Elderberry is a dark purple fruit that’s a rich source of antioxidants known as anthocyanins. Elderberry may prevent and treat the common cold, flu, and pain. Science supports these uses.

Traditional uses for elderberry—including for hay fever, sinus infections, toothache, sciatica, and burns—have less supporting evidence. Elderberry’s use in disease prevention is speculative.

In this article, you’ll learn about the evidence behind elderberry’s benefits. You’ll also learn how to take elderberry, its side effects, drug interactions, and other dangers.

Elderberry benefits

Anthocyanins boost elderberry’s health. Some research suggests:

Eliminate free radicals (unstable molecules that damage cells and may cause disease)

Antiviral properties prevent or reduce common infections

Change immune response to reduce inflammation

Colds and Flu

Elderberry juice syrup has been used to treat viral illnesses for centuries.

Researchers say this syrup shortens and lessens some illnesses.

Small studies show promise.

Elderberry reduced upper airway symptoms in a 2019 study.

Elderberry may prevent flu by boosting the immune system, according to a 2012 study.

A 2016 study on airline passengers found elderberry extract reduced cold symptoms and sick days by 50%.

In the air travel study, it appeared to reduce illness duration and severity, but not prevent it. Elderberry and placebo had similar infection rates.


Anti-inflammatory anthocyanins. Elderberry inhibits immune system nitric oxide production. 8

Nitric oxide tells the immune system to cause inflammation when sick or injured.

Elderberry may reduce inflammation, swelling, and pain.

Folk medicine uses elderberry tinctures and salves to treat:





Human studies on elderberry’s anti-inflammatory or pain-relieving effects are scarce. Consider preliminary evidence.


Some alternative healthcare providers say elderberry can reduce cancer and heart disease risk.

Antioxidant-rich diets may offer benefits, but no studies have linked elderberry consumption to better disease outcomes.

Follow the package directions to avoid taking too much elderberry supplement.

Elderberry shouldn’t replace conventional medicine. Self-treating and delaying medical treatment can have serious consequences.

Elderberry-based medications are FDA-approved dietary supplements (FDA). This means they can’t be sold as a medical treatment.

Because supplements aren’t required to undergo testing, their quality varies. Buy supplements certified by an independent body, such as:

ConsumerLab18 USP

This certification doesn’t mean the product is effective; it just means it’s not contaminated and contains what it says.

Elderberry shopping

Buy fresh berries from a trusted source. Unknown berries in nature can be dangerous. Get medical help if you eat an unknown berry and develop symptoms.


Elderberry has long been used in traditional medicine and has medicinal benefits. These include treating colds and flu, relieving pain, and preventing disease with antioxidants.

Supplements come in gummies, syrups, teas, and capsules. Unripe berries can make you sick. Cooking ripe berries is required.