Elderberries Herb Profile

Elderberries-Natural remedy and immune booster for flu season

I’ve written before about using Elderberries to help prevent or beat the seasonal flu. Black Elderberries are native to Europe and have a long history of use in herbal medicine. The berries of the plant are often used for preserves, syrups and tinctures, while the bark and flowers are also useful. The leaves and stems are poisonous.

Elderberry and Flu?

Elderberries have gained popularity in recent years for their use in alleviating and avoiding the flu. According to Mountain Rose Herbs:

“Israeli researchers have developed five formulas based on elderberry fruit that have been clinically proven to prevent and ameliorate all kinds of influenza. The complex sugars of the berries are the immune-active fraction.”

Additionally:

“Extensive research shows that elder stop the production of hormone-like cytokines that direct a class of white blood cells known as neutrophils to cause inflammation, especially in influenza and arthritis. On the other hand, elder increases the production non-inflammatory infection-fighting cytokines as much as 10 fold. Elder berries are known to be effective against eight strains of influenza. This suggests that elder be superior to vaccines in preventing flu, because flu vaccines are only effective against known strains of flu, whereas the virus is continually mutating to new strains.”

“Dr. Madeleine Mumcuoglu, of Hadassah-Hebrew University in Israel found that elderberry disarms the enzyme viruses use to penetrate healthy cells in the lining of the nose and throat. Taken before infection, it prevents infection. Taken after infection, it prevents spread of the virus through the respiratory tract. In a clinical trial, 20% of study subjects reported significant improvement within 24 hours, 70% by 48 hours, and 90% claimed complete cure in three days. In contrast, subjects receiving the placebo required 6 days to recover.”

Even WebMD acknowledges Elderberry’s use in medicine:

“Elderberry is used for “the flu” (influenza), H1N1 “swine” flu, HIV/AIDS, and boosting the immune system. It is also used for sinus pain, back and leg pain (sciatica), nerve pain (neuralgia), and chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS).

Some people use elderberry for hay fever (allergic rhinitis), cancer, as a laxative forconstipation, to increase urine flow, and to cause sweating.

Elderberry fruit is also used for making wine and as a food flavoring.”

How to Use Elderberries

  •  Dried Elderberries can be used to make a homemade syrup that boosts immune function and helps the body avoid or recover from the flu. Here is my recipe for homemade elderberry syrup that kids love!
  • This syrup is also good on homemade pancakes!
  • Dried Elderberries can also be added to muffins or pancakes for a berry flavor similar to blueberries but not quite as sweet.
  • Dried elderberries or elder flowers can be used to make a delicious tea (I’d add honey or stevia since it is somewhat sour)
  • A pre-made syrup is available for acute flu symptoms, but the homemade version works just as well and is much less expensive in my experience. “Standard dose is 1/2 tsp to 1 tsp for kids and 1/2 Tbsp to 1 Tbsp for adults. If the flu does strike, we take the normal dose every 2-3 hours instead of once a day until symptoms disappear.” For our family, this is our first line of defense against the flu and we haven’t gotten it in several years.
  • In culinary uses or herbal remedies.

Where to Buy Elderberries

I’ve always gotten my elderberries from Mountain Rose Herbs in the past, but due to high demand this year, they have been out of stock for months! This year, I ordered Frontier Organic Dried Elderberries instead. They seem to be high quality as well and one pound can last over a year even when we are all taking elderberry syrup regularly. I’ve also used pre-made elderberry syrup in the past if one of us got sick and I didn’t have any homemade syrup on hand, but it is a lot more expensive and I much prefer the homemade version.

Elderberries can be wild crafted and they grow in many places. I always encourage anyone to research and talk to an herbalist before using any wildcrafted herb to make sure that the correct herb is being used in a safe way. Elderberries or other herbs are not a substitute for medical treatment when needed and as always, check with a doctor of health care professional for any illness or before using any remedy.

Have you ever used elderberries? What’s your favorite use for them? Share below!

