Can you give elderberry syrup to kids?

Quick answers

Elderberry syrup can be given to kids, but there are some important things to consider first. Elderberry syrup may provide benefits for kids’ immune health and reducing flu symptoms. However, it’s important to use an appropriate dose for a child’s age and weight. Consult a doctor before giving elderberry syrup to young children under 2 years old. Do not give elderberry syrup to infants under 1 year old. When used properly, elderberry syrup is generally safe for older children, but moderation is still advised.

What is elderberry syrup?

Elderberry syrup is a supplement made from the juice or extract of elderberries, which are the fruit of the European elder tree (Sambucus nigra). The syrup often contains added sweeteners like honey or maple syrup to improve the flavor. Elderberry syrup has become a popular herbal remedy due to its high antioxidant content and potential health benefits. Proponents claim that elderberry syrup may help boost the immune system, fight inflammation, and protect against colds, flu, and respiratory infections. The dark purple berries are rich in vitamin C, flavonoids, and anthocyanins, which all act as antioxidants and may support immune function.

Benefits of elderberry syrup for kids

There are several potential benefits that make elderberry syrup appealing for children:

May reduce flu symptoms

Some research indicates that elderberry syrup may help reduce the severity and duration of influenza infections. In one study of 60 children with the flu, those who took 15mL of elderberry syrup 4 times per day recovered an average of 4 days faster than the control group. The elderberry group also had less fever, coughing, and nasal congestion. More studies are still needed, but current evidence suggests elderberry may be helpful as part of a comprehensive flu management plan.

May provide immune support

Elderberries contain high levels of vitamin C, flavonoids, and anthocyanins. These compounds act as antioxidants in the body and may support immune function. Regular consumption of elderberry syrup may help strengthen a child’s immune defenses against pathogens and diseases. However, more clinical trials are needed to confirm effects on immune health.

Natural and kid-friendly

For parents looking to avoid conventional medications, elderberry syrup offers a natural supplement option. Children are also more likely to take elderberry happily when mixed into beverages or foods, as it has a pleasant, fruity taste. The syrup is gentler on the stomach compared to elderberry extracts. Providing antioxidants and potential immune support, elderberry syrup can be a helpful addition to a child’s routine.

May reduce upper respiratory infection severity

Some research indicates that elderberry syrup may lessen the intensity of upper respiratory infections like the common cold. One study gave elderberry syrup or a placebo daily to airplane travelers for 10 days. In the elderberry group, cold duration was cut in half and symptoms were milder than the placebo group. More studies are needed, but the results are promising for potentially reducing virus infections and cold severity in kids.

Is elderberry syrup safe for kids?

When used properly, elderberry syrup is generally safe for children over 2 years old. However, there are some important safety considerations:

Do not give to infants under 1 year

Elderberry syrup and extracts should not be given to infants under 1 year old. The unripe berries contain a toxic compound that can cause cyanide poisoning in very young children. While commercially prepared syrups should not contain toxic levels, it is still recommended to avoid elderberry for infants as a precaution.

Use caution under 2 years old

Children under 2 years old may take elderberry syrup, but caution is advised. Always speak to a pediatrician first and administer the lowest effective dose based on the child’s age and weight. Monitor carefully for any adverse effects.

Watch dosage for children

The appropriate elderberry syrup dosage for children depends on their age. Follow dosage instructions from reputable brands or the advice of a doctor. Do not exceed recommended amounts, as too much elderberry may cause nausea or digestive upset. Here are some general dosage guidelines based on age:

Age Dosage
2-3 years 1/2 to 1 teaspoon (2-5 mL) daily
4-8 years 1 to 2 teaspoons (5-10 mL) daily
9-12 years 2 to 4 teaspoons (10-20 mL) daily

Avoid raw elderberries and flowers

While ripe elderberries and properly prepared syrups are safe, raw elderberries and uncooked flowers may contain toxins. Only give children supplements made from cooked berries and avoid allowing them to eat raw elderberries or drink raw juice.

