Personal Nutrition Guide

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If elderberry sounds familiar, that’s because you’ve probably seen it as syrup at your local pancake house, in a sweet wine at a spirits shop, or on the shelves of your pharmacy’s supplement section. Here’s everything you need to know about the benefits of elderberry and what elderberry is good for.

What Is Elderberry?

A dark purple berry from the European elder tree, elderberries can be eaten fresh in salads or cooked into jams and pies. The most popular edible variety Sambucus nigra, or black elderberry, comes from the Sambucus shrub, whose drupes grow in delicate clusters holding hundreds of deep violet berries.

People have relied on elderberry for centuries, and it has been used as a traditional homeopathic remedy. Elderberry is currently a popular ingredient in a host of products, from healthy teas to swanky liqueurs.

Benefits of Elderberry

Isolated Image of Cluster of Elderberries | What is Elderberry

1. Elderberry contains essential nutrients

Raw elderberries boast some lofty nutritional content. “We get the phytochemicals our bodies need from the foods we eat. Not only does working elderberry into your diet help meet your daily fiber needs, but it also provides essential vitamins and minerals,” says registered dietitian Dr. Nina Hall RDN, LD.

These vitamins and minerals include:

2. Elderberry contains flavonoids

These sweet, tart berries are celebrated for their flavonoid content but also deliver anthocyanins and phenolic acids, which are believed to have the potential to help reduce oxidative stress.

Flavonoids are found in nearly all fruits and vegetables, as well as the products we make from them — like tea and wine. They act as powerful antioxidant-like compounds and can impart many health benefits.

3. Elderberry may support a healthy immune system

A study of 312 air travelers found that after taking a supplement containing 300 mg of elderberry extract three times daily, those who got sick showed signs of a healthier immune system. While more research is needed, these initial findings show promise.

Are There Risks Associated With Elderberry?

Isolated Image of Branch of Elderberries | What is Elderberry

Dr. Hall notes that any substance that affects the body raises a certain level of concern and could complicate existing medical conditions; elderberry is no exception.

Exercise caution when preparing

Leave elderberry preparation to the experts. While the flowers and berries can be safely consumed (preferably ripe and cooked), you should take caution, especially with homemade preparations, as some parts of the plant can be toxic. The safety and efficacy of home remedies are yet undetermined.

Elderberry bark, leaves, stems, and roots contain sambunigrin, a potentially toxic compound which is known to release cyanide. This substance is likely responsible for a few cases of elderberry juice poisonings on record. Any serious side effects are more likely to occur with homemade elderberry juice where little care was taken to exclude leaves and stems from the mixture.

It is rare for elderberry to cause an allergic reaction. However, poorly prepared or under-ripe elderberries can cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, so it’s important to purchase your elderberry supplements from a reputable retailer.

Ask your doctor before supplementing

Hall recommends looking to dark berries, like elderberry, to supplement a healthy diet, with a few caveats. She suggests consulting a medical professional before introducing any new dietary supplement to your routine.

“It’s important to get additional information about how a particular supplement could interact with anything you are already taking,” she says.

Pregnant women and children should avoid eating elderberry or taking elderberry supplements until more research on its safety is conducted, or unless approved by a healthcare provider.

Where Can You Find Elderberry

Fresh, raw elderberries may be challenging to find at your everyday grocery store, but you may be able to find them at smaller stores that specialize in organic produce. Dried elderberries, teas, and supplements are more common and are available at brick and mortar retailers as well as Amazon.

Elderberry is also common as part of a larger blend of ingredients in supplements. For example, FIRST THING contains elderberry, along with beta-glucan, vitamin C, and zinc, to help maintain a healthy immune system.*

Here are a few popular elderberry items available on Amazon:

The Republic of Tea Organic Elderberry Herbal Tea

MaryRuth Organics Elderberry Syrup

Nature’s Way Sambucus Elderberry Gummies

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

All trademarks, trade dress, product names and logos, as shown are the property of their respective owners. The inclusion of any third-party products in this article does not in any manner express or imply any endorsement, approval or recommendation by such third party of any content provided by herein, nor of any recommendation, endorsement or approval of the product by the author or publisher of this article.


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