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Elderberry: The Benefits and Side Effects, Uses and Products

Alternative Health How To Survive

Elderberry: The Benefits and Side Effects, Uses and Products

Your friend at work recommended elderberry syrup. You’ve seen elderberry benefits online.

But what the heck is elderberry?

Does elderberry work medicinally? Or is elderberry a big holistic con job?

As it turns out, elderberry is pretty legit. It is also less confusing than you might think…

So let’s dive right in and get to the elderberry facts and uses and even a little history.

What is Elderberry?

*Always consult a medical professional before using elderberry syrup for any medicinal purposes.

If you’re not one for consuming antibiotics (please see my prepper antibiotics guide), then you’re probably aware of Elderberry. The plant can assist with viruses that bounce around from person to person in the fall and winter months.

People predominantly use elderberry for its anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties. Some people believe that elderberry alleviates symptoms of conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.

Most of the time, your primary care doctor will want you to ride out a virus with hot tea, rest, and other over the counter remedies. Taking an elderberry supplement a few times a day might just help you rid of the problem or take it as a maintenance medication and never get the flu to begin with!

People take elderberry via a number of methods:

  • As elderberry tea
  • Elderberry capsules
  • Elderberry syrups
  • Elderberry gummies
  • Even as adult beverages

Typically, taking it in these forms according to condition and right dosage is fine, however, eating a raw berry, bark, or fresh leaves can cause problems because it is toxic in the non-ripe, fresh form.  A user of elderberry needs to properly dry ou the leaves before using it medicinally.

A general recommended dose for taking a capsule, syrup or other forms can be found usually on the packaging or consult an herbalist to better understand the needs you have and a best-recommended dose for the medical condition.

Identifying Elderberry

identify elderberryElderberry is a shrub or tree can grow approximately 20 feet at full maturity and is native to North America. It has a pleasant smell and cream-colored flowers that develop into a blackberry color. The plant is also known as common elder, sweet elder, Sambucol as a trade name and Sambucus.

Elderflower, Dwarf Elder, and American Elder are not Elderberry plant we’re talking about.

Elderberry in History and Folklore

elderberry history

The plant has been used across Europe for centuries for medicinal purposes. In North America, the Native Americans used Elderberry for infections and the Egyptians used it for healing skin problems.

During the Middle Ages Elderberry was referred to as the holy tree and many believed it prolonged life.

For those who believe in the paranormal, the leaves can guard against evil spirits, repel vampires and can deter witches.  Maybe you should sprinkle some around your home, Halloween is near!

Elderberry for Medicinal Use and Foods

People use elderberry plants to make a variety of holistic, natural medications. Over the last decade, many companies have chosen to market holistic and herbal ways to treat children.  The push for using fewer pharmaceuticals to treat a variety of medical conditions and use an alternative approach with herbals is becoming the norm and is referred to as integrative medicine.

The berries are high in vitamin C and are a powerful immune system booster and antioxidant.  Per 100 grams of the berries, there is 6–35 mg of vitamin C.

Elderberry syrup is extremely effective and less harsh for young children and babies to take for the flu or an infection. Most of the time elderberry has been used for the common cold or influenza or the ‘flu’ and has been used to combat the H1N1 or swine flu virus.  The properties in the berries are responsible for increasing immune system function and can also be beneficial for HIV positive individuals.

Elderberry is similar to Echinacea and Goldenseal which are also immune boosting herbals.  People have taken elderberry by mouth for a variety of reasons including a variety of infections, to relieve congestion, a laxative for constipation, high cholesterol, headaches, weight loss, toothaches, gum inflammation, sciatica, prevent heart disease, nerve/neuropathy pain, to increase urine flow and for hay fever.

This powerful plant is not just a medicinal and can be made into wines and can be used to flavor food.  Elderberry can also be found in chutneys, jams, and pies for the holiday season or for everyday snacking on crackers.

Elderberry is good for:

  • Improve immune system function; well-being
  • Rid of common flu symptoms
  • Can rid of swine flu, H1N1 virus
  • Lowers cholesterol
  • Improve sugar levels
  • Improve skin health
  • Decreases gingivitis
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Helps weight loss

Elderberry Medicine: Syrup, Tea, Capsule Supplement and More!

What Is Elderberry Syrup?

elderberry syrup

Elderberry syrup is similar to taking cough medicine however the properties cover more than just a cough.  This can be used for adults and children as well as babies. It is less harsh compared to many medications that are also over-the-counter.

Sambucol syrup is used to shorten the flu virus symptoms. It is the original black elderberry extract use to keep everyone’s immune system as healthy as possible on a regular basis.  The extract in the syrup contains these immune system bioflavonoids.

