Last update: June 11, 2024

Elderberry: The Complete Guide

Explore the health benefits of elderberry in this comprehensive guide. Learn about dosage recommendations, health benefits, and side effects, and discover this superfood’s full potential.

Stephanie Wright

By Stephanie Wright, RN, BSN

Edited by Dr. Dimitar Marinov, MD, MBA, PhD

Learn more about our editorial standards

Key takeaways

  • Elderberries are small, dark purple berries that grow on the Sambucus tree.
  • Elderberries are a rich source of vitamin C, fiber, and antioxidants, which support overall health and may help combat oxidative stress.
  • Studies suggest that elderberries may reduce the severity and duration of the common cold and flu-like symptoms, as well as have positive effects on mood and mental well-being.
  • While elderberries can be used in various culinary applications, it is essential to cook them thoroughly before consumption to eliminate toxic compounds present in the raw plant.

    What is elderberry?

    Elderberry refers to the berries from the Sambucus tree, which is commonly found in many parts of the world, including Europe, North America, and parts of Asia and Africa.

    Elderberry is commonly associated with addressing cold and flu symptoms by boosting immune health and is celebrated for its historical use in both culinary and medicinal fields [1]. Adding it to your diet may offer potential health benefits due to its rich antioxidant content, supporting overall well-being.

    Elderberries are versatile in the kitchen!

    Elderberries can be used to make syrups, jellies, pies, wine, and even a delightful elderflower cordial for cocktails and desserts. However, it's critical to note that the berries must be cooked thoroughly before consumption, as the raw plant contains toxic compounds.

    How does elderberry work in your body?

    What are some benefits of elderberry?

    Elderberrys contain various properties that may contribute to overall well-being.

    1. Supports the immune system

      Elderberries are a nutrient-rich fruit known for their abundance of antioxidants and vitamin C, contributing to the overall support of well-being. These antioxidants, such as protocatechuic and chlorogenic acid, are believed to play a role in supporting cellular function and maintaining skin health [4].

    2. Enhances antioxidant activity

      Elderberry is recognized for its rich antioxidant content, particularly flavonoids such as quercetin and rutin. These compounds have the potential to support a balanced inflammatory response, safeguarding cells from damage linked to various health considerations [5].

    3. Supports heart health

      The phytonutrients and fiber content found in elderberries may contribute to maintaining a balanced inflammatory state. This potential effect suggests a positive impact on cardiovascular health markers [6].

    4. Helps reduce stress and anxiety

      Polyphenol flavonoids in elderberries may contribute to a balanced inflammatory response in the brain, which could have potential positive implications for mental well-being, including stress reduction [7].

    5. Contributes to healthy lungs

      Elderberry, containing quercetin, has shown promise in early studies related to lung function, potentially beneficial for people with respiratory conditions [8].

    Delivery methods

    Elderberry supplements come in various delivery methods, each offering its own set of benefits and ways of consumption. Here's a brief overview of the different delivery methods:

    Choose a method that fits your routine

    Do not overlook the delivery method. Elderberry supplements come in tablets, capsules, soft gel, chewable, powders, and liquid forms—choose the one that best fits your daily routine to stay consistent.

    What to look for in elderberry supplements

    When selecting a supplement, several key factors must be considered to ensure you choose a high-quality product that effectively supports your health goals and overall well-being.

    • Dosage and potency

      The dosage of elderberry in supplements varies, so it's important to choose one that aligns with your specific needs. This includes considering your age, gender, and health status, like pregnancy or existing deficiencies. The elderberry formulation can impact its potency and bioavailability, which affects how effectively your body can absorb and use it.

    • Quantity and delivery method

      The delivery method is crucial. Elderberry supplements come in various forms, including tablets, capsules, powders, chewables, and liquid forms. Your choice may depend on factors like ease of swallowing, convenience for traveling, or personal preference regarding taste and texture. Also, evaluate the quantity of elderberry to determine how long it will last based on your daily requirements.

    • Quality and manufacturing

      Quality is paramount when selecting elderberry supplements. Look for products manufactured under strict quality control guidelines and those that have undergone third-party testing for purity and label accuracy. Certifications from recognized bodies can be a reliable indicator of a high-quality product. Additionally, consider the manufacturer's reputation and transparency in their production processes.


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    How and when should you take elderberry for maximum absorption?

