Elderberry

Last Updated: November 15, 2023

Elderberry (Sambucus spp., especially S. nigra) is a fairly ubiquitous fruit that is known on most continents. Elderberry is best known for its antiviral, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory uses, though it enjoys a broad variety of traditional and cultural applications.

Elderberry is most often used for

What is elderberry?

Elderberry (Sambucus spp; S nigra is one of the more commonly used species in research) is a shrub, formerly classed in the Caprifoliaceae family but now recognized to be in the Adoxaceae. Species of Sambucus are known to grow on most continents, with the exception of Oceania and Antarctica. Both elderflowers and elderberries are consumed for food and traditional medical purposes.[2] Since elderberry shrubs have become naturalized in so many locations, they have traditional uses across many cultures. Two of the more popular uses for elderberries have been in the prevention of flu or colds and in immune stimulation.[14] The berries themselves are known to contain relatively high amounts of anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds such as anthocyanins and flavonols.[15] Elderberries also contain nutrients such as B vitamins, ascorbic acid, folic acid, potassium, and fructose.[16]

What are elderberry’s main benefits?

Current meta-analyses support elderberry’s use for the prevention and/or treatment of respiratory infections (mainly those caused by respiratory viruses, such as COVID-19 and influenza), and elderberry’s capacity to strengthen immune response under stressful circumstances, such as air travel, exercise, or exposure to extreme environments.[4][5][11][17][12]

Clinical trials have also studied elderberry for cardiovascular disease,[6][9] topical treatment of eczema,[7] gingivitis prevention,[8] lipid or carbohydrate oxidation,[9][13] and influenza treatment.[10]

What are elderberry’s main drawbacks?

Elderberry leaves, stems, and unripe or uncooked fruit contain a toxin, sambunagrin, which causes nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, especially when taken in larger quantities.[3] Because elderberry may act on the immune system, people who are immunocompromised or who have autoimmune conditions should not consume elderberry medicinally without a physician’s supervision.[2] There have been case reports connecting consumption of elderberry extract with acute pancreatitis,[18] processing of elderberries with repeat-exposure-induced allergies,[19] and consumption of raw fruit, stems and leaves with symptoms consistent with poisoning (nausea, vomiting, dizziness, numbness, and stomach cramps).[20]

How does elderberry work?

So far, the best explanation for elderberry’s positive effects is related to the high polyphenol content, which is likely responsible for its anti-inflammatory or antioxidative benefits.[16][15] More specifically, the primary flavonols found in elderberry, including rutin, isoquercitrin, and astragalin, likely provide antioxidant capacity,[21] while elderberry anthocyanins such as cyanidin-3-O-glucoside are thought to play a role both in reducing inflammation and in defending against infection and malignancies.[16][15] As with any herb or plant, the total content and composition of bioactive constituents may vary depending on the cultivar and on the conditions in which the plant was grown.[16][15]

What else is Elderberry known as?
Note that Elderberry is also known as:
  • Black elderberry
  • Blue elderberry
  • Sambucus nigra
  • Sambucus canadensis
  • Sambucus caerulea
  • Black elder
  • European alder
  • Sambucus
  • Boor tree
Elderberry should not be confused with:
  • American elder
  • Elderflower
  • Dwarf elder
Dosage information

Most studies administer elderberry in lozenge, capsule, syrup, or juice forms, with doses ranging from 175 to 900 mg/day (15 to 177 mL in liquid forms) over periods of 48 hours to four weeks when used for treatment, and for up to 12 weeks when used as a preventative measure.[4][5][6][7][8][9][10][11][12][13]

Examine Database: Elderberry
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2023-11-15 00:30:04

