Top Four Benefits of Elderberry

Natural Factors
Elderberry growing on a tree

Elderberry is trending as one of North America’s top-selling herbal remedies. Although European elder has been used medicinally for thousands of years, recent clinical evidence supporting the health benefits of elderberry combined with the convenience of standardized extracts is finally giving elderberry the recognition it deserves. [1,2]

The History of Elderberry

Green leafy tree in a field with mountains in the background

European elder, or Sambucus nigra, L. is a small tree-like shrub native to Europe, North Africa, and North America. It is easily recognized by its creamy white flowers and sweet, deep purple berries. [3] Elder has long been cultivated for its berries and their popular use in jams, juices, and wines, but it’s the berries’ therapeutic nature that really stands out.

Elderberry’s long-standing career as a medicinal herb dates back to 400 BC when Hippocrates was quoted referring to the elder as his “medicinal chest.” Many classical physicians, such as Theophrastus, Dioscorides, and Galen, also considered the elder tree and its berries a go-to source of healing ingredients. [2]

Modern clinical studies now support elderberry’s historical use and have accelerated it into the consumer spotlight by identifying how and why it benefits us. Here are four top benefits of elderberry.

1.  Antioxidant Support

Elderberry is a wonderful source of antioxidants, including anthocyanins and flavonoids, such as quercetin, rutin, and isoquercetin. [4] Such dietary antioxidants are critical components of managing the body’s healthy inflammatory response and counteracting oxidative stress by neutralizing free radicals. [5] This is important because free radicals are unstable molecules that are formed during normal metabolic processes and from exposure to foreign agents in the environment. They are underlying factors in the progression of many chronic illnesses.

Elderberry antioxidants are considered the main active compounds behind many of its medicinal uses, including its immunomodulating effects. [5,6] So when choosing a commercial elderberry extract, it is important to ensure that it is standardized to a specific antioxidant concentration.


2.  Nutritional Value

Antioxidants aside, elderberries are extremely nourishing. They contain phytosterols, carbohydrates, proteins, fatty acids, and a wealth of vitamins and minerals that contribute to overall health and well-being. [4] As a comparison, raw elderberries contain more than five times the iron and calcium, four times the vitamin C, and ten times the vitamin A content of raw blueberries. [7,8]

When consumed as a food, elderberries need to be cooked. The raw berries contain toxic cyanogenic glycosides that can build up in the body as cyanide and cause illness. The heat helps degrade the toxins and makes them safe to enjoy. [4]


3.  Cold and Flu Relief

Man lifting up his arm to cover his cough

Anyone hoping to make it through this cold and flu season unscathed should consider adding elderberry extract to their arsenal of support. Elderberry is traditionally used to relieve symptoms of colds and flu such as fever, cough, sore throat, mucous buildup (catarrh), and congestion of the upper respiratory tract. Laboratory and clinical studies both support these benefits and point to elderberry’s immune-modulating, anti-viral, and anti-microbial properties as the underlying reasons. [3,9]

Elderberry extract has been shown to deactivate strains of influenza A and B, while two separate clinical studies have shown that people who take a standardized elderberry extract can shorten the duration of influenza symptoms by up to four days. [10,11] Those taking elderberry also experienced a 73% reduction in clinical symptoms and an enhanced production of antibodies to the influenza virus. [10,11]

Elderberry has also proved useful for adults who are concerned about exposure to the cold virus while travelling. Airplane passengers who took a standardized elderberry extract for 10 days prior to travel, followed by four to five days of supplementation upon arrival at their destination, reported fewer cold episodes and fewer cold symptoms than passengers supplemented with a placebo. [12]


4.  Joint Comfort

Elderberry is used in herbal medicine to help relieve joint pain associated with conditions such as arthritis. [4] Most of the evidence supporting this use is based on the anthocyanin content of elderberries and their role in managing oxidative stress and inflammation—two key factors in pain. [13] Although few human studies have been done, anthocyanins are believed to reduce the pain of joint inflammation by inhibiting the production and activity of pro-inflammatory proteins, as well as reducing tissue damage from oxidative stress. [12]

Convenient Elderberry Support

It’s hard to ignore the benefits of an ingredient that’s been used medicinally for thousands of years and is supported by modern scientific studies. When taken as a concentrated extract, elderberry supplements can provide a convenient way to increase your antioxidant intake while helping to support your natural defence against cold and flu symptoms.

Natural Factors Black Elderberry features ElderCraft® European black elderberry that is hand-harvested in Austria. The extract is standardized to 14% anthocyanins and available in 100 mg softgels that are fast-acting and suitable for adults and children aged 10 and older.

Natural Factors
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  2. Kilham C. Health benefits boost elderberry. HerbalGram. 2000; 50:55. Available from:
  3. Mahboubi M. Sambucus nigra (black elder) as alternative treatment for cold and flu. Advances in Traditional Medicine. 2020.
  4. Młynarczyk K, Walkowiak-Tomczak D, Łysiak GP. Bioactive properties of Sambucus nigra L. as a functional ingredient for food and pharmaceutical industry. J Funct Foods. 2018; 40:377-90.
  5. Strugała P, Loi S, Bażanów B, et al. A comprehensive study on the biological activity of elderberry extract and cyanidin 3-O-glucoside and their interactions with membranes and human serum albumin. Molecules (Basel, Switzerland). 2018; 23(10):2566.
  6. Zakay-Rones Z, Thom E, Wollan T, et al. Randomized study of the efficacy and safety of oral elderberry extract in the treatment of influenza A and B virus infections. Journal of International Medical Research. 2004; 32(2):132-40.
  7. USDA. FoodDate Central. Elderberries, raw [Internet]. Cited 26 November 2020. Available from:
  8. USDA. FoodDate Central. Blueberries, raw [Internet]. Cited 4 December 2020. Available from:
  9. Krawitz C, Mraheil MA, Stein M, et al. Inhibitory activity of a standardized elderberry liquid extract against clinically-relevant human respiratory bacterial pathogens and influenza A and B viruses. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2011; 11:16.
  10. Barak V, Halperin T,  Kalickman I. The effect of Sambucol, a black elderberry-based, natural product, on the production of human cytokines: I. Inflammatory cytokines. European Cytokine Network. 2001; 12(2):290-6.
  11. Zakay-Rones Z, Varsano N, Zlotnik M, et al. Inhibition of several strains of influenza virus in vitro and reduction of symptoms by an elderberry extract (Sambucus nigra L.) during an outbreak of influenza B Panama. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. 1995; 1(4):361-9.
  12. Tiralongo E, Wee SS, Lea RA. Elderberry supplementation reduces cold duration and symptoms in air-travellers: a randomized. Double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial. Nutrients. 2016; 8(4):182.
  13. Widyadharma IPE, Soejitno A, Jawi M., et al. Basic properties of anthocyanins for pain management. Open Access Maced J Med Sci. 2020; 8(F):161-79.