What is Elderberry – Latest Research Included

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Elderberry is among the most widely used medicinal plants worldwide. It is typically used as a supplement for treating cold and flu symptoms. However, the raw berries or leaves, as well as the bark, are poisonous.

Traditionally, Indigenous people used it to treat rheumatism and fever, and the ancient Egyptians employed it to brighten their skin and treat burns.

It's still utilized in folk medicine across different regions of Europe.

This article takes a close look at:

  • elderberry
  • The evidence supports the health claims of this product.
  • the health risks of the consumption of it

What is the elderberry?

Elderberry refers to a variety of elderberry varieties. It is a variety of the Sambucus plant, a flowering tree belonging to the Adoxaceae family.

The most well-known variety of this is Sambucus Nigra often referred to by the name of European elderberry, also known as the black elder. The native tree of Europe, but it is grown extensively throughout the world, too.

S.nigragrows up to 30 feet (9 meters) tall and features clusters of tiny white- or cream-colored flowers, also known as elderflowers. The berries are in small blue-black or black groups.

The berries are very sweet and must be cooked before eating. The flowers possess a pleasant fragrance of muscat. They can be eaten fresh or cooked.

Other varieties include American elder dwarf elder, blue elderberry, danewort elder, and Antelope brush.

The various components of elderberry were extensively used to aid in healing and cooking.

The flowers and leaves were employed to relieve pain and inflammation, swelling, stimulation of urinary production, and sweating. The bark was used as a diuretic and laxative to trigger vomiting.

In folk medicine, dried berries or juices are used to treat the flu, infections, sciatica, toothache, heart pain, and nerve pain. They are also used as diuretics and laxatives.

Furthermore, the berries could be cooked to create jams, juices, chutneys, and pies. And even wine made from elderberries. The flowers are typically cooked with sugar to make syrup sweet or infused into tea.


Elderberry is one of the varieties of this Sambucus tree, which has a plethora of white flowers and blue-black or black-black berries. The most popular variety is Sambucus nugra, which is also known as European elderberry or black elderberry.

The health benefits of elderberry

Elderberries have many benefits. They're not just healthy; they can also aid in addressing symptoms of colds and flu, support heart health, fight infections and inflammation, and more.

A high content of nutrients

Elderberries are a low-calorie food that is packed with antioxidants.

One cup (145 grams) of fresh berries contains the equivalent of 106 calories, 26.7 grams of carbohydrates, and less than 1 gram of protein and fat.

They also have numerous advantages in terms of nutrition. Elderberries include:

  • This fruit is high in vitamin C. A cup of fruit contains 52 mg of vitamin C, accounting for 57 percent of the daily amount.
  • The berries are high in fiber. Elderberries have the equivalent of 10g fiber for each cup of fresh berries, which is around 36% of the daily value.
  • There is a rich supply of phenolic acids. These potent antioxidants can reduce the damage caused by oxidative stress within the body.
  • Elderberries are excellent sources of flavonols. They are rich in antioxidant flavonols quercetin and isorhamnetin. The flowers have up to 10 times the amount of flavonols than the fruits.
  • Anthocyanins are a rich source of. These are the compounds that give the fruit its distinctive dark purple-black color. They also act as powerful antioxidants with anti-inflammatory properties.

The exact composition of the nutritional content of elderberries depends on

  • The variety of plants
  • The ripeness and sturdiness of the berries
  • climate and environmental conditions

Thus, the servings may differ in nutritional value.


Elderberries are a calorie-free food brimming with vitamin C, antioxidants, and dietary fiber in the form of phenolic acids, flavonols, and anthocyanins. They are especially high in flavonols.

It may help ease flu and cold symptoms

Black elderberry extracts and flower infusions have been found to decrease the duration and severity of the flu.

Elderberry preparations for commercial use in cold treatment are available in various forms, such as liquids and capsules, lozenges, and Gummies.

A study conducted in 2004 of 60 patients suffering from influenza revealed that people who consumed 15 milliliters of elderberry syrup 4 times a day experienced symptom improvement between 2 and 4 days, whereas the patients in the control group needed 7 up to 8 days to recover.

Additionally, a study of 312 passengers who consumed capsules of 30 mg elderberry extract three times each day discovered that those who fell sick could endure a shorter time of illness and had fewer severe signs.

Additional large-scale studies are needed to confirm these findings and determine if elderberry might also be involved in preventing the spread of influenza.

It is important to note that most research has been conducted using commercial products. Little information is available on the safety and effectiveness of homemade remedies.


Elderberry extract has been proven to reduce the duration and severity of symptoms triggered by influenza viruses. While these results look promising, more large-scale studies with humans are required.

Antioxidants are high in this product.

Reactive substances may be released in normal metabolic processes, which can build up within the body. This could cause the body to experience oxidative stress. This can result in diseases like type 2 diabetes or cancer.

Antioxidants are natural ingredients in foods, including nutrients, phenolic acids, and flavonoids, that can assist in the removal of reactive molecules. Research suggests that diets rich in antioxidants could help reduce chronic illness.

Elderberry fruits, flowers, and leaves are fantastic sources of antioxidants. For instance, one type of anthocyanin in berries has 3.5 times the antioxidant capacity of vitamin E.

A study that compared 15 different kinds of berries and a different study comparing different varieties of wine revealed that elderberry is among the most potent antioxidants.

Another study also found that antioxidant levels improved for people within one hour of drinking 400 milliliters of elderberry juice. Another survey of rats revealed that elderberry extracts reduced inflammation and damage to oxidative tissues.

Although elderberry has produced promising results in the lab, research on animals and humans is restricted. In general, including it in your diet will have little effect on your antioxidant status.