    To get the most out of your elderberry supplement, it's crucial to consider the timing and method of consumption. The following dos and don'ts offer guidance on optimizing absorption, efficiently supporting your health and wellness, and minimizing potential discomfort.


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      Take elderberry with a meal for absorption

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      Drink water with elderberry for effectiveness

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      Space out intake if taking with other meds


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      Do not consume raw elderberries or raw extracts/juices

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      Don't chew elderberry supplements

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      Avoid mixing elderberry with medication that suppress the immune system

    Who should take elderberry?

    Taking elderberry supplements has its potential benefits, but it may not be for everyone.

    Recommended dosage

    While elderberry has been used for centuries as a natural remedy, there are no official standard dosage recommendations. The appropriate dosage can vary based on factors such as age, health status, and the specific elderberry product being used.

    Side effects of excessive elderberry consumption

    While elderberry supplements are generally safe when taken within recommended limits, excessive intake can have adverse effects:

    • Cyanide Poisoning Risk: Consuming an excessive amount of raw elderberries could pose a risk of cyanide poisoning, resulting in symptoms like nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea [9].
    • Laxative and Diuretic Effects: Ingesting elderberry bark, leaves, or seeds may cause abdominal pain and diarrhea due to their laxative and diuretic properties [10].

    Always consult your doctor

    If you're experiencing side effects, consult your healthcare provider. They may recommend a different elderberry formulation or adjust your dosage. Balancing your elderberry needs with any discomfort is crucial and should not be overlooked.

    Health made easy: your go-to resource for essential vitamins and supplements

    Frequently asked questions about elderberry (FAQ)

    Our library of expert-authored articles covers just about every question you might have about vitamins, minerals, and supplements — along with some you might not have known you had.

    Final thoughts

    The health benefits of elderberries make them really good for your health. These small fruits may help your immune system and keep your heart healthy. You can enjoy them in syrups, jams, or supplements to make your meals tasty and good for you. Including elderberries in what you eat can be a simple and delicious way to support your overall well-being. So, try them out and let these berries boost your health in an easy and nutritious way.

    Sources and references

    1. Elderberry for prevention and treatment of viral respiratory illnesses: a systematic review | BMC Complementary Medicine and Therapies
    2. Elderberry (Sambucus nigra L.) extracts promote anti-inflammatory and cellular antioxidant activity - ScienceDirect
    3. Elderberry Extracts: Characterization of the Polyphenolic Chemical Composition, Quality Consistency, Safety, Adulteration, and Attenuation of Oxidative Stress- and Inflammation-Induced Health Disorders
    4. Potential Use of Elderberry (Sambucus nigra L.) as Natural Colorant and Antioxidant in the Food Industry. A Review - PMC
    5. Elderberry Extracts: Characterization of the Polyphenolic Chemical Composition, Quality Consistency, Safety, Adulteration, and Attenuation of Oxidative Stress- and Inflammation-Induced Health Disorders - PMC
    6. Elderberry (Sambucus nigra L.): Bioactive Compounds, Health Functions, and Applications | Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry
    7. Flavonoids for depression and anxiety: a systematic review and meta-analysis
    8. Clinical Effectiveness of a Combination of Black Elder Berries, Violet Herb, and Calendula Flowers in Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease: The Results of a Double-Blinded Placebo-Controlled Study - PMC
    9. Elderberries—A Source of Bioactive Compounds with Antiviral Action
    10. Elderberry-functional product (review)


    Stephanie Wright avatar

    Stephanie brings over 13 years of diverse nursing experience to the table, having honed her expertise in critical care, mental health, and utilization management. Her journey as a registered nurse across these various healthcare sectors underscores her adaptability and deep commitment to patient care.

    Fact checker

    Dr. Dimitar Marinov avatar

    Dr. Marinov has years of experience in scientific research and preventive and clinical medicine. His publications in peer-reviewed journals are on nutritional status, physical activity, and musculoskeletal disorders among adolescents.

    At VitaRx, we're not just passionate about our work — we take immense pride in it. Our dedicated team of writers diligently follows strict editorial standards, ensuring that every piece of content we publish is accurate, current, and highly valuable. We don't just strive for quality; we aim for excellence.

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    Get your personalized vitamin recommendations in less than 3 minutes.

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    Get your personalized vitamin recommendations in less than 3 minutes.

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