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References
  1. ^Black Elderberry: Calscape. Sacramento, CA: California Native Plant Society.
  2. ^Plant of the Week: American Black Elderberry (Sambucus nigra L. ssp. Canadensis (L.) R. Bolli). Washington, DC: US Forest Service
  3. ^Elderberry
  4. ^Hawkins J, Baker C, Cherry L, Dunne EBlack elderberry (Sambucus nigra) supplementation effectively treats upper respiratory symptoms: A meta-analysis of randomized, controlled clinical trials.Complement Ther Med.(2019-Feb)
  5. ^Chan V, Wang L, Allman-Farinelli MEfficacy of Functional Foods, Beverages, and Supplements Claiming to Alleviate Air Travel Symptoms: Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.Nutrients.(2021-Mar-16)
  6. ^Curtis PJ, Kroon PA, Hollands WJ, Walls R, Jenkins G, Kay CD, Cassidy ACardiovascular disease risk biomarkers and liver and kidney function are not altered in postmenopausal women after ingesting an elderberry extract rich in anthocyanins for 12 weeks.J Nutr.(2009-Dec)
  7. ^Farahani AM, Aryanian Z, Memariani Z, Mozaffarpur SA, Shirafkan HA Comparison of the Effect of Topical Preparation of L. and Hydrocortisone on Hand Eczema: A Double-Blind Randomized Controlled Trial.J Altern Complement Med.(2021-Apr)
  8. ^Kim YR, Nam SHA randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trial evaluating of a mouthwash containing Sambucus williamsii var. coreana extract for prevention of gingivitits.Sci Rep.(2022-07-18)
  9. ^Murkovic M, Abuja PM, Bergmann AR, Zirngast A, Adam U, Winklhofer-Roob BM, Toplak HEffects of elderberry juice on fasting and postprandial serum lipids and low-density lipoprotein oxidation in healthy volunteers: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study.Eur J Clin Nutr.(2004-Feb)
  10. ^Macknin M, Wolski K, Negrey J, Mace SElderberry Extract Outpatient Influenza Treatment for Emergency Room Patients Ages 5 and Above: a Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Trial.J Gen Intern Med.(2020-Nov)
  11. ^Wieland LS, Piechotta V, Feinberg T, Ludeman E, Hutton B, Kanji S, Seely D, Garritty CElderberry for prevention and treatment of viral respiratory illnesses: a systematic review.BMC Complement Med Ther.(2021-Apr-07)
  12. ^Crawford C, Brown LL, Costello RB, Deuster PASelect Dietary Supplement Ingredients for Preserving and Protecting the Immune System in Healthy Individuals: A Systematic Review.Nutrients.(2022-Nov-01)
  13. ^Rust BM, Riordan JO, Carbonero FG, Solverson PMOne-Week Elderberry Juice Treatment Increases Carbohydrate Oxidation after a Meal Tolerance Test and Is Well Tolerated in Adults: A Randomized Controlled Pilot Study.Nutrients.(2023-Apr-25)
  14. ^Elderberry
  15. ^Osman AG, Avula B, Katragunta K, Ali Z, Chittiboyina AG, Khan IAElderberry Extracts: Characterization of the Polyphenolic Chemical Composition, Quality Consistency, Safety, Adulteration, and Attenuation of Oxidative Stress- and Inflammation-Induced Health Disorders.Molecules.(2023-Mar-31)
  16. ^Kolesarova A, Baldovska S, Kohut L, Sirotkin AVBlack Elder and Its Constituents: Molecular Mechanisms of Action Associated with Female Reproduction.Pharmaceuticals (Basel).(2022-Feb-17)
  17. ^Kesheh MM, Shavandi S, Haeri Moghaddam N, Ramezani M, Ramezani FEffect of herbal compounds on coronavirus; a systematic review and meta-analysis.Virol J.(2022-May-21)
  18. ^Weissman S, Lo A, Patel R, Mehta TI, Singh V, Aziz M, Belyayeva A, Cherian J, Amrutiya V, Atoot A, Hassan A, Sotiriadis J, Atoot A, Tabibian JHAn Unusual Culprit of Drug-Induced Pancreatitis.Dig Dis Sci.(2020-May)
  19. ^Szalai K, Schöll I, Förster-Waldl E, Polito L, Bolognesi A, Untersmayr E, Riemer AB, Boltz-Nitulescu G, Stirpe F, Jensen-Jarolim EOccupational sensitization to ribosome-inactivating proteins in researchers.Clin Exp Allergy.(2005-Oct)
  20. ^Centers for Disease Control (CDC)Poisoning from elderberry juice--CaliforniaMMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep.(1984 Apr 6)
  21. ^Młynarczyk K, Walkowiak-Tomczak D, Łysiak GPBioactive properties of L. as a functional ingredient for food and pharmaceutical industry.J Funct Foods.(2018-Jan)
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  23. ^di Tizio A, Łuczaj ŁJ, Quave CL, Redžić S, Pieroni ATraditional food and herbal uses of wild plants in the ancient South-Slavic diaspora of Mundimitar/Montemitro (Southern Italy).J Ethnobiol Ethnomed.(2012-Jun-06)
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  26. ^Lesibana Peter Maema, Martin Potgieter, Salome Mamokone MahloINVASIVE ALIEN PLANT SPECIES USED FOR THE TREATMENT OF VARIOUS DISEASES IN LIMPOPO PROVINCE, SOUTH AFRICAAfr J Tradit Complement Altern Med.(2016 Jul 3)
