- Elderberry is the dark purple berry of the European or black elder tree, which grows in the warmer parts of Europe, North America, Asia, and Northern Africa.
- Elderberry has been used in folk medicine to treat colds and flu.
- Elderberry is promoted as a dietary supplement for colds, flu, and other conditions. It has also been promoted for COVID-19 (the disease caused by the new coronavirus), but there is no good evidence to support its use.
- A small number of studies in people have evaluated elderberry for flu and other upper respiratory infections. Little research has been done on other uses of elderberry.
- Some preliminary research suggests that elderberry may relieve symptoms of flu or other upper respiratory infections.
- No published research studies have evaluated the use of elderberry for COVID-19. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Federal Trade Commission have taken action against companies that marketed products with unsubstantiated claims of effectiveness for COVID-19.
- There’s not enough information to show whether elderberry is helpful for any other health purposes.
- Raw unripe elderberries and other parts of the elder tree, such as the leaves and stem, contain toxic substances (e.g., sambunigrin) that can cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea; cooking eliminates this toxin. Large quantities of the toxin may cause serious illness.
- Little is known about whether it’s safe to use elderberry during pregnancy or while breastfeeding.
- Talk to your health care providers about any complementary health approaches before you use. It may be contraindicated with any medications you are currently taking.