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Elderberry: The Superfruit That Can Boost Your Immunity

Elderberry fruit is one of nature’s most versatile remedies for what ails you1. Although there are around 30 different types of elder plants and trees around the world, the European version is the one most used for its health and recovery benefits.

Officially known as Sambucus nigra (Black elder), every part of the elderberry plant appears to provide health benefits – as long as they are cooked or processed. Ingesting any part of the elderberry plant raw may be toxic and cause harmful or dangerous reactions.

In this article, we’ll discuss the diverse health benefits and potential adverse effects of elderberry supplements, and answer some frequently asked questions. We also recommend our favorite elderberry supplement on the market.

Is Elderberry Safe?

Commercially prepared elderberry supplements are regarded as safe for consumption, though you should use homemade elderberry concoctions with caution2. This is because raw berries may contain small amounts of cyanide. You should also avoid taking elderberry extract supplements since they are made from raw plant materials and raw berries cannot be digested.

Supplements and other commercial elderberry products are made from processed berries, which make them safe to digest. On the other hand, eating raw elderberry fruit, bark, or leaves has been known to cause some stomach distress.

Common side effects of taking raw elderberry plant products (fruit, flower, leaves, bark, or root) include:

  • Stomach issues
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Constipation and diarrhea
  • Dizziness
  • Weakness
  • Numbness

It’s always best to buy elderberry supplements from a trustworthy brand to ensure the quality and authenticity of the product, as well as its safety.

What Makes Elderberries So Special?

Elderberry has been used for thousands of years to treat infections, fight influenza, and improve general health. In today’s world, elderberries are mostly known for their natural ability to fight off common viral injections. There’s a good reason for that.

One cup of fresh elderberries is packed with fiber, phenolic acids, flavonols, anthocyanins, and nearly 60 percent of your daily recommended vitamin C. Just remember to cook or process your berries – don’t eat them raw.

The nutritional breakdown of the elderberry fruit may vary according to the plant variety, but, regardless of environment or climate effects, you can’t deny the antioxidant properties of this superfruit.

How Elderberry Boosts Your Immune Function

Many of the health benefits associated with elderberries are linked to anthocyanins. Anthocyanins are flavonoids that help reduce inflammation and have antiviral properties. They help improve the body’s immune response. Take a look:

Raises Antioxidant Levels

Elderberries are packed with antioxidants, which are an excellent source of anthocyanins. We mentioned earlier that these flavonoids are anti-inflammatory and antiviral. To put it plainly, one anthocyanin found in elderberries has three and a half times the antioxidant power of vitamin E.

Studies have shown that diets high in antioxidants may help prevent chronic diseases and reduce inflammation. Antioxidants help remove harmful reactive molecules that may accumulate in the body during the normal process of metabolism. These reactive molecules can cause oxidative stress and may lead to more serious health issues, like cancer or Type II diabetes.

Improves Heart Health

Elderberry has long been known to have positive effects on the heart and blood vessels. Studies suggest that the antioxidants in elderberries may reduce bad cholesterol levels and lower the risk of heart diseases.

Research has shown that consuming elderberries may decrease the level of fat in the blood and reduce blood pressure. Elderberries have also been linked to reducing levels of uric acid in the blood, which may increase blood pressure when elevated.

Elderberry supplements may increase insulin secretion and inhibit the enzyme alpha-glucosidase, which helps improve blood sugar levels. Alpha-glucosidases are enzymes that break down carbohydrates into glucose in the digestive tract. Since blood sugar levels affect heart health, elderberry supplements are a great way to improve blood sugar control.

Fights Harmful Bacteria

Elderberry supplements show some inhibitory effects against many microorganisms, including “super-bugs” typically found in hospitals (i.e. MRSA). Essentially, elderberries help stimulate the immune systems of the week or immunocompromised to fight back.

One study showed that a standardized elderberry extract possesses antimicrobial properties against some harmful bacteria. Another study reported that supplementing with elderberries effectively reduced symptoms of upper respiratory tract infections when compared to the placebo group.

Furthermore, as a rich source of antioxidants, elderberries hinder the development of certain bacteria and damage the structure of membranes of bacterial cells. Elderberries have been found to improve symptoms of sinusitis and bronchitis by inhibiting the growth of bacteria.

Protects Against the Cold and Flu Symptoms

Research into elderberries’ healing benefits suggests they can act as a defense against common illnesses3. Regularly consuming elderberry supplements can help prevent or treat cold and flu symptoms, according to a 2016 study.

The study involved a group of travelers who took elderberry supplements and a group who were given a placebo. At the conclusion of the study, colds affected fewer people in the first group. And the people who were affected experienced milder symptoms than those in the placebo group. 

Additional studies showed that people who took elderberry supplements had less severe cold symptoms, and their illnesses lasted for a shorter duration.

Guards Against Other Infections

In addition to inhibiting the influenza A and B viruses, research with cell cultures shows that elderberry supplements may also inhibit Streptococcus bacteria. Researchers suggest the berry’s antioxidant properties may help stabilize someone’s health, similar to vitamin C.

Elderberries have natural antiviral and antibacterial properties that can help prevent or decrease the severity of infections. These incredible berries have been incorporated into medicines as an antiviral agent.

Further studies with humans are still needed to confirm elderberries’ ability to treat sinus infections and bronchitis. However, many proponents of alternative medicine already claim they can.

Other Potential Health Benefits of Elderberry

Elderberries’ immune-boosting effects are just the start of how supplementing with this superfruit can improve your health. Anecdotal evidence suggests elderberry supplements may be useful in treating hay fever, headaches, and constipation, though we weren’t able to find scientific research to support these benefits.

