Top Four Antiviral Benefits of Elderberry

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Natural antiviral substances have been used for centuries to fight common infections, but interest has grown around elderberries, a purple berry long used for its cold and flu-reducing properties. Researchers believe elderberry's antiviral properties may be valuable in the widespread prevention and treatment of influenza and other viral illnesses

Elderberries, small, dark purple berries grown on the Sambucus tree, are well known for their cold and flu-fighting properties. Used medicinally for centuries to reduce cold symptoms and other ailments, researchers believe elderberry may be one of the best natural antiviral substances and could be used to effectively treat the common cold and influenza A and B.[i],[ii]

Broad-based antiviral therapies like elderberry supplementation block key viral proteins from entering host cells.[iii] Additionally, elderberry extract is also antimicrobial and works to fight bacterial infections (like pneumonia) that often develop as complications of the flu.[iv]

Top Four Benefits of Elderberry for Viral Infection Protection

The common cold and flu account for more than 20 million doctor visits a year, causing numerous missed school and work days. While conventional remedies address temporary symptom relief, researchers believe that elderberry extract could be used to effectively shorten the duration of colds and cases of flu.[v],[vi] Top benefits of elderberry supplementation include:

  1. Elderberry Boasts Immune-Activating Benefits

Elderberry juice encourages the production of cytokines, a protein that works to regulate immunity and inflammation. In one study, elderberry's potent immune-boosting properties were shown to be effective against 10 unique strains of the influenza virus.[vii],[viii]

  1. Elderberry Extract Contains Powerful Antimicrobial Properties

Elderberry juice is high in anthocyanins, a type of flavonoid that has both antimicrobial and antiviral properties.[ix],[x] Many patients with severe influenza A or B are susceptible to bacterial infections like pneumonia, with pneumonia rates as high as 65.7% among hospitalized influenza patients.[xi]

Due to its potent antimicrobial properties, elderberry supplementation is a powerful natural compound in the prevention of both influenza and subsequent bacterial infections.

  1. Elderberry Syrup Has Potent Antioxidant Ability

Elderberries are high in phenolic compounds, a type of micronutrient found in berries and cacao.[xii],[xiii] These compounds are responsible for the deep red or purple color of elderberries and are bioactive, which means they enhance the antioxidant status of healthy individuals.[xiv]

Additionally, anthocyanins found in elderberries have been proven to inhibit inflammatory biomarkers and promote health and disease prevention against multiple viral and bacterial infections.[xv]

  1. Elderberry Effectively Treats Upper Respiratory Symptoms Related to Colds and Flu

Many researchers believe that there is a strong potential for misuse of antibiotics during cold and flu season, especially in Western countries. Elderberry is an alternative natural compound proven to effectively reduce cold and flu symptoms such as upper respiratory symptoms and may be a safer alternative to prescription medications often used to treat these symptoms.[xvi]

Other benefits of elderberry extract include its high vitamins A, C, and E content, high levels of potassium, and its anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties. For these reasons and its potent antiviral capacity, elderberry extract can be a useful natural compound to supplement with during cold and flu season.

Safety Profile of Elderberry Products and Supplements

While most elderberry products are safe to consume, researchers have found that consuming raw elderberries or the leaves or bark of the Sambucus plant can cause adverse gastrointestinal effects such as nausea, vomiting, abominable cramps and diarrhea.[xvii] For these reasons, it's best to avoid ingesting any raw elderberries.

Due to a lack of sufficient trials, most health care personnel do not recommend the use of elderberry during pregnancy or while breastfeeding.[xviii] Additionally, although a few studies have evaluated the efficacy of elderberry extract and it has been used effectively to treat influenza in children, there isn't much research on elderberry's safety profile for children.[xix],[xx]

While there are many elderberry products marketed to children, it's best to speak with a holistic health care provider before use. Otherwise, elderberry syrups, lozenges and teas have a very high safety profile and are considered safe for home use.

Using Elderberry at Home

Due to the potent antiviral and antimicrobial capabilities of elderberry extract, many people add elderberry syrups or teas to their daily routine, especially during the winter months or peak flu season.

Organic, child-safe elderberry syrups and lozenges can be found in most health food stores, and elderberry tea can be made at home by boiling dried elderberries with water and ginger and stirring in a small amount of sweetener like honey or stevia.

For additional research on the antiviral benefits of elderberry supplementation, please visit the elderberry research database.


[i] Nutrients. 2016 Apr; 8(4): 182.

[ii] J Int Med Res. 2004 Mar-Apr;32(2):132-40.

[iii] Journal of Functional Foods, 2019; 54: 353 DOI: 10.1016/j.jff.2019.01.031

[iv] BMC Complement Altern Med. 2011 Feb 25;11:16. doi: 10.1186/1472-6882-11-16.

[v] Altern Med Rev. 2007 Mar;12(1):25-48.

[vi] J Int Med Res. 2004 Mar-Apr;32(2):132-40.

[vii] Eur Cytokine Netw. 2001 Apr-Jun;12(2):290-6.

[viii] Biosci Biotechnol Biochem. 2012;76(9):1633-8. Epub 2012 Sep 7.

[ix] Mech Ageing Dev. 2002 Apr 30;123(8):997-1006.

[x] Molecules. 2019 Jul; 24(13): 2359.

[xi] Tuberc Respir Dis (Seoul). 2017 Oct; 80(4): 392-400.

[xii] J Agric Food Chem. 2004 Dec 29;52(26):7846-56.

[xiii] Pharmacogn Mag. 2010 Jul-Sep; 6(23): 198-203.

[xiv] J Agric Food Chem. 2004 Dec 29;52(26):7846-56.

[xv] Mol Nutr Food Res. 2007 Jun;51(6):675-83.

[xvi] Complement Ther Med. 2019 Feb;42:361-365. doi: 10.1016/j.ctim.2018.12.004. Epub 2018 Dec 18.

[xviii] Front Pharmacol. 2014 Mar 4;5:31. doi: 10.3389/fphar.2014.00031. eCollection 2014.

[xx] Int J Clin Pharmacol Ther. 2004 Feb;42(2):110-9.

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