What You Need to Know about Elderberry

In the past few years, elderberry has a commonly used holistic approach to health- and for good reason! It is packed full of immune boosting properties but there are some myths and facts I want to help clear up when it comes to using elderberry.

What IS Elderberry?

Elderberry is the dark purple berry from the European elder tree. (1)  Teas and syrups made from the elderberry plant have been used commonly around the world to fight upper respiratory infections and boost immunity for hundreds of years. (2) Nowadays, elderberry (specifically Sambucus nigra) is considered an alternative remedy for use against the common cold and flu, and is given as a liquid, gummy, or capsule supplement. (5)


Elderberry fruit should always be cooked before consuming. The cooked elderberry fruit seems to be safe, but consuming raw berries, unripened berries, the leaves or stems might cause nausea, vomiting, or severe diarrhea. (1)

What does it do?

Elderberry works as an antiviral. There are many mechanisms of action, but a prime one is that elderberry contains hemagglutinin protein (HA) . Which “has been shown to stop a virus’ capability to replicate by inhibiting its ability to penetrate the cell wall, thereby preventing the virus from causing infection if taken before exposed”. HA “mediates viral entry process, therefore HA inhibitors could block the initial step of viral life cycle, even inducing neutralization of influenza viruses”. (4) They are also rich in flavonoids like anthocyanins which are powerful plant pigments that reduce inflammation. (5) If elderberry is taken after becoming ill this protein keeps the virus from spreading, which reduces the duration and severity of symptoms. (3)

Is it safe for everyone?

There is not enough research yet on elderberry for it to be determined safe for everyone. Elderberry is not safe at all for individuals with an autoimmune disease. Elderberry might cause the immune system to become more active, and this could increase the symptoms of autoimmune diseases. (1)


Not enough is known yet about the safety of using elderberry during pregnancy and breast-feeding so caution on the safe side and avoid use until otherwise instructed by your general health practitioner. (1)

Myths and Facts

Myth: Elderberry will prevent the flu and all illnesses.

Fact: Elderberry has been found to decrease symtoms, severity, and duration of a virus. (1)


Myth: Elderberry needs to be taken daily to be effective.

Fact: Elderberry is found effective if taken in the first 48 hours of an illness. Elderberry has been found to be safe when taken by mouth for up to 10 days. It’s not yet known if taking elderberry is safe or effective when used for longer periods of time. (1)

This post contains affiliate links. These cost no additional price to you but I recieve a small commission. Full disclaimer here.


Final Thoughts

When first feeling sick, elderberry syrup can be a great remedy to reducing the duration of an illness. However you should always chat with your child’s pediatrician before offering a supplement. We, personally, use Sambucol for Kids (for Jax who is 2) and the adults take Sabmucol Gummies at the first sign of an illness.


**The author of this site encourages you to consult a doctor before making any health changes, especially any changes related to a specific diagnosis or condition. No information on this site should be relied upon to determine diet, make a medical diagnosis, or determine treatment for a medical condition. The information on this website is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional and is not intended as medical advice. For more information please read our full disclaimer here.**


(1) https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-434/elderberry

(2) https://health.clevelandclinic.org/elderberry-a-natural-way-to-boost-immunity-during-cold-and-flu-season/

(3) https://www.pharmacytimes.com/contributor/cate-sibley-pharmd/2017/10/elderberries-a-potent-cold-and-flu-remedy

(4) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3747528/

(5) https://www.everydayhealth.com/diet-nutrition/diet/elderberry-health-benefits-dosing-risks/

Published by snackswithjax

Sarah is the creator and mom behind "Snacks with Jax", a social media community of over 85,000 parents/caregivers, where she shares her son's meals, nutrition information, and evidence-based tips for feeding children. She is a Certified Health Education Specialist with a Bachelor's degree in Nutrition emphasizing in Wellness from Texas Woman's University and years of experience as a culinary instructor working with ages 2+. She has coached hundreds of parents & caregivers through the journey introducing solids to babies and also navigating picky eating with toddlers and older children. Her focus is on establishing a life-long healthy relationship with food for children while also empowering, encouraging, and educating their adult caregivers.

3 thoughts on “What You Need to Know about Elderberry

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: