Can you take too much elderberry gummies?

Elderberry gummies have become increasingly popular in recent years as a supplement to support immune health. Elderberry is rich in antioxidants and is thought to have anti-inflammatory and antiviral properties. Many people take elderberry gummies regularly in an effort to ward off colds and flu. But can you take too much of a good thing when it comes to elderberry gummies? Let’s take a look at the evidence.

What are elderberry gummies?

Elderberry gummies contain extract from the berry of the European elder tree (Sambucus nigra). The extract contains compounds like anthocyanins, which have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. Elderberry gummies are marketed as immune support supplements, often claiming to shorten colds and flu, reduce symptoms, and decrease severity.

Popular brands of elderberry gummies include:

  • Nature’s Bounty Elderberry Gummies
  • Sambucol Black Elderberry Gummies
  • Nature Made Elderberry Gummies
  • Gaia Herbs Elderberry Gummies
  • Goli Elderberry Gummies

Elderberry gummies are available in doses ranging from 250 mg to 1,000 mg of elderberry extract per serving. They often contain added vitamin C, zinc, and other ingredients also believed to support immune function.

What are the benefits of elderberry?

Research suggests elderberry may offer a few key health benefits:

May reduce cold and flu symptoms

Some studies have found that elderberry extract can modestly reduce the severity and duration of cold and flu symptoms like fever, headache, sore throat, nasal congestion, and cough (1, 2). It appears to be most effective when taken in the early stages of illness.

High antioxidant content

Elderberries contain high levels of polyphenols, flavonoids, and anthocyanins, which are compounds that have antioxidant effects in the body (3). Antioxidants help protect cells from damage and lower inflammation.

Supports immune function

Compounds in elderberry, including anthocyanins and polysaccharides, seem to activate certain immune cells and increase inflammatory cytokine production (4). This may enhance immune function and immune response. However, more research is still needed.

Is it possible to take too many elderberry gummies?

While elderberry gummies are generally considered safe when used occasionally, taking too much elderberry extract could potentially cause some adverse effects. Here are some concerns with taking too many elderberry gummies:

May cause GI upset

Elderberry gummies contain fructose, which can lead to gas, bloating, and diarrhea when consumed in excess. The high fiber content can also aggravate these symptoms (5).

Theoretical risk of cytokine storm

Some researchers speculate that overactivating the immune system with elderberry could lead to excessive inflammation or a “cytokine storm” in theory. However, this has not been reported with normal elderberry supplement doses (6).

Possible drug interactions

Elderberry may interact with medications that suppress the immune system, diuretics, laxatives, and chemotherapy drugs (7). It’s best to speak with your doctor before taking elderberry.

Risk of contamination

Dietary supplements like elderberry gummies are not strictly regulated by the FDA. Improper manufacturing could lead to contamination with heavy metals, allergens, or toxic ingredients (8). Only purchase reputable brands.

High doses act as a diuretic

Unripe or uncooked elderberries contain a toxic compound that can cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. While commercial elderberry gummies should not contain unripe berries, very high doses may have diuretic effects (9).

What is the recommended dosage for elderberry gummies?

There is no official recommended daily intake for elderberry. However, most experts suggest:

  • For general immune health: 60-120 mg elderberry extract per day
  • For acute illness: up to 300 mg elderberry extract per day
  • Duration: 5 days continuously for illness, then cycle on and off for general health

Following dosage instructions on the label of your elderberry gummy product is also recommended. Most gummies provide 60-120 mg elderberry extract per serving.

Are there any side effects or risks?

For most people, taking recommended doses of elderberry gummies is believed to be safe. Mild digestive upset is the most common side effect.

Less common adverse effects can include (10):

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Muscle weakness
  • Numbness and tingling

Elderly individuals and those with autoimmune diseases may be more susceptible to side effects from stimulating the immune system with elderberry. Those on immunosuppressant medications should avoid elderberry.

Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should also avoid elderberry gummies due to insufficient safety data.

Signs you may be taking too much

Watch out for these signs that you may be overdoing it with elderberry gummies:

  • Severe nausea, vomiting, diarrhea
  • Very dark or discolored urine
  • Kidney pain
  • Hives, rash, breathing problems
  • Anxiety, dizziness, tremors
  • Joint pain

Discontinue use and see a doctor if you experience these effects. They can signal toxicity from very high doses. Mild reactions like digestive upset, on the other hand, are common and not a major concern.

Special precautions

These populations should exercise caution with elderberry gummies:

  • Pregnant and breastfeeding women
  • Children under 18
  • Those with autoimmune conditions like lupus, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis
  • Those taking immunosuppressant medications, diuretics, laxatives, or chemotherapy
  • Those with pollen allergies (may react to raw elderberry)

Speak with your healthcare provider before taking if you have any medical conditions or take prescription medications. Ensure any product you buy is high quality and made by a reputable manufacturer.

Can you take elderberry gummies long term?

There isn’t much evidence examining the long-term safety and efficacy of elderberry gummies. Most experts recommend cycling elderberry – taking it for a period of time like during peak cold and flu season, then taking a break.

Potential downsides of long term use include:

  • May increase risk of side effects
  • Interactions with medications
  • Stimulating the immune system too much could be problematic
  • Lack of evidence for benefits beyond 12 weeks

Occasional use of elderberry gummies for up to 3 months at a time is likely fine for most healthy adults. But consult your healthcare practitioner for guidance on long term use if you have medical conditions or take any medications.

The bottom line

When taken as recommended on supplement labels and for short periods of time, elderberry gummies are generally considered safe for adults. Mild digestive upset is the most common side effect.

Consuming very high doses may result in nausea, vomiting, dizziness, and other adverse effects. Those with health conditions or taking certain medications should be especially cautious with elderberry.

Pregnant and breastfeeding women should avoid elderberry gummies due to lack of safety data. For immune health, elderberry is likely most effective when cycled short term rather than taken continuously long term.

As with any supplement, it’s best to consult your healthcare practitioner if you have any questions or concerns before taking elderberry gummies.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much elderberry is too much?

Doses up to 300 mg per day when sick or 120 mg daily for general health are likely safe for most people. Consuming more than 1,000 mg daily may increase the risk of adverse effects. Very high doses can cause toxicity.

What happens if you eat too many elderberries?

Eating uncooked or unripe elderberries can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and other ill effects. Consuming very high amounts of elderberry extract may also trigger adverse reactions due to the diuretic compounds present.

Can you take elderberry gummies daily?

While generally safe for short periods, daily elderberry use long term lacks evidence. Cycling it – taking elderberry regularly for a few months then taking a break – is likely a better approach for long term immune support.

Are elderberry gummies safe for kids?

Elderberry gummies are not recommended for children under 18 due to insufficient safety data. Occasional short term use may be safe, but always check with a pediatrician first. Proper dosing based on weight is crucial for kids.

Can you take too much vitamin C with elderberry?

Most studies use elderberry along with vitamin C with no issues. However, megadoses of vitamin C over 2,000 mg per day may cause side effects like diarrhea, nausea, headache, fatigue, cramps, and kidney stones.

The bottom line

Moderation is key when taking elderberry gummies. Enjoy the immune-supporting benefits by taking the recommended dosage for limited periods of time. Speak with your healthcare provider first if you take any medications or have underlying medical conditions to avoid potential interactions and risks. While elderberry gummies have promising health benefits, it’s always wisest to err on the side of caution.

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