Watch for allergic reactions

Elderberry may cause an allergic reaction in some children, especially those with an allergy to plants in the muskroot family. Discontinue use if any abnormal symptoms develop. Minor digestive upset is possible as well.

Avoid longer-term daily use

Elderberry syrup is intended for short-term use of about 3-5 days maximum for cold/flu symptoms. It should not be given as a daily immune booster or preventative. There is a lack of safety data on long-term elderberry use in children. Cycling the syrup or using it only when needed is best.

May interact with medications

The anthocyanins in elderberry syrup may potentially interact with certain antibiotics, diuretics, chemotherapy drugs, and laxatives. Check with a doctor before giving elderberry syrup if your child is taking any medications. Otherwise, it is very unlikely to interact with drugs or cause complications.

How to give elderberry syrup to kids

Elderberry syrup has a tasty, fruity flavor that most children accept readily. Here are some easy ways to give your child elderberry:

Mix into beverages

Stir the elderberry syrup into water, milk, juice, smoothies, or tea. The syrup blends smoothly into liquids. For babies and toddlers, mix just a small amount into a sippy cup or bottle.

Add to oatmeal or yogurt

Add a teaspoon or two of elderberry into your child’s breakfast oatmeal or yogurt for added flavor and antioxidants. The syrup mixes well into these foods.

Make frozen pops

For a fun treat, mix elderberry syrup into juice or yogurt, then freeze in popsicle molds. Kids will love these homemade elderberry pops.

Blend into smoothies

Elderberry is delicious paired with banana, berries, cocoa, or nut butters in smoothies. Just a small amount of syrup can give a vitamin boost.

Bake into treats

Incorporate elderberry into muffins, breads, or yogurt-based snacks for a immune-supporting treat. Replace some liquid in baking recipes with elderberry syrup.

Signs of a good elderberry syrup

With many brands available today, choose your child’s elderberry syrup carefully and look for these signs of quality:

Organic ingredients

Look for certified organic elderberries, as these minimize pesticide exposure. Organic honey or maple syrup are also ideal sweetener additions.

Pure extraction

Avoid syrups made with elderberry juice concentrate. The best products use methods like pressing or simmering in water to gently extract the berries’ nutrients into syrup form.

No shortcuts

Beware of cheap products that may skip the expensive extraction process and simply mix elderberry powder into syrup. Only use syrups made entirely from pressed, simmered, or extracted elderberries.

Free of additives

Avoid elderberry syrups with unnecessary additives, artificial flavors, preservatives and high fructose corn syrup. Simple, clean ingredients are best.

Sealed packaging

The elderberry syrup should come in an air-tight, light-blocking container to retain maximum freshness. Once opened, refrigerate.

No stems or seeds

Properly produced elderberry syrup will contain no stems or seeds, which may cause gastrointestinal upset. The syrup should have a smooth, uniform consistency.

Trusted brand reputation

Purchase elderberry syrup from established companies with a track record of high quality products. Read customer reviews as well.

Clear dosage guidelines

The best elderberry syrups provide clear dosage instructions for children based on age ranges. Follow the recommended amounts.

Recipes to make homemade elderberry syrup

While pre-made elderberry syrup is convenient, some parents prefer to make it from scratch at home. Here are a couple straightforward homemade elderberry syrup recipes:

Simple stovetop elderberry syrup

– 1 cup dried elderberries
– 3 cups water
– 1 cinnamon stick
– 1 cup honey

1. Place elderberries and cinnamon into a small saucepan with 3 cups water. Simmer uncovered for 30-45 minutes until liquid reduces by about half.
2. Remove from heat and discard cinnamon stick. Pour mixture through a fine mesh strainer, mashing berries to extract juice.
3. Add honey to strained liquid and stir well until dissolved.
4. Transfer to a glass jar or bottle. Syrup will keep 2-3 months refrigerated.

