Elderberry, also known as European elder, is a type of shrub that can grow up to 30 feet tall. It enjoys sunny climates and can grow in both wet or dry soil. Elderberry originated in parts of Asia, Europe, and Africa, but it now grows across the United States. The leaves are deciduous and grow in clumps of five to seven leaflets. Elderberry flowers are white. The berries grow in clusters similar to grapes and turn black when they’re ripe.1 Both the flowers and the berries can be used for medicinal purposes and taken in the form of teas, capsules, tinctures, syrup, lozenges, and extracts.1, 2
Elderberry Uses and Health Benefits
Elderberry benefits are vast, particularly for cold and flu symptoms.3 It’s said to detoxify the body by stimulating urine production, which can help arthritis patients. It also acts as a mild laxative to help people with certain stomach conditions.4 Other elderberry uses include for:
Elderberry Side Effects and Precautions
Elderberry side effects are minimal when used in appropriate doses for short amounts of time. However, it’s important to be aware that you should never eat raw elderberries. Uncooked berries contain a chemical similar to the poison cyanide, so they should always be cooked before consuming.1 If not prepared properly, elderberry side effects can include nausea, vomiting, and severe diarrhea.2
Do not give elderberry to a child without first talking to their pediatrician. Avoid elderberry if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. Ask your doctor before starting on an elderberry diet if you have an autoimmune disease since elderberry can stimulate immune activity.1 Elderberry may interact with other medications or herbs, including diuretics, diabetes medication, theophylline, immunosuppressant drugs, chemotherapy, and laxatives.