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Health Benefits of Elderberry

A Natural Immune-Booster?


Updated June 19, 2014

Long used as an herbal remedy for colds, flus, and sinus infections, elderberry is rich in powerful antioxidants known as anthocyanins. Studies show that elderberry extract may offer virus-fighting, immune-stimulating, and anti-inflammatory effects.

Fighting Flu with Elderberry

There hasn't been a great deal of human-based research on elderberry's effectiveness in treating the flu, but several studies indicate that the herb shows promise as a flu-fighter. In a 2004 study of 60 people suffering from flu-like symptoms, for instance, scientists found that those who used elderberry extract for five days (taking 15 ml in syrup form four times daily) saw their symptoms subside four days earlier than study members assigned to a placebo treatment.

Although research suggests that elderberry extract may reduce the flu's severity and shorten its duration, there's no evidence that the herb can actually prevent the flu.

How to Treat the Flu

Since the influenza virus can lead to serious health problems (including pneumonia, a potentially life-threatening condition), it's critical to seek medical treatment if you're experiencing flu symptoms such as fever, extreme tiredness, and body aches. While a prescription flu medication is the best way to knock out the flu, natural remedies like elderberry, ginseng, and echinacea can provide additional relief of your symptoms.

Learn more about treating flu symptoms naturally.

How to Use Elderberry

To help relieve flu symptoms, begin taking a standardized elderberry extract (found in most health food stores and shops that specialize in herbal remedies) as soon as you start to feel sick. Available in syrup and capsule form, elderberry can cause mild indigestion or allergic reactions in some individuals. However, such side effects are rare.

Elderberry's Other Benefits

Elderberry may help boost immunity by increasing the body's production of cytokines (proteins involved in regulating the immune system's response to disease and infection), according to a 2001 study on the elderberry extract Sambucol. The study's authors suggest that Sambucol may deliver an immune-enhancing effect when administered to people with cancer or AIDS, but this theory still needs to be tested in clinical trials.


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." European Cytokine Network 2001 12(2):290-6.

Zakay-Rones Z, Thom E, Wollan T, Wadstein J. "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(2):132-40.

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