Elderberry syrup with ginger and lemon

– 1/2 cup dried elderberries
– 1 inch knob of fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
– 1 cup water
– Juice from 1 lemon
– 1/2 cup honey

1. Combine elderberries, ginger, and water in a small saucepan. Simmer for 30-45 minutes until liquid is reduced by half.
2. Remove from heat. Strain mixture, pressing on solids.
3. Stir in lemon juice and honey until well blended.
4. Pour into a glass container with tight lid. Refrigerate for up to 3 months.

Potential side effects and safety concerns

When used properly in moderation, elderberry syrup is very safe for most children over 2 years old. However, there are some potential side effects and concerns to be aware of:

Allergic reactions

As mentioned, elderberry may trigger an allergic reaction in some individuals. Discontinue use if hives, swelling, or abnormal symptoms develop.

Unsafe for certain conditions

Do not give elderberry syrup if your child has an autoimmune disorder. The immune stimulation may worsen disease activity. Those with organ transplants should also avoid elderberry due to possible immunosuppressant interactions.

May cause GI upset

Too much elderberry syrup may cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or cramping. Adhere to dosage guidelines based on your child’s age and size. Discontinue use if GI problems arise.

Lack of long-term safety data

While elderberry is safe for occasional short-term use, there is insufficient data on long-term daily consumption in children. Limit elderberry syrup to 1 week use or less.

Risk of improper preparation

Improperly prepared elderberry products may contain toxin levels unsafe for children. Only purchase commercially made syrups from reputable brands. Do not make DIY elderberry preparations.

Interactions with drugs

The anthocyanins in elderberry could possibly interact with certain medications like diuretics, laxatives, and chemotherapy agents. Consult a doctor before using elderberry syrup in children taking any prescription medications.

Choking hazard

Elderberry syrup must be swallowed and not allowed to linger in the mouth, as this increases the risk of choking in young children. Supervise carefully and administer syrup followed immediately by fluids.

Frequently asked questions

At what age can you give a child elderberry syrup?

Elderberry syrup can be given to children as young as 2 years old, but should be avoided for children under 2. Do not give elderberry products to infants under 1 year old due to toxicity risks. Always consult your pediatrician before administering to young children.

Can I give my child elderberry syrup daily?

Elderberry syrup should not be given daily to children for extended periods. There is insufficient safety data available on long-term use in pediatric populations. Limit elderberry syrup use to one week or less at a time, using only as needed for occasional immune support.

Is elderberry syrup safe while pregnant or breastfeeding?

There is insufficient evidence to establish definitive safety during pregnancy or breastfeeding. Some sources indicate moderate short-term use of elderberry syrup is likely safe. However, it is best to exercise caution and consult your OB/GYN before using elderberry products during this time.

Can elderberry syrup be used to prevent illness in children?

There is not enough clinical evidence to support using elderberry syrup routinely as an illness preventative in children. While it does show promise for reducing flu and cold duration and severity, current research has not focused specifically on preventative effects. It is better used as an acute treatment as-needed rather than a daily preventative.

Does elderberry interact with medications for kids?

Potentially. The anthocyanins may interact with diuretics, laxatives, immune suppressants, and chemotherapy drugs. Elderberry should be used cautiously in children taking medications, and your pediatrician should be consulted first. Most likely, short-term moderate elderberry use should not pose problems.


When used appropriately, elderberry syrup may offer immune-supporting benefits for children over 2 years old. It provides antioxidants, vitamins, and bioactive compounds that may help reduce flu symptoms and bolster defenses against viruses and infections. However, caution is advised when giving elderberry to young children. Do not exceed recommended dosages, use for longer than one week durations, or give to infants under 1 year old. Speak to your pediatrician before administering. With judicious use, elderberry syrup can be a helpful supplement for children during cold and flu season. Trust established brands and watch carefully for any adverse effects.

Leave a Comment