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Can Elderberry Syrup Fight the Flu?

By Kate Gardner 

Elderberries have been used as medicine for thousands of years all over the world. Ancient Egyptians applied the flowers of the black elder plant to the skin to smooth complexions and heal burns, while Native Americans have long employed the berries of the American elder to treat various illnesses. Today, elderberry syrup is widely available online and in grocery stores; many use it to fight colds and viruses, but does it really work?


Doctors and scientists have been hard-pressed to say if and how the juice of the elderberry works to fight viruses but new research published in The Journal of Functional Foods suggests it does. Researchers found the phytochemicals in elderberries helped stop the influenza virus from infecting cells and slowed the virus once a cell was infected. They also found the elderberry juice made cells release cytokines, a sort of messenger, in order to launch a better immune system attack on the virus. This study helps explain what researchers have seen in other studies in which supplementation with elderberry syrup seemed to aid in a quicker recovery from the influenza virus. 


Research still hasn't found the perfect amount of elderberry syrup to take, but a few guidelines do exist. Most believe that for maximum benefit, you should take a lower dose of syrup daily and bump it up to a higher dose when you get sick. Many brands of the supplement recommend adults take 1 teaspoon and children take one-half teaspoon daily and more can be added when you begin to develop symptoms of the flu. Some studies have used as much as a tablespoon per day in treating viruses. 


According to, there are some risks to using various parts of the elder plant. Consumption of the bark can cause digestive upset (and has been used as a diuretic and to induce vomiting). Fresh, uncooked elderberries and leaves have been found to contain cyanide, albeit in very small amounts. Fortunately, cooking the berries of the elder plant will remove any toxic substances and commercially available elderberry products do not contain any cyanide. 

If flu season tends to hit your household hard, using elderberry syrup may give you an edge in staying healthy. If you're interested in supplementing with elderberry syrup, talk with your healthcare provider about how much you and your family should take. 

To learn more about your health, wellness, and fitness, see your local chiropractor In Lawrenceville, Ga.

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