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

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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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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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Momof2 's avatar  Momof2 16/02/2014 03:55

Is there any adverse reaction with Elderberry and Zoloft?

Travis and Jamie 's avatar  Travis and Jamie 13/02/2014 14:47

i use elderberry for coughs for our family (ages 38,31,10,7) it works and doesn't make you want to gag. I swear by it and so does my brother and sister in law with their family.(ages 35,33,10,8,5,2) I keep it on hand all year round. Never found a problem with long term use.

Belle Jordan 's avatar  Belle Jordan 15/01/2014 23:11

After 12 hours drinking tea made from dried elderberries, my symptoms have all but disappeared. I'm also using zinc lozenges and about 30 drops of echinacea all together. I'm fatigued from my body fighting so hard but I can breathe freely and I've stopped coughing.

Cheryl Watts 's avatar  Cheryl Watts 04/01/2014 23:08

When I was a child , I used to get high fevers
My grandfather would go down an old bay road
West coast northern Calif
He would pick the elder leaves , bring them put them
Under my sheets
Instantly my fever disappeared
Also have used the dried flower for tea, due to
Flu, me steal cramps or just feeling poorly
My grandparents came from the Azore Island
Of Portugal and elderberry has been used by the Azorean
People for centuries
Great stuff

Douglas 's avatar  Douglas 28/10/2013 04:00

I posted a link to the person asking about the 95 flu claim. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9395631 there seems to be mass confusion online about this. It was in 1993 published in 1995. It was also in Israel and used on a strain of avian flu called Panama.

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