Elderberry syrup is a natural supplement made from the berries of the European elder tree. It has become increasingly popular in recent years due to its potential health benefits. But what exactly is elderberry syrup good for? Here is a comprehensive overview of the top uses and effects of elderberry syrup.
May Help Fight Colds and Flu
One of the most common uses of elderberry syrup is to help prevent and treat colds and flu. The berries contain compounds called anthocyanins, which have potent antiviral and immune-boosting properties. Studies have found that elderberry syrup may be able to:
- Block viruses from entering cells and replicating, thereby stopping viral infection
- Boost immune function by increasing cytokine production
- Relieve cold and flu symptoms like fever, headaches, congestion, and cough
In one study, elderberry syrup reduced the duration of flu by nearly 4 days compared to placebo. It’s also been shown to be effective against viruses like H1N1 influenza. Overall, elderberry appears to be a promising option for helping fight off viral infections and colds.
May Improve Heart Health
The anthocyanins in elderberries also have antioxidant effects that may support heart health. Antioxidants help protect cells from damage caused by oxidative stress and inflammation. Both chronic inflammation and oxidative stress are major risk factors for heart disease.
Animal studies have found that elderberries decreased markers of oxidative stress and reduced bad LDL cholesterol levels. A small human study showed elderberry extract improved blood flow in patients with heart disease. More research is needed, but adding elderberry syrup to your routine may be a simple way to boost cardiovascular health.
Could Have Antibacterial & Antiviral Properties
In addition to its immune-enhancing powers against viruses like the flu, some evidence suggests elderberry may also have antibacterial and antiviral activity against other types of infections. Test tube studies have found elderberry extract exhibits antibacterial activity against bacterial strains like Helicobacter pylori and Branhamella catarrhalis.
It also appears to have antiviral activity against herpes simplex virus and HIV. Researchers believe the phytochemicals in elderberry disable viruses’ ability to infect host cells. However, human studies are lacking, so more research is needed before any definitive claims can be made.
May Improve Allergies
With allergy prevalence increasing worldwide, elderberry syrup is gaining popularity as a natural antihistamine. The flowers of the elderberry bush contain bioflavonoids like quercetin that may inhibit the release of histamine. Histamine is the compound responsible for allergy symptoms like sneezing, runny nose, and itchy eyes.
One study had subjects take elderberry syrup daily for 2 weeks. Compared to the control group, those who took the syrup reported significant improvement in allergy symptoms. Researchers concluded elderberry was a “valid herbal therapy” for allergy relief.
Could Help Manage Diabetes
Animal studies indicate elderberry extract may help regulate blood sugar in diabetics. Researchers believe this effect is due to anthocyanins inducing increased insulin production and secretion from the pancreas. One study found diabetic rats treated with elderberry extract had significantly lower blood sugar levels compared to controls.
However, human research is lacking, so talk to your doctor before using elderberry syrup if you have diabetes. It may help manage blood sugar when paired with standard treatment, but should not be used as a standalone diabetes therapy.
May Have Laxative Effects
Unripened or improperly cooked elderberries contain a compound called viburnic acid that can cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. The berries must be fully ripened to avoid toxicity issues.
Once cooked and ripe, elderberries appear to have mild laxative effects. One study found giving constipated patients elderberry juice increased bowel movements. The anthocyanins are believed to activate intestinal contractions and stimulate a bowel movement. Thus, elderberry syrup may help relieve occasional constipation.
Could Improve Skin Health
Due to its high antioxidant content, some people apply elderberry syrup directly to the skin. The bioflavonoids may help improve the appearance of age spots, fine lines, and wrinkles. They also have anti-inflammatory properties that could soothe inflammatory skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis.
However, human studies are needed before strong conclusions can be made. Talk to your dermatologist before trying it if you have any skin concerns.
May Have Cancer-Fighting Effects
Test tube and animal research indicates anthocyanins from elderberries possess anticancer properties. In human and animal colon cancer cells, berry extracts impaired tumor growth and induced cancer cell death. Researchers believe the anthocyanins trigger anti-inflammatory and antioxidative activity that protects against cancer.
However, human studies are lacking, so more research is needed. The potential cancer-protective effects require further examination.
Could Support Brain Function
As a powerful antioxidant, elderberry syrup may also support brain health. Oxidative stress is believed to contribute to cognitive impairment and neurodegenerative disorders. The anthocyanins in elderberries could help reduce this oxidative damage.
One study found giving rats with toxic levels of copper elderberry extract protected against the memory impairment associated with copper overload. More research is needed, but elderberry’s antioxidant effects likely support overall brain function.