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  29. ^Tiralongo E, Wee SS, Lea RAElderberry Supplementation Reduces Cold Duration and Symptoms in Air-Travellers: A Randomized, Double-Blind Placebo-Controlled Clinical TrialNutrients.(2016 Mar 24)
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  33. ^Porter RS, Bode RFA Review of the Antiviral Properties of Black Elder (Sambucus nigra L.) Products.Phytother Res.(2017-Apr)
  34. ^Zafra-Stone S, Yasmin T, Bagchi M, Chatterjee A, Vinson JA, Bagchi DBerry anthocyanins as novel antioxidants in human health and disease prevention.Mol Nutr Food Res.(2007-Jun)
  35. ^Aguzzi C, Marinelli O, Zeppa L, Santoni G, Maggi F, Nabissi MEvaluation of anti-inflammatory and immunoregulatory activities of Stimunex® and Stimunex D3® in human monocytes/macrophages stimulated with LPS or IL-4/IL-13.Biomed Pharmacother.(2020-Dec)
  36. ^Barak V, Halperin T, Kalickman IThe effect of Sambucol, a black elderberry-based, natural product, on the production of human cytokines: I. Inflammatory cytokinesEur Cytokine Netw.(2001 Apr-Jun)
  37. ^Barak V, Birkenfeld S, Halperin T, Kalickman IThe effect of herbal remedies on the production of human inflammatory and anti-inflammatory cytokines.Isr Med Assoc J.(2002-Nov)
  38. ^Kim YR, Nam SHThe Effect of Mouthwash with Sambucus williamsii var. coreana Extract on Halitosis: A Randomised, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study.Oral Health Prev Dent.(2022-Jun-28)
  39. ^Jabbari M, Hashempur MH, Razavi SZ, Shahraki HR, Kamalinejad M, Emtiazy MEfficacy and short-term safety of topical Dwarf Elder (Sambucus ebulus L.) versus diclofenac for knee osteoarthritis: A randomized, double-blind, active-controlled trial.J Ethnopharmacol.(2016-Jul-21)
  40. ^D Bagchi, C K Sen, M Bagchi, M AtalayAnti-angiogenic, antioxidant, and anti-carcinogenic properties of a novel anthocyanin-rich berry extract formulaBiochemistry (Mosc).(2004 Jan)
  41. ^Shirin Hasani-Ranjbar, Neda Nayebi, Bagher Larijani, Mohammad AbdollahiA systematic review of the efficacy and safety of herbal medicines used in the treatment of obesityWorld J Gastroenterol.(2009 Jul 7)
  42. ^Ivanova D, Tasinov O, Kiselova-Kaneva YImproved lipid profile and increased serum antioxidant capacity in healthy volunteers after Sambucus ebulus L. fruit infusion consumption.Int J Food Sci Nutr.(2014-Sep)
Examine Database References
  1. Carbohydrate Oxidation - Rust BM, Riordan JO, Carbonero FG, Solverson PMOne-Week Elderberry Juice Treatment Increases Carbohydrate Oxidation after a Meal Tolerance Test and Is Well Tolerated in Adults: A Randomized Controlled Pilot Study.Nutrients.(2023-Apr-25)
  2. Total cholesterol - Murkovic M, Abuja PM, Bergmann AR, Zirngast A, Adam U, Winklhofer-Roob BM, Toplak HEffects of elderberry juice on fasting and postprandial serum lipids and low-density lipoprotein oxidation in healthy volunteers: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study.Eur J Clin Nutr.(2004-Feb)
  3. Upper Respiratory Tract Infection Symptoms - Macknin M, Wolski K, Negrey J, Mace SElderberry Extract Outpatient Influenza Treatment for Emergency Room Patients Ages 5 and Above: a Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Trial.J Gen Intern Med.(2020-Nov)
  4. Dental Health Metrics - Kim YR, Nam SHA randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trial evaluating of a mouthwash containing Sambucus williamsii var. coreana extract for prevention of gingivitits.Sci Rep.(2022-07-18)
  5. Eczema Symptoms - Farahani AM, Aryanian Z, Memariani Z, Mozaffarpur SA, Shirafkan HA Comparison of the Effect of Topical Preparation of L. and Hydrocortisone on Hand Eczema: A Double-Blind Randomized Controlled Trial.J Altern Complement Med.(2021-Apr)
  6. Risk Of Cardiovascular Disease - Curtis PJ, Kroon PA, Hollands WJ, Walls R, Jenkins G, Kay CD, Cassidy ACardiovascular disease risk biomarkers and liver and kidney function are not altered in postmenopausal women after ingesting an elderberry extract rich in anthocyanins for 12 weeks.J Nutr.(2009-Dec)
  7. Upper Respiratory Tract Infection Risk - Crawford C, Brown LL, Costello RB, Deuster PASelect Dietary Supplement Ingredients for Preserving and Protecting the Immune System in Healthy Individuals: A Systematic Review.Nutrients.(2022-Nov-01)
  8. Upper Respiratory Tract Infection Risk - Wieland LS, Piechotta V, Feinberg T, Ludeman E, Hutton B, Kanji S, Seely D, Garritty CElderberry for prevention and treatment of viral respiratory illnesses: a systematic review.BMC Complement Med Ther.(2021-Apr-07)
  9. Upper Respiratory Tract Infection Symptoms - Hawkins J, Baker C, Cherry L, Dunne EBlack elderberry (Sambucus nigra) supplementation effectively treats upper respiratory symptoms: A meta-analysis of randomized, controlled clinical trials.Complement Ther Med.(2019-Feb)