American Elder: A Comprehensive Guide to Its Uses, Side Effects, Precautions, and Dosing

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American Elderberry: A Comprehensive Guide to Its Uses, Side Effects, and More


American elderberry (Sambucus nigra L.) is a deciduous shrub native to North America. It has been used for centuries in traditional medicine for its purported health benefits, including its ability to boost the immune system, fight inflammation, and relieve cold and flu symptoms. In recent years, elderberry has gained popularity as a dietary supplement, and numerous studies have investigated its potential health effects.

This article provides a comprehensive guide to American elderberry, including its uses, side effects, precautions, and dosing recommendations.

Uses of American Elderberry

1. Immune Support:

Elderberry is well-known for its ability to support the immune system. Studies have shown that elderberry extract can inhibit the growth of viruses and bacteria, including influenza viruses and herpes simplex virus (HSV). It also contains antioxidants that can neutralize free radicals and protect cells from damage.

2. Cold and Flu Relief:

Elderberry has been traditionally used to treat cold and flu symptoms. It has been shown to reduce the duration and severity of these illnesses in adults and children. Elderberry can relieve symptoms such as fever, sore throat, cough, and congestion.

3. Inflammation Reduction:

Elderberry contains compounds that have anti-inflammatory properties. It may help reduce inflammation in the body, which can alleviate symptoms of conditions such as arthritis, allergies, and inflammatory bowel disease.

4. Antioxidant Protection:

Elderberries are rich in antioxidants, including anthocyanins, flavonoids, and polyphenols. These antioxidants protect cells from free radical damage, which can contribute to aging, chronic diseases, and cancer.

5. Other Uses:

Elderberry has also been suggested for various other uses, including:

  • Diuretic
  • Laxative
  • Skin care
  • Hair care

However, more research is needed to confirm these potential benefits.

Side Effects of American Elderberry

Elderberry is generally considered safe when consumed in moderate amounts. However, some potential side effects include:

  • Nausea and vomiting: Overconsumption of elderberry can cause nausea and vomiting.
  • Laxative effect: Elderberry can have a laxative effect in some people.
  • Allergic reactions: Some people may be allergic to elderberry. Symptoms can range from mild skin irritation to severe anaphylaxis.
  • Cyanide poisoning: Elderberry berries contain a small amount of cyanide. Consuming large amounts of uncooked or undercooked elderberries can lead to cyanide poisoning.


1. Pregnancy and Breastfeeding:

There is insufficient information about the safety of elderberry during pregnancy and breastfeeding. It is best to avoid using elderberry during these periods.

2. Children:

Elderberry is safe for children in small doses. However, it is important to use products specifically formulated for children and to follow the recommended dosage instructions.

3. Liver and Kidney Disease:

People with liver or kidney disease should use elderberry with caution, as it may increase the risk of adverse side effects.

4. Interaction with Medications:

Elderberry may interact with certain medications, such as blood thinners and diabetes medications. It is important to consult with a healthcare professional before taking elderberry if you are taking any medications.


The recommended dosage of elderberry varies depending on the form of the supplement and the condition being treated.

  • Dried elderberries: 1-2 tablespoons per day
  • Elderberry extract: 15-30 ml per day
  • Elderberry syrup: 1-2 tablespoons per day (for adults) or 1-2 teaspoons per day (for children)

It is always best to start with a low dose and gradually increase it as needed and tolerated.


American elderberry is a versatile supplement with a range of potential health benefits. It can support the immune system, reduce inflammation, and alleviate cold and flu symptoms. While elderberry is generally safe for most people when consumed in moderation, it is important to be aware of the potential side effects and precautions. Consult with a healthcare professional before taking elderberry if you have any concerns or underlying health conditions.

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