ELDERBERRY (Sambucus species)

Latin: Sambucus species

WHAT IT DOES: Elderberry fruit is sour in taste and cooling in action. Elderberry flower is pungent and bitter in taste, and has similar activity to the
fruit.  Elderberry reduces heat and inflammation, and strengthens the immune system to fight viral infections, including influenza.


SAFETY ISSUES: None known.  Unripe fruits or excessive dosage may cause nausea.
• Dried berry or flower (ground): two to four grams two to three times per day
• 1:5 tincture: 35-60 drops three to five times per day for treating infection, 40-60 drops once per day for prevention

Elderberry extracts or tinctures are now used around the world to enhance immune function and increases antibody response during infections.  Due to high concentrations of lignans and flavonoids, the berries have anti-viral and anti-inflammatory activity (Yesilada, 1977).  They work extremely well in the treatment of influenza, and can also be used to treat upper respiratory tract infections including sinusitis and sore throat.  Commercial extracts are now available, and most of them are sweetened sufficiently to please the children, a problem with bitter alternatives.  I often use elderberry tinctures in children, often in combination with echinacea tinctures.  I add ground elderberries to powdered formulas as a pleasant boost to otherwise bitter-tasting herbs whenever there is a need to strengthen immunity.

Research Highlights

• A report from Israel on the Sambucus nigra species of elderberry concluded, “Considering the efficacy of the extract in vitro on all strains of influenza virus tested, as well as the clinical results, low cost, and absence of side-effects, this preparation could offer a possibility for safe treatment for influenza A and B” (Zakay-Rones et
al., 1995).