Latin Name—Sambucus nigra
Elderberry is a tree native to Europe and parts of Asia and Africa, and it also grows in the United States. The dried flowers (elder flower) and the cooked blue/black berries (elderberry) of the European elder tree are used in teas, liquid extracts, and capsules.
Historically parts of the elder tree—such as the berries and flowers—have been used as an herbal remedy for pain, swelling, infections, coughs, and skin conditions.
In modern times elderberry and elder flower are used in the hope of improving such concerns as:
- flu symptoms,
- and sinus infections.
Research on Elderberry Benefits
Although some small studies show that elderberry may help relieve flu symptoms, more evidence is needed to support this use of the berry.
A few studies have suggested that a product containing elder flower and other herbs can help treat sinus infections when used with antibiotics, but further research is needed to confirm any benefit.
Reliable information is not available on the effectiveness of elderberry and elder flower for other uses.
Side Effects and Cautions Summary
- Uncooked or unripe elderberries are toxic and cause nausea, vomiting, or severe diarrhea. Only the cooked blue/black berries of elder are used for making products.
- Because of elder flower’s possible diuretic effects, use caution if taking it with drugs that increase urination.
- Tell your health care providers about any complementary and alternative practices you use. Give them a full picture of what you do to manage your health to help ensure coordinated and safe care. Complementary or alternative therapy should not be used in place of conventional medical care or to delay seeking that care.
- Elder (Sambucus nigra L.) Natural Standard Database Web site. Accessed at www.naturalstandard.com on May 26, 2009.
- Elder flower. In: Blumenthal M, Goldberg A, Brinckman J, eds. Herbal Medicine: Expanded Commission E Monographs. Newton, MA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2000:103–105.
- Elderberry. Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database Web site. Accessed at www.naturaldatabase.com on May 29, 2009.
- Elderflower. Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database Web site. Accessed at www.naturaldatabase.com on May 29, 2009.
For More Information
The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) Clearinghouse
The NCCAM Clearinghouse provides information on CAM and NCCAM, including publications and searches of Federal databases of scientific and medical literature. The Clearinghouse does not provide medical advice, treatment recommendations, or referrals to practitioners.
NIH Office of Dietary Supplements
Web site: www.ods.od.nih.gov
Source: National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, Elderberry Fact Sheet, Created August 2007, Updated July 2010