Botanical name(s):

Sambucus canadensis, S. nigra, S. racemosa, S. ebulus. Family: Caprifoliaceae

Other name(s):

black elder, European elder, elder flower, Sambucus (this information is for the European elder, not the American elder, elderflower, or dwarf elder)

General description

The juice from the berries of the European elder tree is used to treat many issues.

Elderberry has natural antioxidants and vitamin C. It also has phenolic compounds, such as flavonoids. These are believed to be antiviral. They may also help treat the common cold.

Medically valid uses

At this time, there are no proven medical uses for elderberry.

Unsubstantiated claims

There may be benefits that have not yet been proven through research.

A few small studies show that elderberry may slightly improve flu symptoms. But the evidence wasn’t strong. Other studies have looked at the use of elderberry for the prevention and treatment of COVID-19. More studies are needed to know if there’s a benefit.

Elder flower water is also used in lotions. It’s a mild astringent.

Elderberry is said to help treat:

  • Headaches

  • Colds

  • Constipation

  • Neuralgia

  • Urinary and kidney problems

  • Epilepsy

  • Scarlet fever

  • Measles

When you apply it to your skin, it may reduce inflammation, bruising, and sprains.

Dosing format

Elderberry can be made into a broth or soup. You can do this by mixing 2 ounces of elderberry syrup into hot water. It can also be given as a tea, extracts, juice, wine, or capsules.

Side effects, toxicity, and interactions

Leaves, stems, raw and unripe berries, and other plant parts of the elder tree contain a toxic substance. If elderberry is not correctly prepared, it may cause nausea, vomiting, and severe diarrhea.

You shouldn’t take more than the advised dosage.

Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should not use elderberry.

Elderberry may act as a diuretic. If you take medicines that increase urination, talk to your healthcare provider before using elderberry.

There are no known food or medicine interactions linked with elderberry.

Online Medical Reviewer: Brittany Poulson MDA RDN CD CDE
Online Medical Reviewer: Tara Novick BSN MSN
Date Last Reviewed: 8/1/2023