Some people take elderberry by mouth for the common cold, flu (influenza), and many other conditions, but there is no good scientific evidence to support these uses.
Cooked elderberries are used for making wine and tea, and also pies, jellies, and jams.
Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19): While elderberry may have some benefit for the common cold and flu, there is no good evidence to support using it for COVID-19. Follow healthy lifestyle choices and proven prevention methods instead.
How does it work?
Elderberry might affect the immune system. Elderberry seems to have activity against viruses including the flu.
Uses & Effectiveness
Possibly Effective for
- Flu (influenza). A specific elderberry juice syrup seems to reduce flu symptoms when taken within 48 hours of the first symptoms. But some research shows that it might not be helpful in some people, such as those with lung conditions or children under 12 years of age. Taking elderberry lozenges within 24 hours of the first symptoms may also reduce flu symptoms.
Insufficient Evidence for
- Heart disease. Early research shows that taking elderberry extract daily for 12 weeks does not reduce risk factors for heart disease in postmenopausal women.
- Common cold. Early research shows that taking a specific type of elderberry extract for 10 days before traveling and for up to 5 days after arriving at an overseas travel destination does not prevent colds from developing. But it might shorten the length of a cold and reduce cold symptoms.
- High levels of cholesterol or other fats (lipids) in the blood (hyperlipidemia). Early research shows that taking capsules containing dried elderberry three times daily for 2 weeks does not reduce cholesterol levels in people with high cholesterol.
- A lung disease that makes it harder to breathe (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or COPD).
- A mild form of gum disease (gingivitis).
- Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS).
- Hay fever.
- Nerve pain.
- Other conditions.
More evidence is needed to rate elderberry for these uses.
Side Effects & Safety
When taken by mouth: Elderberry is LIKELY SAFE when used in amounts found in foods. Elderberry extract is POSSIBLY SAFE when taken by mouth for up to 12 weeks. There isn’t enough reliable information to know if it is safe to use elderberry extract for more than 12 weeks.
It is POSSIBLY UNSAFE to consume elder leaves or stems, or unripe or uncooked elderberries. Cooked elderberry seems to be safe, but raw and unripe fruit might cause nausea, vomiting, or severe diarrhea.
Special Precautions & Warnings:
Children: Elderberry is POSSIBLY SAFE in children 12 years of age or older when taken by mouth for up to 10 days. There isn’t enough reliable information to know if it is safe for children younger than 12 years of age to take elderberry.
Pregnancy and breast-feeding: There isn’t enough reliable information to know if elderberry is safe to use when pregnant or breast-feeding. Stay on the safe side and avoid use.
“Autoimmune diseases” such as multiple sclerosis (MS), lupus (systemic lupus erythematosus, SLE), rheumatoid arthritis (RA), or other conditions: Elderberry might cause the immune system to become more active, and this could increase the symptoms of autoimmune diseases. If you have one of these conditions, it’s best to avoid using elderberry.
Be cautious with this combination
- Medications that decrease the immune system (Immunosuppressants) interacts with ELDERBERRY
Elderberry can increase the immune system. Taking elderberry along with some medications that decrease the immune system might decrease the effectiveness of medications that decrease the immune system.
Some medications that decrease the immune system include azathioprine (Imuran), basiliximab (Simulect), cyclosporine (Neoral, Sandimmune), daclizumab (Zenapax), muromonab-CD3 (OKT3, Orthoclone OKT3), mycophenolate (CellCept), tacrolimus (FK506, Prograf), sirolimus (Rapamune), prednisone (Deltasone, Orasone), corticosteroids (glucocorticoids), and others.
The following doses have been studied in scientific research:
- For the flu (influenza): One tablespoon (15 mL) of a specific elderberry juice-containing syrup (Sambucol by Nature’s Way) has been taken four times daily for 3-5 days. Also, a specific lozenge (ViraBLOC by HerbalScience) containing 175 mg of elderberry extract has been taken four times daily for 2 days. Also, one teaspoon (5 mL) of a product containing echinacea and elderberry (Echinaforce Hot Drink by A. Vogel Bioforce AG) mixed with 150 mL of hot water has been taken five times daily for 3 days, then three times daily for 7 days.
- For the flu (influenza): One tablespoon (15 mL) of a specific elderberry juice-containing syrup (Sambucol by Nature’s Way) has been taken twice daily for 3 days. Also, one teaspoon (5 mL) of a product containing echinacea and elderberry (Echinaforce Hot Drink by A. Vogel Bioforce AG) mixed with 150 mL of hot water has been taken five times daily for 3 days, then three times daily for 7 days.