Health Benefits Of Elderberries: 9 Compelling Reasons For Trying Them

benefits of elderberries

Blueberries, cranberries, strawberries … While some berries feature prominently on our list of favorite foods, some others aren’t always on our radar. Elderberry is one such tiny berry many of us don’t know enough about. And we’ve lined up reasons for why you should get acquainted!

The elderberry or Sambucus nigra is a traditional folk remedy and is rich in polyphenols. These antioxidants are in part responsible for some of its medicinal and therapeutic benefits.1 Elderberries, dried or cooked, elderberry extracts, and elderberry juice have been variously used to treat influenza viruses, colds, and even wounds. Here is a detailed list of both its established and potential health benefits you should make the most of.


1. Increase Antioxidants In The Body

Elderberries beat a lot of other berries in the antioxidant stakes! Its flavonol content is higher than blueberries, goji berries, blackberries, and cranberries, making it a great source of free radical damage-fighting nutrients.2 As one study found, test subjects who consumed 400 ml of elderberry juice saw an increase in their total phenolics as well as plasma antioxidant capacity just an hour after having the drink.3

2. Fight Off Colds And Flu

Elderberries have been found to be a safe and effective remedy for flu-like symptoms and colds.4 Having elderberry can reduce cold symptoms like itchy throat, runny nose, and fatigue if you are already infected and even shorten the duration of illness, as one study found. Air travelers who had a cold were given elderberry extract as a herbal treatment for 10 days prior to their date of travel and for about 4 to 5 days after their arrival at the overseas location. They reported, on an average, seeing their colds last two days less than those had a placebo. In addition, their cold symptoms reduced overall.5


A separate study indicates that consuming the elderberry extract in the first 48 hours of onset of symptoms can help cut the duration of the flu symptoms by as much as four days on average.6

3. Have Antiviral Ability

Elderberry extracts have been found to inhibit viruses from growing and multiplying. They also prevent the adhesion of viruses to host cell receptors.7 Elderberries could even have potential to battle the dreaded H1N1 virus. Early studies indicate their effectiveness against the swine flu virus in vitro, but further research is needed to see if this will extend to humans as well.8


4. Help Heal Wounds

Elderberries are rich in vitamin C and antioxidants which help with tissue healing. The leaves have been used in traditional folk medicines in countries like Turkey for generations. More recent research has found that an ointment using 1% methanolic extract of the elderberry leaf showed “remarkable” wound-healing abilities.9

Topical treatments that incorporate elderberry extract have been found to help with collagen synthesis in the skin and aid wound healing in animal studies. It also inhibits proinflammatory activities, preventing a wound from getting inflamed and easing inflammation.10


5. Boost Immunity

Elderberries can help keep your immune system in good shape. As one study found, elderberry extracts increased the activity of Lactobacillus acidophilus, bacteria that boost the immune response. This led researchers to suggest it could have antiviral and immune-enhancing effects.11 Another study found that concentrated elderberry juice can enhance the production of cytokines, cell signaling proteins that aid the immune response.12

6. Regulate Blood Sugar

Both elderberries and their flowers have been used in traditional and folk remedies for managing blood sugar and diabetes. Some even call it the antidiabetic plant due to its properties. The extract of elder in one study was shown to have insulin-like properties, helping with glucose oxidation, glycogenesis, and glucose transport. By removing the surplus blood sugar from the bloodstream, it could help keep blood sugar levels steady and normal.13


7. Work As A Natural Diuretic

Elderberries are considered a natural diuretic and can help anyone with a fluid retention problem. They can also help lower your blood pressure by promoting the production and excretion of urine from the body.14

8. Improve Bowel Movements

Besides being a diuretic, elderberries can also work as a laxative and help with bowel movements if you’re having trouble in this department. The American Botanical Council suggests having either elderberry juice or even elderberry tea for a laxative effect.15 However, do not try this if you are already taking a laxative or diuretic due to possible interactions.


9. Have Potential To Fight Cancer

Elderberries may also have a role to play in fighting tumors and cancer. The berries, rich in antioxidants, can help inhibit carcinogenesis. They were also found to have chemoprotective effects, showing potential in inhibiting, delaying, and even preventing cancer.16

Caution! Don’t Eat Elderberries Raw

When you use elderberries, be sure they are ripe or cooked properly. This reduces the risk of cyanide toxicity, vomiting, and nausea. Elderflower in food may be safe to consume if the hydrogen cyanide in them is below 25 ppm. The leaves, juice, root, and bark are risky to consume on their own because of the cyanide toxicity risk.17


Remember that consuming unripe or uncooked elderberries may be poisonous for anyone, so only have ripe or cooked forms.

Who Shouldn’t Have Elderberries

If you decide to try elderberry as a natural treatment for a health condition, do so under medical supervision. Do not discontinue any prescribed medication without first consulting your doctor. Also avoid giving the berries, juices, or extract to children or older adults without first confirming with their doctor that it is safe for them to have.

For those with autoimmune problems like lupus or rheumatoid arthritis, the berry or its juice could stimulate the immune system and may not be an appropriate remedy. Pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers are advised against having elderberry.18