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Reader Comments

  1. How about just eating the elderberries straight? Do they taste good or is that why you make a syrup instead?

    • The syrup concentrates them more, but you can eat them straight. They are like a tiny, sour raisin… Dried is more potent than fresh though..

      • Elderberries can be toxic when fresh. Don’t eat them fresh!!!

        • To some they will cause upset stomach and possibly vomiting however I have eaten them right off the vine with no ill effect. I think some people are more effected than others.
          I have found no clear details about toxins and have enjoyed then raw every year.

          • My family and I have been eating them straight off the tree for years without a problem. In fact, the only time I get sick a lot is when I’m away from home, therefore away from our trees. I have read that they can be toxic, but I believe it’s only when people don’t remove the leaves and stems before using.

  2. I have been using elderberry extract for several years and have experienced the amazing results. I can always feel when it is time for my next dose. I saw your recipe a few months ago and I ordered my elderberries from amazon.com. I haven’t made the recipe yet. I’m coming out of the first trimester coma. I haven’t done anything for about 7 weeks other than make sure the kids don’t do anything too dangerous. So this was a good reminder to get that made and ready to go. I actually planted two elderberry bushes in my yard so I can have my own in a few years. I put in one Adams and one Johns (they need cross pollination). I’ve also found recipes for jam and syrup using elderberries.

    Do you take it when pregnant? Also, how do you feel about taking honey when pregnant? Since honey is the sweetener in this syrup.

    • I do take it while pregnant and feel comfortable taking honey as well.

      • I’m scared I have been taking elderberry syrup and I am pregnant . I’ve read it’s not safe? Thoughts ?

        • It is definitely controversial. I’ve taken it, but I’d absolutely check with a doc or midwife before taking it while pregnant.

      • Is it safe to take while nursing? I had read somewhere that it was not recommended.

  3. Wow, this is a terrific post!! I am just beginning to live low carb – thanks for this great information about elderberries!!

  4. I just came across your blog yesterday, and I already have it bookmarked. A couple weeks ago, I swore off packaged, unhealthy food, and I’ve started making nearly everything from scratch, from cereal to applesauce to condiments.

    I also happen to have extremely sensitive skin, and, for the past half year, have had itchy, burning red skin around my mouth and eyes. For the past three months the only skincare product I could put on my face without it burning was triple antibiotic ointment (which isn’t even a skincare product, but it was so soothing for the rash).

    So as I was learning online how to make my own yogurt the other day, I had a revelation and thought “If I can make all these foods from organic, natural products, I wonder if I could do the same thing with skincare products?”

    That’s when I found your blog and other blogs like yours. I’ll never look back. All of my chemically, burning, fragrancy, drying skincare products are now in the trash, and I’m washing my face with oatmeal and baking soda and making my own moisturizer from coconut oil, shea butter, and essential oils. I LOVE your blog, and I look forward to reading it often!

    • Welcome! So glad to have you and glad it is helpful 🙂

  5. I pick wild elderberries from the trees nearby (I live in the UK) and use them exclusively to make elderberry and blackberry wine. I think it has some sort of tonic effect on me, and it also seems to leave my mouth and gums feeling very clean.

    Teresa, I don’t think you’d want to eat them raw – they are sweet, but also very high in tannin, and the seeds are rather large compared to the overall size.

  6. Do you happen to know about the safety of elderberry syrup while pregnant? My bottle of syrup says not to use if pregnant. Don’t know the brand off hand, but it’s high-quality from a reputable health food store.

