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  Evaluated for:
Effectiveness Rating Effectiveness Rating
Upper respiratory infections, including influenza Herpes simplex viral infections
0 (Effectiveness Unclear)


  • Elderberry is derived from a tall bush called Sambucus nigra.  Only the flowers and ripe berries are used for medicinal purposes.
  • Elderberry is considered to have antiviral properties that fight upper respiratory infections, influenza, and bronchitis.  It may inhibit replication of influenza A and B, as well as herpes simplex virus-1. 
  • Elderberry contains flavonoids, which act as antioxidants and are considered to have immune-system boosting properties.


  • The bark of the elderberry has been used as a diuretic, laxative, and emetic (induces vomiting).
  • The bark, leaves, seeds and unripe berries (but not the flowers) contain a cyanide-like compound that is potentially toxic. Cyanide poisoning from bark, root, leaves or juice may induce tachycardia (rapid heart rate) and cause serious long-term effects.
  • In the well-conducted human clinical trials currently available regarding the use of the flowers of ripe elderberries, evidence to recommend its therapeutic use was not definitive.

The therapeutic benefits of elderberry are derived from the flowers and ripe berries only. The bark, roots, leaves, seeds, and unripe fruit have no therapeutic value and may be toxic.

CONCLUSION: We conclude that while elderberry shows promise for treating upper-respiratory and anti-viral infections, there is not enough definitive evidence to support its use for these indications. If you do elect to try it, please discuss your decision with your doctor, and observe carefully for any changes to your health.

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