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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Has Elderberry Worked For You?

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Wubba 's avatar  Wubba 22/11/2010 00:43

I have no experience...however would like to know---How or if this would help a Person w/diabetes? could it hurt them ??? (Manischewitz Elderberry wine)

15 people liked this.
Tx Dove 's avatar  Tx Dove 18/12/2010 02:00

Last January, I was really run down from over six weeks of a viral brochitis issue that began to manifest walking pneumonia symptoms. Nothing was working.
A friend recommended Wyldewood Elderberry juice. She had knocked out pneumonia with it in a few days. On her recommendation, I divided the bottle into portions for three days and used it up. I was running at 98% recovery in three days! That was a lot to say after the long six weeks before.

11 people liked this.
Sasze 's avatar  Sasze 21/12/2010 20:20

I had a cold and the flu from mid-September through all of November. Spent lots of money on prescriptions, over the counter cold and flu medicines; I even tried some allergy pills - nothing helped.

Friends and I were talking how messed up my immune system must be and one of them recommended Elderberry. I figured it couldn't hurt at this point.

Two days later (2 tables, 1 each day) and I felt noticably better!!! WOW

7 people liked this.
pmiller 's avatar  pmiller 04/12/2010 18:41

In MO we are adding growers to produce the juice. I'm usually a skeptic because of my science background. But drinking a tbsp. of the juice per day has significantly helped my fibromyalgia. Locally, MO Norhtern Pecans is selling it.

7 people liked this.
Devanut 's avatar  Devanut 07/12/2010 02:26

I recently went into our local organic store to find something to help my children and I stay well through this terrible cold and flu season. I asked her if i were to buy two products for overall health for the family, what would you you use? She recommended elderberry syrup and olive leaf capsules. After 4 days my son is completely well and my daughter and I are remarkably better. She shared so many success stories with me... I personally love it and think it will pay off!

4 people liked this.
Tess Mcdade 's avatar  Tess Mcdade 30/01/2011 18:44

I have been taking elderberry syrup for about four months. During a time when my family and others were experiencing colds and flu, I only had a couple of sniffles for a few days. I use one teaspoon a day for maintenance, and one tablespoon a day if I feel that something may be ensuing. I have been pleased with the results and will continue to keep this regime.

3 people liked this.
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