    • I personally take it while pregnant and have gotten the “ok” from my midwife, but I’d check with yours just in case…

  7. I’ve taken capsules but never had “real” elderberries. But this year I’m trying everything and anything to avoid getting sick. Ever try Yin Chiao? That’s my latest 🙂

  8. Never tried them but i am interested. looked on iherb and they are sold out! I love learning about powerful natural herbs, super interesting! thanks! I’m especially interested in not getting sick, since I have already been, twice, since october -_-

  9. I’m just wondering if the homemade version tastes better than the premade stuff? You mentioned it tastes good on pancakes but I bought the premade syrup from Mountain Rose Herbs about 6 months ago and while the initial taste isn’t so bad the aftertaste stimulates my gag reflex. It’s got an almost overly ripe taste/smell like rotten fruit. I keep using it because it stopped several colds in their tracks and helped shorten a nasty flu bug but it would be a lot easier to stomach if I didn’t have to get my toothbrush ready and a chaser for right after I take it.

    • Everyone in our family actually likes the taste of it, and I agree, I don’t like the store bought ones either!

  10. I made this a week ago before the flu hit my school (I am a teacher) and I am amazed. My husband, son and I have been vigilant about taking it every day and so far it has helped tremendously. Nearly every teacher at my school has gotten the flu and a good 25% of the students or more. Today I felt like I was getting sick so I started taking it every hour and I already feel so much better. I put it in my son’s smoothies since he doesn’t really enjoy the taste.

  11. For those with access to bushes,Elderflower syrup is also awesome! A refreshing summer drink.I’m sure that elderflower jelly would be lovely too.

  12. I just made your elderberry syrup using the dried elderberries. Can I use the cooked berries for anything else? I hate the idea of throwing them out. Can I save them to use at a later time?

    • I haven’t done it but you could save and freeze and re-boil another time

    • They are a great chicken food! Really good for them! ?

  13. I used your recipe to make a batch of the elderberry syrup. It came out more liquidity then the products I have purchased from the store. Is this the correct consistency? Did I not cook it long enough?

  14. This is a fantastic post. I’d like to link to it. In many areas Elderberries can by found in the wild. We have both black and blue Elderberries in the US. I still have a half point of dried Elderberries from lady years harvest in Utah. Such a powerful wild edible.

  15. How long will it store for in the fridge? Thanks!

  16. I read somewhere you should only take elderberry syrup for six weeks at a time so your body doesn’t become immune to it. Is this true? If so how long should you wait before taking it again after the six weeks?

    • I think with any herbs, it’s good to give a rest. One way is to take the syrup 4-5 days and rest 2-3 days. If you are taking it 6 weeks straight, it’s probably good to take 2-4 week break. I’ve searched lots of information regarding this herb/supplement vacation. Everyone seems to have different opinions about it, but after searching and reading articles, I decided to trust the idea of giving a break from things you take regularly. With Elderberry syrup, one can take regularly (with Sat. Sun off) for the flu season, and then late spring, summer and early fall, you can just not take it unless you hear about a summer flu.

  17. In the above post, I read that the elderberries have laxative effect. Does the homemade syrup have laxative effect as well? I don’t want my little ones to have diarrhea everyday if I give them the syrup for flue prevention. Thank you.

  18. Is the syrup safe for babys 1 yr and older?
    And do you take the syrup regularly or just during the flu season?

    Thanks,
    Marj

  19. Do you know if it is ok to take the elderberry syrup with other things such as an ayurvedic formula? Thanks.

      • I highly doubt it will have any negative interactions. I found this interesting tide bit on WebMD and it made me laugh.
        “Medications that decrease the immune system (Immunosuppressants) interacts with ELDERBERRY”

  20. Is it safe to take dried Elderberry in capsule form. I read where they say not to take raw Elderberry, but instead make the syrup. I just bought some in capsule, can I still take them like that?
    Thanks for any info.

  21. I just bought some dried elderberry and plan on using it for tea. They had it in a large glass container, and I read somewhere that others freeze them. What’s the best way to store them in between uses?

  22. i get sharp pains in my teeth sometimes not all the time but my upper teeth/gums just hurts so bad it takes about 30 minutes for it to go away. I read that it could be trigeminal neuralgia. I really don’t know until I see my doctor but elderberry may help with that? Not sure if any info you have please let me know.
    Thank you

    • I know for gum/teeth issues my wife has used oil pulling. Oil pulling is when you swish with some type of oil, my wife uses seaseme oil but you can also use coconut oil. The oil “pulls” bad stuff out of the gums/teeth and an extra benefit with coconut oil is that it will help whiten your teeth. Look it up to see if oil pulling will help with your issue.

