Medically Reviewed by
Diana Morgan, MS, CISSN
5 min read
Elderberry is commonly known for its immune health benefits due to it’s powerful antioxidant properties and anthocyanins (AKA a group of compounds that have been shown to have immune-supporting benefits).
Specifically, the dark black berries of the flowering elderberry plant (sambucus nigra) are a rich source of antioxidants shown to help maintain the structure and healthy function of immune cells which are critical for short-term immune needs and long term ones.
Elderberry is a dark black berry of the flowering elderberry plant, officially called sambucus nigra but often referred to as an Elderberry tree or Elder tree.
Native to North Africa, Europe, and Asia, elderberry has been used for centuries in traditional medicine for immune health benefits. Hippocrates even referenced elderberry almost 2,500 years ago when he praised its medicinal properties in his writing. In folk medicine, elderberries were commonly used for their diaphoretic, laxative, and diuretic properties and were used to treat a variety of health concerns.
In addition to its immune health benefits, elderberries which have a naturally tart and tangy taste have been commonly used for flavoring, and to make wines, pies, syrups, and teas. Even today you can find entire cookbooks and recipes dedicated to elderberry’s flavor profile.
Elderberry has been growing in popularity for its powerful immune health benefits, and recent clinical studies confirm that elderberry helps maintain a healthy immune system.
Elderberries have been studied extensively in-vitro and in-vivo, for their immunomodulatory properties. This means that elderberry studies suggest that elderberries broadly support the function of a healthy immune system.
For example, a randomized, double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial was conducted in 2016 to determine if elderberry improved health outcomes for passengers taking overseas flights. Although the results were not significant, the group that received elderberry did experience fewer cold cases and fewer participants reported cold-related symptoms (compared to the placebo group).
Historically elderberry was used in jams and pies, but these days you're more likely to come across elderberry supplements in the form of syrups, teas, gummies, and capsules at your local health food store or online.
Elderberry has a naturally tart and tangy taste so forms of elderberry supplements like capsules may be great if you dislike tart flavors. Additionally, because of its bold flavor, many syrup forms of elderberry include added sugar to mask the tartness. If added sugar is something you’re looking to avoid in your diet, elderberry capsules are a good option.
Before taking any elderberry product, make sure you read the product label for suggested use. The suggested use will include details on the amount and frequency it’s recommended you adhere to for the most benefits.
Ultimately the best form of elderberry is one that is easy for you to take. But there are other factors to consider, too. If you have trouble swallowing pills, elderberry syrup might be right for you. However, if you already have a vitamin routine, elderberry capsules are likely a good choice.
When choosing an elderberry supplement look at sourcing and purity. Capsules are the most convenient form and often offer a purer source of elderberry antioxidants (i.e. no added sugars).
For example, Care/of’s elderberry is harvested throughout Europe in places like Poland and the valleys of Austria, where a humid climate and magnesium-rich soil ensure the highest quality of their antioxidant properties.