Numerous animal studies have been conducted, and the following benefits have been reported. However, we need more human studies to support the efficacy of these claims.

Improves Metabolic Health

Metabolic health is the term used to describe how well energy is generated and processed in the body. Your metabolic health is your body’s ability to respond to food beneficially.

Metabolically healthy people have a lower risk of certain conditions, such as obesity, heart disease, stroke, Type II diabetes, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, and kidney disease.

Metabolic health is clinically defined by optimal levels of the following five specific markers, without using medication:

  • Blood Sugar
  • Triglycerides
  • High-Density Lipoprotein (HDL) Cholesterol
  • Blood Pressure
  • Waist Circumference

A scientific review of several studies showed elderberry supplements may help improve insulin levels while decreasing fat in the liver and triglyceride levels. The research does not suggest that we should view elderberry supplements as a substitute for traditional treatment of these conditions.

Protects Against Harmful Ultraviolet Radiation

Sun damage is one of the greatest contributors to aging skin, which makes you look older. Elderberry skin care products have been shown to have an SPF rating of 9.88, which means it would take you almost ten times longer to burn than if you weren’t wearing them.

In a 2010 study, they discovered that polyphenol-rich plants with red, purple, or yellow pigments can absorb UVB radiation. This radiation is responsible for a majority of UV-related skin damage, even though it’s only a mid-range form of UV radiation.

It’s important to note that this study was focused on topically applied polyphenols, which means you have to absorb them through your skin with lotion or moisturizer. We still need research to determine if the same results occur when taking elderberry supplements.

Reduces Inflammation

Elderberries are naturally rich in antioxidants. Antioxidants prevent free radicals from damaging cells at the DNA level, which helps to reduce inflammation, decrease swelling, and relieve pain.

Before the advent of antibiotics, elderberries were used as an anti-inflammatory to treat pain, fevers, and even toothaches. Today, we consider them to be an alternative therapy to treat the common cold and flu.

May Have Antidepressant Properties

One mice study found that dosing with 544mg of elderberries per pound improved their performance and mood markers, which suggests supplementing with elderberries can help reduce your symptoms of depression.

There have been no reported interactions with prescription antidepressants. This doesn’t mean that none exists. It’s a good idea to speak with your doctor before taking any elderberry supplements if you are currently taking medication for depression.

Why You Should Consider Elderberry Plus

The nutrients in the elderberry plant are what make it so effective for boosting your overall health. If you’re considering making a homemade elderberry concoction, you may want to rethink it. The health-boosting nutrients can vary from plant to plant depending on the ripeness and environment in which they grow.

As an alternative, we recommend trying an elderberry supplement, like Elderberry Plus, if you want the immune boost and support provided by the plant. It’s a great way to ensure you get the most health benefits from the plant.

Elderberry Plus is a chewable supplement that’s fortified with echinacea and vitamin C. We love the fact that it uses a high-quality elderberry 10:1 extract, which means you get the same immunity-boosting benefits every time.

The formula consists of a few powerful ingredients that really pack a punch. Let’s take a quick look at what’s in Elderberry Plus:

  • Elderberry (10:1 extract) – A true superfood, the 10:1 extract is the ideal dosage of elderberry.
  • Echinacea – Helps you recover from sickness faster.
  • Mullein – Helps fight bacteria and improve respiratory ailments.
  • Marshmallow Root – Has a soothing effect on the esophagus, helping suppress coughs.
  • Vitamin C – A powerful antioxidant that helps fight off infections.

Elderberry Plus is a multi-enhancing immunity complex that works to strengthen your immune function and fortify your body with the nutrients it needs to fight off toxins and most ailments. Whether you’re a busy parent, overworked small business owner, or frequent traveler, Elderberry Plus can give you the boost you need to stay healthy at any age.

You should also consider your cognitive function while you improve your immunity. For more information read our post, “Here’s How to Experience Better Cognitive Function As You Age” only at our Natural Health Source blog.


How Much Should I Take Each Day?

There is no universally suggested amount of elderberry that you should take each day, though consuming too much may lead to stomach issues.

You can take elderberry supplements three to four times a day or more, as long as you don’t exceed the recommended daily dosage. Depending on the form (lozenges, cough syrup, etc) the frequency and dosage will vary.

If you are experiencing specific cold or flu symptoms, start taking supplements no later than 48 hours after the first signs of sickness. Elderberry supplements should be used with, rather than as a substitute for, conventional medical treatment.

Are Elderberry Supplements Safe to Consume While Pregnant?

There isn’t yet enough research to determine whether pregnant women can safely take elderberry supplements. As a result, the safe bet is to avoid taking them while pregnant.

Instead, try other antiviral plants such as ginger, echinacea, and garlic if you’re looking to stay well while you’ve got a bun in the oven4.

Who Should Not Take Elderberry Supplements?

Generally, elderberry supplements are safe to take for adults who are neither pregnant nor breastfeeding. It is possible, however, that they may interfere with drugs designed specifically to suppress the immune system.

Since elderberries help stimulate the immune system, people with autoimmune disorders should not use elderberry supplements without consulting with a healthcare professional.

Do Elderberry Supplements Prevent COVID-19?

While you may find some supplements claiming to prevent COVID-19, there has been no scientific research to test the efficacy of these claims. Supplementing with elderberries has been scientifically shown to improve your body’s immune system so it can fight back against infection and cold and flu symptoms.

Elderberry supplements are not recommended by the National Institutes of Health or the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health to treat or prevent COVID-195.


About Sandra Bishop

Avatar photoSandra Bishop a science writer and a large contributor to many different health forums and strives to always remain up to date on the ever-changing world of medicine to bring you the best information.

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