Elderberry (Sambucus Nigra)

Elderberry Benefits

Used for its antioxidant activity, to lower cholesterol, improve vision, boost the immune system, improve heart health and for coughs, colds, flu, bacterial and viral infections and tonsillitis. Elderberry juice was used to treat a flu epidemic in Panama in 1995.

Elderberries (Sambucus) have been a folk remedy for centuries in North America, Europe, Western Asia, and North Africa, hence the medicinal benefits of elderberries are being investigated and rediscovered. Elderberry is used for its antioxidant activity, to lower cholesterol, to improve vision, to boost the immune system, to improve heart health and for coughs, colds, flu, bacterial and viral infections and tonsillitis. Bioflavonoids and other proteins in the juice destroy the ability of cold and flu viruses to infect a cell. People with the flu who took elderberry juice reported less severe symptoms and felt better much faster than those who did not.

Beneficial components in Elderberries

Elderberries contain organic pigments, tannin, amino acids, carotenoids, flavonoids, sugar, rutin, viburnic acid, vitaman A and B and a large amount of vitamin C. They are also mildly laxative, a diuretic, and diaphoretic. Flavonoids, including quercetin, are believed to account for the therapeutic actions of the elderberry flowers and berries. According to test tube studies2 these flavonoids include anthocyanins that are powerful antioxidants and protect cells against damage.

Health Benefits of Elderberries

Elderberries were listed in the CRC Handbook of Medicinal Herbs as early as 1985, and are listed in the 2000 Mosby's Nursing Drug reference for colds, flu, yeast infections, nasal and chest congestion, and hay fever. In Israel, Hasassah's Oncology Lab has determined that elderberry stimulates the body's immune system and they are treating cancer and AIDS patients with it. The wide range of medical benefits (from flu and colds to debilitating asthma, diabetes, and weight loss) is probably due to the enhancement of each individual's immune system.

At the Bundesforschungsanstalt research center for food in Karlsruhe, Germany, scientists conducting studies on Elderberry showed that elderberry anthocyanins enhance immune function by boosting the production of cytokines. These unique proteins act as messengers in the immune system to help regulate immune response, thus helping to defend the body against disease. Further research indicated that anthocyanins found in elderberries possess appreciably more antioxidant capacity than either vitamin E or vitamin C.

Studies at Austria's University of Graz found that elderberry extract reduces oxidation of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. Oxidation of LDL cholesterol is implicated in atherogenesis, thus contributing to cardiovascular disease.

Elderflowers are also used for their health benefits.

Are Elderberries poisonous?

Most species of Sambucus berries are edible when picked ripe and then cooked. Both the skin and pulp can be eaten. However, it is important to note that most uncooked berries and other parts of plants from this genus are poisonous. Sambucus nigra is the variety of Elderberry that is most often used for health benefits as it is the only variety considered to be non-toxic even when not cooked, but it is still recommended to cook the berries at least a little to enhance their taste and digestibility.

1. J Alt Compl Mod 1995: 1:361-69 2. Youdim KA, Martin A, Joseph JA. Incorporation of the elderberry anthocyanins by endothelial cells increases protection against oxidative stress. Free Radical Biol Med 2000: 29:51 60

Elderberry Herb Notes / Side Effects

Latin Name

Sambucus nigra

Common Names

Elderberry, Black Elderberry, North American Elderberry


antioxidant, diaphoretic, diuretic, laxative, immune-boosting, anti-inflammatory


Immune system boost, coughs, colds, flu, bacterial infections, viral infections, tonsillitis, lower cholesterol, improved vision and heart health.

Indicated for

Cancer, HIV, asthma and bronchitis, reduce inflammation of the urinary tract and bladder.

Infusions of the fruit are said to be beneficial for nerve disorders, back pain, and have been used to reduce inflammation of the urinary tract and bladder.

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Techfarmr  's avatar  Techfarmr  05/03/2015 08:40

The family members taking elderberry daily have not suffered the viruses this school year. Yay! Those who haven't has. The little ones have chewable elderberry and have done much better this school year than last. When the toddler had a runny nose, it was gone in 2 days. Wonderful herb!! ??

PK 's avatar  PK 29/12/2013 18:28

I am 61 and unfortunately developed the flu mid-holiday...All very acute severe symptoms...started elderberry 24 hrs into the height of symptoms and am three days later fine! No complications. Fever was nearly 103...will always use this stuff! Glad I remembered in my brain fog that something worked better than tamiflu...and neighbor had on her shelf. I will continue to use to build my lowered immune system.

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Theresa Spencer 's avatar  Theresa Spencer 04/02/2015 03:18

I am starting a diet plan that includes Elderberry and Choke Berry in the powder. My concern is I have had some respiratory difficulty after eating Blackberries and <a href="http://www.herbwisdom.com/herb-blueberries.html">Blueberries</A>. Are they closely related?

Joe 's avatar  Joe 03/02/2015 04:42

I now grow our own tree. they grow huge but we keep it down to about 8feet high. we harvested about 2kg this year and froze them. keep them mainly to use in winter, but they are there if we need them anytime. w are looking at moving a few years so soon I will be taking a cutting to grow another
tree. also keep elderflower in the pantry to make a tea if needed. they also say it is a good diuretic :)

Nikki Diaz 's avatar  Nikki Diaz 12/12/2014 14:56

Hey guys, just for our research class, I'm a student and my study is about creating a new treatment for pneumonia, i just wanna ask about your opinion about elderberry, i'm using it as my raw material, sooo..what do you think? will it help or will it be effective in treating pneumonia? hope i can get answers from you

deborah 's avatar  deborah 11/08/2014 18:06

An Hi. I've had complaints. My daughter is taking a psychotic drug cause can't afford natural. Id love natural products but my drug plan doesn't supply for it. my daughter is been diagnosis with prolactin high levels migraine headache and no period for over 6 months. she is a 16 yr. old with cognitive delays. My questions are what safely can she take for thyroid and prolactin issues.Can these meds have some factors. She has eczema, asthma, and I want help her. also issues from anger but I believe that's caused from environment. Please help me.

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