Written by Divinity Nutra, Updated on July 20, 2022
If you have ever scrolled through a list of remedies to relieve the many discomforts of a pregnant body, you have stumbled across elderberries. The plant-derivative antioxidant is touted for numerous health benefits and appears in nearly every herbal tea recipe or health store aisle.
However, it is not wise to promote the use of elderberry while pregnant without thoroughly understanding the situation. Pregnancy makes you vulnerable to various dietary supplements during its duration and even afterward for nursing.
Let’s dissect this matter and look through available evidence to answer the following question: can you take elderberry while pregnant?
Elderberry During Pregnancy
Elderberry’s high antioxidant capacity works in its favor to credit it with many feats. It is a true powerhouse ingredient that brings a unique blend of nutrients and immunity.
This ability to enhance immune system function makes elderberry one of the most sought-after supplements on the market. Before we look into what research says regarding its use for pregnancy, let us quickly understand the origin of elderberry.
What is Elderberry?
Elderberries are a natural antioxidant fruit that comes from the European elder tree. Black elderberry (Sambucus nigra) has a medicinal history that dates back centuries, all the way to early Greeks and Americans. The berries are touted as an effective herbal remedy, often preferred over traditional medicine.
Folk medicine widely recognizes the therapeutic elderberry benefits. Allegedly, Hippocrates thought of them as his “medicine chest,” while early Europeans saw them as a spiritual deity of healing.
Is Elderberry Safe During Pregnancy?
There is simply not enough evidence to provide a conclusive answer to elderberry’s safety during pregnancy. While science backs up most of its health benefits, we suggest you talk to your physician before using it as a supplement for a healthy pregnancy.
Several studies have expressed the ambiguity of this usage and highlighted the dire need for more research.
One study focused on the results collected from a survey at the University of California, Women’s Health Clinic. Out of 150 participants, 20 women had used dietary supplements, including elderberry, during pregnancy.
While most reported side effects were mild, they came with varying degrees of gastrointestinal discomfort. Therefore, due to a lack of safety data, it could not deduce whether supplementation can help pregnant women or the fetus. (1)
Another review article from 2014 sets out to answer the same question. Are elderberry and pregnancy a plausible combination, especially against upper respiratory infections? It studied three different clinical trials from the past to provide defining results.
It finds that all trials concerning elderberries provide encouraging results. However, they target small samples only and do not consider the exceptions with pregnancy. Thus, it discourages using elderberry while breastfeeding or during pregnancy until direct research emerges. (2)
Another general study targeting polyphenol consumption during pregnancy produced inconclusive results. It also stressed the need for further research to properly understand the bodily changes in pregnancy due to natural products. (3)
Is Elderberry Safe While Breastfeeding?
A database collected from the National Library of Medicine reviews the potency of Sambucus Nigra for a range of health benefits. While it acknowledges many of the rumored benefits and encourages the use of supplementation, the same is not true for elderberry and breastfeeding.
It details that no evidence has looked into the efficacy of elderberry supplementation for nursing women and its effects on infants and toddlers. While elderberry is safe for children, we cannot say if adding it to breast milk is nutritious or dangerous. (4)
Therefore, we suggest nursing women avoid taking elderberries, given the risk factors.
Health Benefits of Elderberry for Women
- Boosts Immune System: Elderberry boasts a unique nutrient makeup. It combines the best of vitamins, zinc, anthocyanins, and flavonoids to grant immense immune support to the body. It can strengthen the immune system to adequately respond to foreign invaders and diseases, most notably, cold and flu and even COVID-19.
- Reduces Bodily Inflammation: Elderberries boast the highest antioxidant capacity among all edible berries. This grants it an upper hand against oxidative stress in the body. Reduced stress leads to relief in inflammation. It is even a popular anti-inflammatory therapy for arthritis and allergies, similar in effect to other herbal supplements like turmeric.
- Supports Digestion: Research has shown that almost 75% of elderberry’s nutrients are absorbed in the bloodstream. They stimulate the growth of good bacteria to improve gut health and support digestion. It is also known to relieve the body from constipation and IBS.
- Improves Heart Health: Elderberry supplementation may help lower cholesterol levels and balance the HDL to LDL ratio. It can relax the blood vessels to lower blood pressure, as well. Elderberry may also reduce the chance of developing diabetes by controlling blood sugar levels.
- Fights Chronic Diseases: Elderberry extract is a researched chemopreventive agent. It has cancer-inhibiting properties, such as reducing tumor cell proliferation and the growth of cancer cells of various kinds in the body.
- Enhances Skin Health: Elderberry supplementation is an effective dermatological agent that contributes to skin health and hydration. Studies have shown that it may reduce photoaging due to harmful UV rays. It can also treat wounds and reduce acne scars, and even encourage hair growth.
How to Take Elderberry for Immune Support
There are three ways you can take elderberry for immune support, with the preferred way listed first.
Purchasing elderberry gummies is the best way forward to consume the extract. These gummies combine additional nutrients like vitamin C and zinc to make a thoroughly beneficial product. Thus, they provide much more immunity than other alternatives, and they’re less of a hassle than elderberry capsules.
Elderberry syrup is a good, off-the-shelf product to use for mild immunity. However, they usually lack the immune punch that comes from added vitamin C and zinc. Thus, they can help treat mild symptoms, but gummies tend to have a slightly higher value.
Elderberry tea is a warm, healthy beverage that can help treat mild discomfort. Similar to syrups, homemade tea cannot provide additional vitamin C and zinc for enhanced immune support. But it’s still a delicious method of consumption for tea drinkers.
How much elderberry should I take per day? The following recommendations are for women are who NOT pregnant or breastfeeding.
For elderberry extract, you should ideally take between 150-300 mg per day for general health and wellness. This equals roughly 2-4 gummies. For severe cold and flu symptoms, you can take heightened dosages up to 1200 mg per day for a short interval of 2 weeks.
- Learn More: How much elderberry should you take a day?
Potential Side Effects
What are the side effects of elderberry? Elderberry side effects are rare if you consume it in supplement form from a trusted brand at the recommended dosage. However, make sure you check the label for possible allergies to be on the safe side.
Raw elder fruit is toxic and can trigger gastrointestinal discomfort. Elderberry also lowers blood sugar levels, so diabetic patients should be mindful of the quantities they consume. If you suffer from thyroid disease, you should consult a doctor before using elderberry.
Final Thoughts on Elderberry While Pregnant
Is elderberry safe during pregnancy? For otherwise healthy individuals, elderberry is a safe, beneficial supplement that has many healing tendencies. But during pregnancy, we cannot be sure since there has been no direct research on the matter.
Most pregnant women eat berries and rely on vitamin C all the time. Therefore, it is still unlikely that elderberries pose any significant danger to them. Regardless, we suggest you avoid elderberry during pregnancy until more information emerges.
- Our Picks: Best Elderberry Gummies for Kids