May Boost Immunity in Cancer Patients
Cancer patients often experience weakened immune systems, either from the cancer itself or from treatments like chemotherapy and radiation. Some research suggests elderberry supplementation may help.
In one study, 40 people undergoing chemotherapy were given elderberry syrup. After just 3 days, 90% of the syrup group showed significantly increased immune function compared to baseline. The placebo group showed no difference. More studies are needed, but elderberry appears beneficial for boosting immunity in immunocompromised patients.
Well-Tolerated with Minimal Side Effects
When used properly, elderberry syrup appears to be very safe for most people. Reported side effects are rare and mild. Occasionally, elderberry may cause:
- Mild stomach upset or nausea
- Allergic reactions in those with berry allergies
Elderberry syrup is also safe for children. But always speak with your pediatrician before giving any new supplement to kids. It’s generally not recommended to give elderberry syrup to very young infants or toddlers.
Additionally, pregnant or nursing mothers should exercise caution, as the safety has not been established. There are also some concerns about taking it if you have an autoimmune disease.
Talk to your doctor first if you have any medical conditions or take any medications to prevent negative interactions. But for most people, elderberry syrup is considered very safe when manufacturers’ dosage recommendations are followed.
How to Take Elderberry Syrup
Elderberry syrup can be purchased pre-made, or you can make your own at home. For the pre-made syrups, follow the manufacturer’s dosage instructions. A common dose is 1 tablespoon (15 ml) per day.
When taking elderberry syrup, it’s best to start at the first sign of a cold or flu for the most benefit. But some people take it daily year-round to boost overall immunity and health.
If you want to make your own, simmer dried elderberries with water, lemon juice and honey or another sweetener. Strain the mixture after cooking and store in the refrigerator. Adults can take 1-2 tablespoons (15-30 ml) daily.
Additionally, elderberry syrup can be drizzled over foods like yogurt, pancakes and oatmeal. The berries have a slight tart, tangy taste that goes well in desserts too.
For children, the recommended dosage is:
- 1 teaspoon (5 ml) for ages 2-3
- 1-2 teaspoons (5-10 ml) for ages 4-8
- 1 tablespoon (15 ml) for ages 8-12
Key Takeaways on Elderberry Syrup Benefits
Here are some key points to know about the benefits of elderberry syrup:
- May substantially reduce cold and flu duration and symptoms
- Contains compounds with potent antiviral, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory effects
- Appears to improve immune function and protect against viral infections
- May provide antioxidant support for heart and brain health
- Potentially helps manage diabetes, allergies, and constipation
- Generally considered very safe for adults and children
Overall, elderberry syrup is an excellent option for natural immune support. It could be an especially beneficial supplement during cold and flu season. However, more human research is still needed to conclusively confirm some of its specific effects and benefits.
As with any supplement, speak with your healthcare provider to see if elderberry syrup is right for you.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Is elderberry syrup safe during pregnancy?
There is not enough research to establish whether elderberry syrup is completely safe for pregnant women. Until more studies are conducted, it is best for pregnant women to avoid elderberry syrup unless approved by their doctor.
2. Can you take too much elderberry syrup?
When taken as recommended, elderberry syrup is generally considered safe. However, megadoses may cause diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, and other side effects. Stick within the recommended dosage to avoid issues.
3. Is elderberry syrup good for high blood pressure?
Some research indicates elderberry syrup may improve heart health through its antioxidant effects. But studies specifically looking at blood pressure are lacking. Talk to your doctor to see if elderberry could be beneficial for you if you have high blood pressure.
4. Can I take elderberry syrup long term?
For most people, taking elderberry syrup daily for extended periods appears to be safe, as long as proper dosages are adhered to. However, you may want to take occasional breaks. And be sure to consult your healthcare provider before taking any supplement long term.
5. How long does elderberry syrup last after opening?
Commercially made elderberry syrups generally last 2-3 months after opening if properly stored in the refrigerator. For homemade syrups, maximum shelf life is around 3 months as well. Be sure to watch for any changes in color or texture.
The Bottom Line
Elderberry syrup is packed full of vitamin C, flavonoids, and other powerful compounds that may help reduce cold and flu duration and severity. Early research is also promising in regards to its potential heart, brain, and immune health benefits.
While further human studies are needed, elderberry syrup appears to be very safe for adults and children. It can provide natural immune support during illness or be taken daily for overall health.
However, talk with your healthcare provider before using, especially if pregnant or have any medical conditions. When taken properly, elderberry syrup is a nutritious and potentially beneficial supplement for people of all ages.