  23. I’m also curious about the bioaccumulative effects of taking elderberry syrup every day. I’m a nurse so I’m exposed to all kinds of scary bugs every day I’m at work. I’ve used home made elderberry syrup for years when I feel “something coming on” and I can’t remember the last time I was really sick. Recently I realized that a bottle I made (constantly refrigerated, of course) is beginning to age so I figured instead of letting it go to waste I would take a dose every day until its gone.
    Am I shooting myself in the foot? Any thoughts about elderberry effects (or reduced effects) if taken every day as opposed to just when feeling ill?

  24. I have grown up eating elderberry jelly and pie. It is my favourite pie. I made a winter tonic as well as the syrup with ginger, anise, cloves, cinnamon and allspice with raw honey last year before flu season. We have not had a cold or flu since.

    • can hou give your recipe for that syrup, quantities?
      Thanks!

  25. How long will the syrup last in the fridge?

  26. What’s the recommended age? I’ve read horror stories about the flu shot especially this year. I have a 2.5 year old and 2 month old and I am willing to do anything necessary to keep us all healthy this fall/winter.

    • I don’t give anything with honey before at least a year, but it is possible to sub maple syrup. My two year old loves it though…

      • My 2.5 year old LOVES honey. Should I wait for my daughter to be on solids or just hold off on it until after age 1? I’ve also been trying to find out if you have a section on vaccines? I’m not a new mom but my recent research has me wondering if vaccines are the way to go for my family. I love natural things and I know to even take those with caution but are there other natural goodies that can help keep my kids healthy without injecting them with all the chemicals and additives that vaccines have? I just ordered some elderberries and will be following your recipe. My husband is military; however, so he has to receive all the vaccines including the yearly flu shot but since lately the news is saying this years shot is 3x stronger and people are getting sick from it, we’re hoping they’ll let him hold off on getting it as our infant is so young and if he he ends up sick after receiving it, he won’t be allowed to come home.

  27. You said that it makes a quart, but when you reduce the juice by almost half, it comes up more like a pint. Is that correct?

  28. I have read that elderberries can help with sugar and cancer. Does any body have any idea on what to use
    syrup or wine. Thanks for your reply Wayne

  29. Well webmd states there’s insufficient evidence concerning this plants ability to cure such diseases

  30. WebMD is a shill for big pharma. They say that about any herb. In truth there is abundant evidence of their benefits but the medical community chooses to ignore it.

  31. I am doing some research so that I can grow my own elderberries. Do you know if any particular type of elderberry is better than another? I make my own elderberry syrup, so that would be the primary use. I am looking at available seeds and there are three types. I’ll continue my own research to find the answer and keep checking back here to see if you or any of your readers know which would be the best to get and plant.

    Thanks!

  32. The Sambucus Nigra strain have by far the most health beneficial properties! Xo

  33. Both black elderberry and blue elderberry offer the flu fighting benefits. We have blue elderberry growing natively in Utah and it grows in some variety out west here from north to as far south as New Mexico. The blue elderberry is far superior in flavor to the black. Black elderberry is quite bitter.
    I have seen a lot of black elderberry grown as an ornamental with the sub name eva. While this would work for flu fighting options and looks pretty I would suggest the blue for superior berries.

    • The darker the berry the more beneficial flavonoids it will contain. Sambucus Nigra (black) are the darkest berry in existence with most beneficial antioxidants. There are numerous University/lab/clinical studies and trials supporting this. A simple Google search will guide you. The flavor is indeed bitter, which is why I pair them with nutrient packed raw honey. A great combo! The darker the better, trust me! According to the USDA database elderberries trump blueberries in ORAC values by three times. Not sure on blue elderberries. Never heard of them. All the best!

