cancer activities.
- Enhances Skin Health: Research supports elderberry’s productivity as an anti-aging agent as it diminishes wrinkles, reduces dark spots, and battles acne. Its antimicrobial characteristics allow it to benefit skin health in many ways.
Elderberry Side Effects
Elderberry is very safe and well-tolerated among most individuals. The elderberry side effects are limited, rare, and often mild. However, here are a few key points to keep in mind:
- Unripe and uncooked elderberries are toxic and may nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
- Some parts of the elder plant such as the stem and leaves are also toxic to consume and can lead to gastrointestinal issues.
- Excessive consumption of elderberry can cause an upset stomach and abdominal cramps due to its high fiber content.
- Since elderberries increase the activity of the immune system, you should always speak to a certified medical professional before using them if you suffer from an autoimmune disease.
- Elderberry can also lower blood sugar, so diabetics or those who need to closely monitor blood sugar should use extra caution.
Does Elderberry Interact With Medications?
Yes, elderberry can potentially interact with medications. It is essential to understand the reaction of elderberries with other medicines to avoid any health problems or adverse reactions. Elderberry can interact with other medications and consequently enhance or decrease the effectiveness of such drugs.
Elderberries can interact with the following medications:
Immunosuppressants (Autoimmune Medications)
These medications are consumed in the case of autoimmune diseases and aim to decrease the activity of the immune system. Since elderberries are immunity-boosting fruits, they may work against the action of these drugs and may reduce their effectiveness.
It is therefore suggested to not take elderberries with immunosuppressants as this reduced effectiveness can increase the severity of autoimmune diseases.
Drugs that aid in reducing inflammation are anti-inflammatory drugs.
Since elderberry also exhibits anti-inflammatory properties, it is highly unlikely to have any negative interaction with such drugs. For example, the interaction of elderberry with ibuprofen has been analyzed to demonstrate no interactive results.
Interactions may still exist, but for this category of drug, nothing stands out here as a major red flag.
Elderberry may lower glucose levels in the blood. Taking it along with diabetes medications could increase the risk of generating hypoglycemia (blood sugar that is too low) due to the effect of both the medicine and elderberry.
Since elderberry may interact with chemotherapy medications, it is strongly advised to refer to a medical professional before making it a part of cancer treatment.
Is Elderberry Safe?
Yes, elderberry is regarded as safe for consumption. However, it may not be right for everyone, as we’ll discuss in the next couple of sections.
Is elderberry safe for children?
Yes, elderberry is safe for most children. For short durations, elderberry for kids between the ages of 5 and 12 is considered safe. For infants and toddlers, we do not have enough research to suggest that it is perfectly safe. Therefore, use it with caution.
Is elderberry safe during pregnancy or while breastfeeding?
No, elderberry is likely not safe to use while pregnant. Due to scarce research in this area, elderberry during pregnancy is not recommended.
Is elderberry safe for autoimmune disease?
No, elderberry is likely not safe for people with specific autoimmune disorders. It is claimed as unsafe as it may cause a hyperactive immune system, enhancing the symptoms of the specific autoimmune disease.
The confusion arises because elderberry is both an immune booster as well as an anti-inflammatory. Research shows that in the early stages of an illness when symptoms are worse, elderberry activates immunity by increasing inflammation. Then, when there are no demonstrable threats, elderberry works in the body as an anti-inflammatory.
However, for autoimmune diseases, elderberry’s potential as an anti-inflammatory may not be worth the risk.
For best results, it’s important to know how much elderberry per day you should take. We recommend you stay within 150 to 300 mg of elderberry extract each day. For supplements, this is about 2-4 gummies per day. For syrups, the dosing may vary slightly so be sure to read the label on the tincture.
If you’re battling a cold and flu, you can increase your daily dosage to 1,200 mg per day for up to two weeks for severe symptoms. But, dosages this high are not recommended for long-term use.
Best Way to Take Elderberry
Out of several ways to take elderberries, the three most recommended methods are mentioned below.
Elderberry with vitamin C and zinc has been made into a single delicious formula with elderberry gummies. All these immune boosters come together to provide a simple and enjoyable intake method without the difficulty of swallowing pills or capsules.
Gummies are the foremost recommendation due to their favorable taste and safe and easy consumption.
Elderberry syrup tastes great but often provides lower degrees of immunity due to a lack of additional zinc and vitamin C. Prices are often a bit higher than other supplements, making gummies a slightly better overall value.
Although elderberry tea is less effective, its preparation and customization make it an appealing choice for avid tea drinkers. It is certainly a satisfying experience against mild cold and flu symptoms and is a great way to warm up the body on cold nights.
Final Thoughts on Side Effects of Elderberry
When commercially prepared, there are minimal side effects of elderberry. Nonetheless, eating raw fruit can have consequences that you’ll want nothing to do with. Taking too much of it may also produce less than desirable results.
Elderberry side effects, for most individuals, should be nothing to worry about. It’s one of nature’s most powerful products and is a great way to strengthen immunity and improve overall health and wellness.
- Our Picks: Best Elderberry Gummies