Elderberry: Health Benefits, How to Use & Side Effects

Elderberry is a shrub characterized by its white flowers and black berries. These flowers of this plant can be used to prepare tea, which can be taken to compliment the treatment of the cold or flu.

The leaves and berries of the elderberry can also be used for medicinal purposes. These contain properties like flavonoids, triterpenes and phenolic acids, which contain antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and antiviral action.

The scientific name of elderberry is Sambucus nigra. It can be purchased in health food stores, pharmacies and in some farmer's markets. It should be taken as directed by a doctor or medicinal plant specialist.

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Health benefits

Elderberry has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, emollient, healing and expectorant action, and also boosts blood circulation and sweat production. It can be beneficial for the treatment of:

  • Flu and cold
  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Rhinitis
  • Allergic symptoms
  • Sore throat
  • Wounds
  • Abscesses
  • Boils
  • Uric acid build-up
  • Kidney problems
  • Hemorrhoids
  • Bruises
  • Chilblains
  • Muscle or joint pain
  • Rheumatism

Additionally, some studies show that elderberry helps prevent the herpes virus that causes cold sores from multiplying. It can be used to reduce pain and swelling, and improve wound healing.

Although it can offer many health benefits, elderberry should not replace conventional medical treatment and should only be used under the guidance of a doctor or medicinal plant specialist.

How to use

Elderberry can be used in the form of tea, baths or dressings. These preparations usually require the flowers or leaves of this plant.

1. Elderberry tea

Elderberry tea are prepared with the flowers of the plant. It can be taken to treat a cold, flu, coughs, rhinitis or cold sores.


  • 1 tablespoon of dried elderflower flowers;
  • 1 cup of boiling water.


Add the elderflowers to the cup of boiling water and let it steep for 5 to 10 minutes. Strain, wait for it to cool and drink the infusion 2 to 3 times a day.

Additionally, the tea can be used as a gargle to treat a sore, irritated throat or in the presence of canker sores.

2. Elderberry bath

An elderberry bath is a great home remedy to relieve the symptoms of  rheumatism, bruising, muscle pain or joint pain, as it helps to reduce pain, inflammation and swelling.


  • 80 g of elderberry leaves
  • 1 liter of water


Place the ingredients in a pot and boil for 5 minutes. Then let it cool, strain and add the infusion to your bath. These can be done twice a day.

3. Elderberry dressing

An elderberry dressing is  prepared with the leaves of this plant. It is a great home remedy for the treatment of for boils, abscesses or wounds.


  • Fresh elderberry leaves


Crush fresh elderberry leaves and add a small amount of water to achieve a paste. Then apply the leaves to the affected region.

There are also ointments with elderflower extract in their composition. These can be indicated for the treatment of dry skin caused by cold, bruises, hemorrhoids and chilblains.

Possible side effects

The most common side effects that may arise while using elderberry are nausea, vomiting or diarrhea.

Furthermore, elderberry fruits, if consumed unripe, uncooked or in excess, can have a laxative effect, causing severe diarrhea.

Contraindications for use

Elderberry should not be consumed or used by children, pregnant women or breastfeeding women.

Furthermore, the elderberry stem, bark and leaves should not be ingested orally, as they can cause poisoning, due to the presence of lectin and cyanide in its composition.