  34. My daughter gets cold easily. Is it safe to give her elderberry syrup everyday?
    Thanks

  35. Hi. Im afraid to make my own elderberry syrup. I don’t know why but I don’t trust myself to get it right. Sounds silly I know. So we buy the syrup for my daughter. I was on mountain rose and saw that the dried elderberry (whole) had a warning that said it may cause vomiting and severe diarrhea if ingested. How come the pre made doesn’t have this warning? I’m guessing I should probably ask mountain rose but I thought I’d ask you. My throat is starting to hurt and thought maybe I’d buy some for myself. Although I know it’s said to help with flu and colds.

    • I’m guessing the dried elderberries have that warning because they are dehydrated and not cooked and typically elderberries must be cooked to be safely consumed (the boiling process accomplishes this). I’d ask MRH to be sure though. Though cooked elderberries are considered edible and safe, the rest of the elderberry plant is considered poisonous. You can definitely buy pre-made and MRH has a good one, but you’ll save a lot of money in the long run by making it. Hope you feel better soon!

  36. I have made elderberry tincture from wild crafted berries in our area of the Midwest . Now I read that uncooked elderberries are poisonous and that they should always be cooked. Since all the previous articles I read said this was a good way to preserve them I am now wondering if this is dangerous. I also dried many. They are tedious to pick off and preserve, IMO.

  37. They are not “poisonous” but for some they have a purging effect on the body. My daughter ate a handful of frozen berries on an empty stomach and threw up all night but was perfectly fine the next day.
    I have eaten a lot of them raw with no such effect.
    Once cooked or dried the likelihood of this is far less. Some say it is the seeds that cause it. It is fairly easy to remove the berries from the stems if you freeze them first. Then you can pull them right off.
    Be sure that you are harvesting 100% ripe berries. Don’t eat any that are slightly green.

    • Hi i am harvesting my own berries now wondering about how to dry them?

  38. Thank you! I can’t grow elderberry trees here. Supposedly it gets too hot for them. But I was asking about the ones on the mountain rose website. Where I was thinking of getting mine from. I think I will take a shot at making my own syrup. Thank you so much. You are my Wikipedia of all things natural <3

  39. I know this post is about the elderberry but I just wanted to also chime in about raw apple cider vinegar. It’s a powerhouse against all kinds of issues. If you have a site throat, take a tsp and chase it with water or add it to water. Fits wonders!

    • I had forgotten about that. I had heard about apple cider vinegar being good for sore throats. And heart burn. And as a face toner and for stinky feet ect. lol I’ve never actually tried to consume it though. The smell just gets to me. But I’m gonna suck it up and try it. Thank you!

  40. I recently tried making my own elderberry syrup from dried berries and the smell was atrocious!!! It stunk my house up, my clothes stunk, it was awful! Is that normal, is there a trick to keep smell down? It did taste fine and I used it, but I can’t get passed the smell when cooking.

    • The smell is rough. You can add more cinnamon to help cover the scent a little but it is just a strong smell.

      • Thank you. Maybe I’ll give it another try, or cook it outside.

        • I love how it makes my house smell!

  41. I cannot swallow capsules well, I have elderberry capsules can I open and place in juice or water using directions from bottle?

  42. I make a tea with dried elderberries, turmeric, cinnamon, peppermint oil, raspberries and nettle. Clears up any congestion my 14 year old son has and makes the house smell awesome.

  43. Would elderberries have the same negative effects as echinacea had if someone had an autoimmune disease? I suspect my daughter had celiac disease and am hesitant to give her some.

  44. I just made my first batch! Thank you for the great recipe! I attempted to make this while my toddler while running around. Thus, I added the honey with the berries and brought BOTH to a boil. Will this affect my batch of elderberry syrup? Should I just throw out and start over? I also added 1 c. berries instead of 2/3. YIKES should have paid closer attention!!!

    Thank you!!

    • It should still be fine 🙂 You won’t get as much of the benefit from the raw honey, but it will still have the benefits of the elderberries.