Additionally, the process of extracting and heating elderberries may decrease their antioxidant capacity.

Thus, products like syrups, juices, teas, and jams could have fewer benefits than some of the findings from lab studies.


Elderberry leaves, fruits, and flowers contain potent antioxidants. However, their effects on human protection are minimal. In addition, processing the flowers and berries may reduce their antioxidant power.

It could be beneficial for heart health.

Elderberry has positive impacts on specific indicators of blood vessels and heart health.

Research has shown that elderberry juice could lower the level of blood fat and reduce cholesterol. Additionally eating a diet that is rich in flavonoids such as anthocyanins has been proven to lower the risk of developing heart disease.

Yet, a study of 34 participants who received 400 mg of extract from elderberry (equivalent to 4 mL juice) three times per day for two weeks found no significant improvement in cholesterol.

A different study on rodents with elevated cholesterol discovered that a diet containing black elderberry decreased the amount of cholesterol found in the aorta and liver but not in the blood.

Additional studies showed that rats fed food containing polyphenols extracted from elderberries had decreased blood pressure.

Additionally, elderberries can reduce the amount of uric acid in the blood. Elevated levels of uric acid are linked to a rise in blood pressure and adverse consequences for heart health.

Additionally, elderberry may increase insulin production and boost blood sugar levels. Since the type 2 form of diabetes has been identified as a significant risk of cardiovascular and heart disease, Blood sugar management is crucial in preventing the onset of these diseases.

A study has found that elderberry flowers block the enzyme known as alpha-glucosidase ( a-glucosidase) that can help to lower the blood sugar level. In addition, research on diabetic rats treated with elderberry revealed increased blood sugar levels.

Despite these encouraging results, the direct reduction of heart attacks and other signs of heart disease hasn't yet been established as of yet, and more studies on human subjects are needed.


Elderberry is a fruit that benefits heart health, including decreasing cholesterol, uric acid, and blood sugar levels. However, more research is required to determine whether these benefits are real in humans.

Other health benefits

There are numerous other reported benefits of elderberry; however, most have limited research evidence.

  • Aids in fighting cancer. The older European and American people have been shown to possess some anti-cancer properties in studies conducted on test tubes.
  • Combats harmful bacteria. Elderberry has been shown to slow an increase in the number of bacteria, such as Helicobacter Pyloriand, and could help alleviate symptoms of bronchitis and sinusitis.
  • Supports your immune system. Elderberry polyphenols in rats have been discovered to boost immune defense by increasing the number of white blood cells.
  • It could help protect from UV radiation. A skin care product containing elderberry extract was found to have a sun protection factor (SPF) of 9.88.
  • It may increase the frequency of urination. The elderberry flower was observed to increase the amount of urine and salt excretion in rats.
  • It may have antidepressant properties. A study showed that mice fed the extract of 544 mg elderberry per kilogram (1,200 mg/kg) were more productive and had better mood indicators.

Although these findings are intriguing, further research is required on humans to determine whether the effects are significant.

It is also important to remember that there is no established method for measuring the quantity of bioactive elements such as anthocyanins found in these commercial products.

A study revealed that, based on the method used to measure anthocyanins, supplements could claim to have 762 mg/L yet only have 4 mg/L. So, determining the effect of the products currently in use could be a bit difficult.


Elderberry is linked to other health benefits, such as fighting cancer and bacteria, boosting immunity, and protecting against UV and diuretic effects. However, these claims are based on little evidence and require more investigation.

Side effects and health risks

While elderberry may have some positive potential benefits, certain risks are associated with its consumption.

The bark, ripe fruit, and seeds are sources of tiny amounts of substances called lectins, which can cause stomach issues when consumed in excess.

Additionally, the elderberry plant is a source of compounds known as cyanogenic glycosides, which can release cyanide under certain circumstances. This toxin is also found in apricot seeds and almonds.

There is the equivalent of 3 milligrams of cyanide in 100 g fresh-frozen berries. 3-17 mg for 100 grams of fresh leaves. This is only 3 percent of the fatal dose for a 130-pound (60-kg) person.

Commercial preparations and cooked berries don't contain cyanide, and there aren't any instances of death after eating these. The symptoms of eating berries that are not cooked leaves, bark, or the elderberry's roots are nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

There's a report of eight people becoming sick after consuming juices from freshly picked berries, such as the branches and leaves of the S. mexicana elder variety. They suffered from nausea and vomiting, as well as weakness, dizziness, numbness, and stupor.

Fortunately, the toxic substances in the berries can be removed through cooking. However, the branches, bark, or leaves are not suitable for cooking or juicing.

If you pick the berries or flowers, ensure you've accurately determined the species to be American or European elderberry since other elderberry varieties could be more poisonous. Also, ensure you remove any leaves or bark before using.

Elderberry is not advised for children or adolescents younger than 18 years old or lactating or pregnant women. While no adverse incidents have been reported in these groups, there is insufficient evidence to verify its safety.


The leaves, berries, and roots of elderberry plants are contaminated with the chemicals cyanide and lectin, which can cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Cooking the seeds and berries will get rid of the cyanide.

The final line

Although elderberry has been linked with numerous health benefits, most studies have occurred in a laboratory setting and have not been extensively conducted on the human population.

So, Elderberry has not been advised about any specific health benefits.

Evidence supports the use of this method to reduce the duration and severity of flu-related symptoms.

It can also help improve heart health, increase antioxidant levels, and provide various anti-cancer, anti-diabetes, and anti-inflammatory properties.

Furthermore, it is an excellent supplement to a balanced diet and is rich in Vitamin C, Fiber, and antioxidants.

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