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Everything You Need to Know About Elderberry

Used medicinally around the world for centuries—in European folk medicine and in ancient Egypt, for example—elderberries have become known as one of the most versatile solutions for health ailments. 

In fact, circa 400 B.C., the “Father of Medicine” Hippocrates affectionately referred to his elder tree as his “medicine chest” due to its wide range of health benefits. 

Keep reading to learn more about the many benefits and uses of the elderberry plant. 

What is Elderberry? 

While there are approximately 30 types of elder plants around the world, the elderberry commonly used in health supplements comes from the European elder tree, orSambucus nigra

Characterized by its dark purple color, elderberry is primarily used for soothing cold and flu symptoms. Considered one of the world’s most healing plants, this enticing fruit has quite a few additional health benefits to offer! 

Elderberry Health Benefits

The berries and flowers of the elderberry fruit are packed with immune-boosting, anti-inflammatory antioxidants including phenolic acids, flavonols, and anthocyanins. They’re also high in vitamin C, vitamin A, and dietary fiber, making for a significant health boost overall. 

Today, elderberry is primarily used as an immune support supplement, defending against cold and flu viruses. 

That said, elderberry has also been used as a remedy for: 

  • Constipation 
  • Joint and muscle pain 
  • Respiratory infections
  • Headaches
  • Fever
  • Kidney issues
  • Stress

Because antioxidants protect the cells from harmful free radicals, elderberry may also enhance skin health by providing built-in sun protection, reducing wrinkles and age spots, and treating acne.

Cluster of elderberries on tree

How to Use Elderberry

Typically, you’ll find that elderberry extracts are used in amounts up to 1200 mg daily, though this can vary depending on an individual’s health needs and conditions. 

Because there is no standard elderberry dosage recommendation, it’s best to follow the guidelines found on the labels of commercially available elderberry products. 

Elderberries can be found in a variety of oral and topical supplements, such as: 

  • Jam
  • Syrup
  • Juice
  • Tea
  • Wine 
  • Food coloring 
  • Lotion  

Nutritional supplements are, by far, the most popular way to reap the benefits of elderberry. Find commercially available supplements in the form of pills, lozenges, tinctures, and gummies, for example. 

Our favorite elderberry supplement? Go Organic’s Immune Support Gummies, made with elderberry, vitamin C, zinc, and more. These delicious gummies promote immune health, support your body’s natural anti-inflammatory responses, and support your overall wellness!   

Is It Safe to Eat Raw Elderberries? 

While the flowers can be eaten raw or cooked, unripe or uncooked berries can be toxic. 

You’ll probably want to steer clear of the original version of the plant anyways—other parts of the elder tree, such as leaves and bark, can actually be poisonous! Containing substances called cyanogenic glycosides, parts of the elderberry plant release cyanide which can lead to an upset stomach or even be fatal. 

Fortunately, cooked and commercially prepared berries are perfectly safe for consumption. If you’re a fan of DIY, you can even try baking elderberries into a pie, or preparing your own elderberry syrup by simmering and boiling the berries in water, sugar, and additional ingredients of choice.

Additional Considerations

As much as we love the natural health benefits of elderberries, it’s important to note that elderberry supplements may not be right for everyone. For example, more information is needed at this time about whether elderberries are safe for individuals who are pregnant or breastfeeding, or for children under the age of 5. 

Additionally, it’s important to note that elderberry is a diuretic, so be cautious when taking medications that lead to increased urination. 

Because elderberry boosts the immune system, it may increase symptoms of autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and more. 

While elderberries are packed with immune-boosting nutrients, they should never be used as a substitution for traditional medical care. Instead, use elderberries to supplement an annual flu shot, regular doctor’s visits, and a healthy diet and lifestyle.