Elderberry For Babies

*Always consult a medical professional before using elderberry syrup for any medicinal purposes.

For general maintenance purposes and a healthy immune system, everyone can benefit from this syrup.  Parents may consider giving babies a half a teaspoon of elderberry syrup daily. Parents might consider giving two to four times this amount to babies with the flu.

Studies have shown that elderberry syrup can help fight coughing, fatigue, sore throat, headache, fever, and general body aches and pains. Studies have shown that bacterial sinus infections and bronchitis could also be helped by the syrup. For dosing for older children and adults consult your herbalist or pharmacist.

Elderberry Tea

elderberry tea

In order to make elderberry tea, you need to dry the leaves using an electric dehydrator. If you don’t feel comfortable making a tea by drying leaves yourself, you can purchase the dried leaves or tea bags.  You can also make a tea by emptying elderberry capsule contents into a mug, adding some water and heating it up in the microwave.

Elderberry Gummies

Not everyone likes taking a pill, especially children. Consumers can purchase elderberry in gummy form. This is great for children but adults like them too.  These are perfect for daily maintenance, like a multivitamin.  Consumers can find elderberry products in health food stores, vitamin and herbal stores, and larger drug store retailers across the U.S.  Typically they are a combination of elderberry, zinc, and vitamin C for healthy immune system support, and make a convenient way to take the essentials.

Growing and Harvesting Elderberry

The popular plant grows well in a traditional flower or food garden. Elderberry can tolerate most conditions but does just fine in moist, sunlit areas.  They cannot survive a drought and be careful as they can produce vines that can become insidious.  Always pull out extra unwanted stems and shoots so you’re other herbals and plants can survive.

The elderberry seeds take rather well if you don’t buy the plant already started.  Elderberry can grow up to 20 feet tall and is usually referred to as a bush because it grows in shrub-like clusters.  The plant produces small white flowers which blossom into dark-colored berries.  They sprout off the twigs and usually stem between three and nine leaves.

You can harvest clusters on mature elderberry trees for medicinal purposes. Once the cluster has completely opened, its ready for harvesting. You can snip off clusters once they become a dark, blackish-purple color.

The downside to growing: you may have to wait three years until you see flowers and fruits. Most nurseries carry elderberry plants and seeds, though if your local one does not you can always purchase them online.

Elderberry attracts a lot of wildlife so make sure your plants are in fenced areas if you plan on making medicine from it!

Purchasing Elderberry Products

There are many online herbal and vitamin retailers who sell Elderberry products as well as brick and mortar locations such as organic whole food stores, vitamin and supplement stores, and national grocery and drug stores.  Check your local farmers market for elderberry syrups and food products too.

Elderberry Side Effects

Even though elderberry has a wide range of potential positive effects on the immune system it does come with its fair share of side effects.  Be careful about possible interactions with current medications you are taking and the conditions you have.  If you plan on taking elderberry for any condition make sure you understand the risks involved and proper dosing.

Potential Side effects Include:

  • Could cause an allergic reaction
  • Non-ripe berries are poisonous and can cause nausea, diarrhea, stomach pain, and vomiting
  • High doses in capsule, tea, gummy or syrup form can cause the above effects also
  • Be careful in identifying elderberry — make sure it is actually elderberry as there are other plants that look similar and are extremely toxic
  • Toxic similar plants have berries more reddish in color but look like the elderberry berries.


Elderberry is promising for a wide range of health benefits as well as general immune system function. Although many people praise elderberry for its medicinal uses, researchers have yet to use human subjects in testing. That’s an important consideration.

Because of the range of health conditions it can improve this should be an essential herbal for everyday health, survival prepping, and everyone who enjoys fall pies and jams.


WebMD | HealthLine | EverydayHealth | TheSpruce | Foodsforbetterhealth

Author: Meredith Iager

Meredith has 13 years of writing experience online and in newspapers and studied journalism at Hood College in Frederick, Maryland. Over the years, she has contributed entertainment articles and reviews to various sites including FrederickNewsPost.com and Fanbolt.com.

Since 2010, she has focused on AMA and integrative health and wellness content for AngiesList.com, SteadyContent.com, and a variety of private clients. She is an avid supporter of being prepared when SHTF and growing your own food, and is pro federal legalization of marijuana.

In addition to writing, she does transcription, researches on health constantly, and is an avid oil and acrylic painter. You can check out her paintings and older articles here: Meredith_A_Iager on HubPages | Follow Meredith on Instagram

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