Elderberry: Health Benefits, Risks, Uses and Effectiveness

Elderberry: Health Benefits, Risks, Uses and Effectiveness

Oct 19, 2022Danielle Matthies, RD, CD, LD

Cold and flu season is right around the corner. Do you have your …

Flu shot? Check.

Tissues? Check.

Vitamin C? Check.

Elderberry? Hmm …

What is elderberry, and can it help you stay healthy? Touted as a dietary supplement primarily for colds and flu, here are a few things you should know.

Health Claims:

  • Elderberries, like any other type of berries, are full of antioxidants and vitamins, which can help protect the body from illness, including colds and flu.
  • Select studies suggest that elderberries may shorten the length of colds and flu.[1],[2]
  • There is no good evidence to support elderberry use specifically for COVID-19. (Beware of any companies who are marketing it otherwise.)
  • There are also no good studies to suggest taking elderberry for other health reasons.

Taking Elderberry:

  • Elderberry has an earthy and sometimes tart flavor.
  • Elderberry is most commonly found commercially as a syrup or gummy. You may also find it in capsule, lozenge or other forms. NOTE: Do NOT eat raw elderberries, which contain toxic substances that can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or other illness.
  • Dosage recommendations vary, based on the type of product, elderberry concentration and your age. Always read the label for specific guidelines.

So is elderberry worth adding to your cold and flu season arsenal? Possibly! In addition to maintaining healthy practices like eating well, getting enough sleep and washing your hands, adding elderberry may help. Just remember to always have a conversation with your physician before taking any new supplement, particularly if you are pregnant or breastfeeding or taking any prescription medications.

Stay healthy!

*The blog articles, recipes and recommendations found on this site are not intended as medical advice and should not replace consulting with your medical provider. Please consult a medical professional for individual advice.


[1] Hawkins J, Baker C, Cherry L, Dunne E. Black elderberry (Sambucus nigra) supplementation effectively treats upper respiratory symptoms: A meta-analysis of randomized, controlled clinical trials. Complement Ther Med. 2019 Feb;42:361-365. doi: 10.1016/j.ctim.2018.12.004. Epub 2018 Dec 18. PMID: 30670267.

[2] Zakay-Rones Z, Thom E, Wollan T, Wadstein J. Randomized study of the efficacy and safety of oral elderberry extract in the treatment of influenza A and B virus infections. J Int Med Res. 2004 Mar-Apr;32(2):132-40. doi: 10.1177/147323000403200205. PMID: 15080016.

About the Registered Dietitian

Dani Matthies, RD, CD, LD has been a registered, certified and licensed dietitian and member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics for nearly 10 years. With degrees in Community-Medical Dietetics and Spanish from Viterbo University in La Crosse, WI, as well as additional training in Health Communication from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, she is able to take science-based nutrition information and translate it into easy-to-understand and practical advice.

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