• Elderberry


    Principal Proposed Uses

    Other Proposed Uses

    Native Americans used tea made from elderberry flowers to treat respiratory infections. They also used the leaves and flowers in poultices applied to wounds, and the bark, suitably aged, as a laxative. The berries are frequently made into beverages, pies, and preserves, but they have also been used to treat arthritis.

    What Is Elderberry Used for Today?

    A product containing elderberry, as well as small amounts of echinacea and bee propolis , has been widely marketed as a cold and flu remedy. Weak evidence suggests that this mixture may stimulate the immune system and also inhibit viral growth. 1 In a preliminary double-blind study, this mixture was found to reduce symptoms and speed recovery from influenza A, the type of influenza for which flu shots are given. 5 A few of the participants in this study had influenza B (a milder form of influenza), and the elderberry mixture appeared to be helpful for them as well. Another preliminary double-blind study evaluated people with influenza B, and also found benefit. 2
    Elderberry has also shown some preliminary promise for use in other viral infections, including HIV3 and herpes . 4
    Based on promising results in an uncontrolled study, researchers performed a small double-blind, placebo-controlled study on the potential benefits of elderberry for improving cholesterol levels. 6 Unfortunately, at the dose used, no benefits were evident.


    Elderberry-flower tea is made by steeping 3 to 5 g of dried flowers in 1 cup of boiling water for 10 to 15 minutes. A typical dosage is 1 cup 3 times daily. Standardized extracts should be taken according to the directions on the product's label.

    Safety Issues

    Elderberry flowers are generally regarded as safe. Side effects are rare and consist primarily of occasional mild gastrointestinal distress or allergic reactions. Nonetheless, safety in young children, pregnant or nursing women, or those with severe liver or kidney disease has not been established.


    1 Barak V, Halperin T, Kalickman I. The effect of Sambucol, a black elderberry-based, natural product, on the production of human cytokines: I. Inflammatory cytokines. Eur Cytokine Netw. 2001;12:290–296.

    2 Zakay-Rones Z, Varsano N, Zlotnik M, et al. Inhibition of several strains of influenza virus in vitro and reduction of symptoms by an elderberry extract ( Sambucus nigra L.) during an outbreak of influenza B Panama. J Altern Complement Med . 1995;1:361–369.

    3Shapira-Nahor B. The effect of Sambucol on HIV infection in vitro. Annual Israel Congress of Microbiology, February 6–7, 1995.

    4 Morag A, Mumcuoglu M, Baybikov T, et al. Inhibition of sensitive and acyclovir-resistant HSV-1 strains by an elderberry extract in vitro [abstract]. Phylotherapie. 1997;25:97–98.

    5 Zakay-Rones Z., Thom E., Wollan T., et al. Randomized study of the efficacy and safety of oral elderberry extract in the treatment of influenza A and B virus infections. Journal of International Medical Research . 2004;32:132-140.

    6 Murkovic M, Abuja PM, Bergmann AR, et al. Effects of elderberry juice on fasting and postprandial serum lipids and low-density lipoprotein oxidation in healthy volunteers: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Eur J Clin Nutr . 2004;58:244-9.

    Revision Information

  • LiveWell personal health survey

    How healthy are you really? Find out – free.Learn more

    It's time to stop guessing. If you want to make some changes but just aren't sure how, the free personal health survey from LiveWell is a great place to start.

  • HeartSHAPE Spotlight

    At risk for a heart attack? Learn more

    Fight heart disease and prevent heart attacks. HeartSHAPE® is a painless, non-invasive test that checks pictures of your heart for early-stage coronary disease.

  • Calories and Energy Needs

    Calorie NeedsLearn more

    How many calories do you need to eat each day to maintain your weight and fuel your physical activity? Enter a few of your stats into this calculator to find out.

  • Ideal Body Weight

    Ideal Body WeightLearn more

    Using body mass index as a reference, this calculator determines your ideal body weight range. All you need to do is enter your height.

  • Body Mass Index

    Body Mass IndexLearn more

    This tool considers your height and weight to assess your weight status.

  • Can we help answer your questions?

    Wellmont Nurse Connection is your resource for valuable health information any time, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Speak to a Nurse any time, day or night, at (423) 723-6877 or toll-free at 1-877-230-NURSE.