Supplement Forms/Alternate Names:

American black elderberry, black elderberry, blue elder, common elderberry, Mexican elderberry, Sambucus nigra


Elderberry is a small berry that comes from the elder tree. The berries and flowers have been used to ease cold and flu-like symptoms. Elderberry has also been used to ease digestion. Elderberry can be made into a syrup, tea, or juice. It can also be taken as a pill, powder, or extract.


1 tablespoon of syrup 3 to 4 times daily

What Research Shows

May Be Effective

  • Common cold—may shorten time of illness B1
  • Upper respiratory infection —may ease symptoms E1

Not Enough Data to Assess

Editorial process and description of evidence categories can be found at EBSCO NAT Editorial Process.

Safety Notes

It is likely safe to take elderberry in small doses for a short time. Not enough studies have been done to say whether it is safe to take for a long period. It is also not known whether it is safe to take by women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.


Talk to your doctor about any supplements or therapy you would like to use. Some can interfere with treatment or make conditions worse.


A. Chronic Constipation

A1. Picon PD, Picon RV, et al. Randomized clinical trial of a phytotherapic compound containing Pimpinella anisum, Foeniculum vulgare, Sambucus nigra, and Cassia augustifolia for chronic constipation. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2010 Apr 30;10:17.

B. Common Cold

B1. Tiralongo E, Wee SS, et al. Elderberry Supplementation Reduces Cold Duration and Symptoms in Air-Travelers: A Randomized, Double-Blind Placebo-Controlled Clinical Trial. Nutrients. 2016;8(4):182.

C. Influenza

C1. Zakay-Rones Z, Thom E, et al. Randomized study of the efficacy and safety of oral elderberry extract in the treatment of influenza A and B virus infections. J Int Med Res. 2004;32(3):132-140.

D. Obesity

D1. Hasani-Ranjbar S, Nayebi N, et al. A systematic review of the efficacy and safety of herbal medicines used in the treatment of obesity. World J Gastroenterol. 2009 Jul 7;15(25):3073-3085.

E. Upper Respiratory Infection

E1. Hawkins J, Baker C, et al. Black elderberry (Sambucus nigra) supplementation effectively treats upper respiratory symptoms: A meta-analysis of randomized, controlled clinical trials. Complement Ther Med. 2019;42:361-365.

Last reviewed July 2019 by EBSCO NAT Review Board Eric Hurwitz, DC
Last Updated: 5/6/2020

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